The Daily Pennsylvanian covers the Penn Timebank in an article, “Alternative currency system for Penn students, faculty.”
The goal is to create a real world network from the online portal, strengthening Penn’s community and creating bridges between groups of students and faculty who may not otherwise meet each other.
College seniors Meghna Chandra, Julia Graber, former Daily Pennsylvanian columnist JY Lee and Shivani Srivastav are behind the project. Currently, they are figuring out the best software to use for Penn Timebank and trying to spread the word about it.
The idea for creating a timebank at Penn came out of their mutual interests in alternative currencies, but Srivastav said they each came at the project from different angles.
Srivastav was primarily interested in its community building potential. “A lot of what we were thinking about is how to create a community at Penn,” she said.
Lee said that it would also foster bridges between communities at Penn. There might be strong networks within groups already, but Penn Timebank will allow students to reach across different communities to help each other,” he added.
Chandra saw the project as a form of activism.
“[We] had been involved in various forms of activism and community service,” she said. “[And we were] thinking not just in terms of being against something but being for something … being the change that we want to see.” That change is largely about replacing money with other currencies — in this case, time.
Lee said the original timebank was based on the “radical” notion that everyone’s hour is equally valuable.
For Graber, the idea that everyone is an asset, which was put forth in the book “No More Throw Away People” by Edgar Cahn, really appealed to her. Cahn is the founder of TimeBank USA — an organization that has been supporting the timebank movement since 1995. With a timebank, Graber said, everybody can sell his or her services, no skills necessary. It’s as simple as offering to stand in line for someone or running an errand.
“Your hour is worth something to someone who does not have that hour,” Srivastav added.
According to Graber, the problem with timebanks is actually too much altruism. Users tend to offer more hours of service than they are willing to use. Based on anthropological theories on gift giving, Graber said, people are more willing to give than they are to receive, but for a timebank to work properly, everyone needs to do both.