Time4Time: A Currency-Free, Service Exchange Between Neighbors Kicks-off in Northwest Philly
It can be as simple as cooking a meal for someone or as specific as writing a technical manual for a new software. For any unfilled community, personal, nonprofit, or even business need ranging from volunteers delivering meals on wheels to legal services or errand running, Time4Time Community Exchange — a time bank launching in Northwest Philadelphia this week — has a free, community-based solution.
A time bank is a cooperative organization based on members donating a service and receiving time credits, which they can then redeem for a volunteer service from another member. For every hour someone volunteers — say cutting someone’s grass — he or she can request that another time bank member volunteer an hour of service in return. It is a type of currency-free service exchange that values all time equally and that Time4Time founders hope will create a new sense of community.
Meenal Raval, Time4Time system administrator, said around the region and even the country, time banks are “sort of bubbling up in different areas as different people take the lead.”
Raval and Time4Time member coordinator Betsy Wallace, said their Northwest Philly neighborhood is an ideal place to incubate Time4Time. In large part, that’s due to community support from local businesses like Weaver’s Way Co-op and Creekside Co-op. But Time4Time will not be limited to any one particular neighborhood.
“We won’t be centered in Chestnut Hill,” Wallace said. “I think we’ll have some things there, but ideally we’ll be working out of people’s neighborhoods.”
While time banks are often used to exchange services like transportation, help around the home, wellness, and recreation, the services offered really depend on what the time bank members have to offer.
“Every time bank is different, and we’re not going to know until people sign up exactly what the breadth of our services are going to be,” Wallace said.
Time banks can also be used for community education. In particular, they may be useful for “re-skilling,” teaching the skills that previous generations knew but that many people today have lost.
“This is a way to harvest the skills that are hiding in hibernation in our community,” Raval said.
While everyone can benefit from the time bank model, some, like single parents, the underemployed, self-employed, and retired, may find the structure particularly appealing.
Wallace said a lot of people get flummoxed wondering how they can spare any time to participate, but the beauty of a time bank is members can make of it what they want.
“Time is pretty flexible, and people who think they’re busy can actually work this in pretty easily,” she said.
For instance, a busy parent who has to walk his or her own dog might volunteer to walk a neighbor’s dog at the same time, thereby earning a time credit for something he or she was already going to do.
Other potential members may ask what they have to offer.
In that case, “Once we get them down to thinking in neighborly terms, a whole lot of ideas come up,” Wallace said.
For instance, she spoke with an artist who was interested in participating, but stumped about a service to offer. That was until he realized he could volunteer to put together Ikea furniture.
Raval and Wallace hope nonprofits will join as community partners. If volunteers register with Time4Time, any volunteer work they do for a registered nonprofit will earn them time credits. Nonprofits will also be able to reach out to a new group of engaged, potential participants through the Time4Time network. Wallace and Raval are not looking for any specific types of nonprofits or businesses to join. They are flexible and have a kind of “the more the merrier” attitude.
“It helps to have a critical mass of people signed up because the more people, the more assorted set of skills we have within the community,” Raval explained.
Wallace and Raval hope the Time4Time launch party this week will attract many of those initial members. The launch party, scheduled for Sunday, April 7th from 3pm to 5pm, will be held at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, which has donated both office and event space.
To encourage individuals and families to join, Time4Time is offering half-price membership rates to attendees. Discounted individual annual membership, normally $30, will be $15, and annual family memberships, normally $40, will be $20. Those fees will go toward some of the administrative costs of running the all-volunteer Time4Time – including Time4Time’s membership in the national time bank organization, TimeBanks USA, which provides access to a software that tracks volunteer hours and match makes services.
Ultimately Time4Time hopes to have 200 members by the end of the year.
“If we’re proven wrong, and there are more people, we’ll be very glad,” Wallace said.
Posted by Christine Fisher on April 5, 2013
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