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The first working paper of the evaluation of the public health outcomes of the Cambridgeshire Time Credits project in Wisbech provides an overview of time banking and Time Credits. Part of the NIHR funded Public Health Practice Evaluation Scheme (PHPES), the aim of the evaluation is to determine the project’s potential to tackle social exclusion, loneliness and deprivation and to assess the extent to which it can reduce health inequalities.
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Evaluating the Public Health Outcomes
of the Cambridgeshire Time Credits
Working paper 1
Introduction to time banking and time
Dr Sanna Markkanen
Dr Gemma Burgess
October 2015
School for Public Health Research
National Institute for
Health Research
Table of contents
The evaluation ...................................................................................................................... 3
Introduction ........................................................................................................................... 4
1 What are time banks? ................................................................................................... 5
2 How do time banks work? ............................................................................................. 6
2.1 The underlying logic ................................................................................................ 6
2.2 Types of time banks ................................................................................................ 7
2.3 Key characteristics and core values of time banks .................................................. 8
3 Benefits and challenges of time banking ..................................................................... 10
3.1 Benefits of time banking ........................................................................................ 10
3.2 Challenges faced by time banks ........................................................................... 11
3.3 Time banking and UK public policy ....................................................................... 13
4 How are time credit networks different to time banks? ................................................. 15
4.1 From time banking to Time Credits ....................................................................... 15
4.2 The Cambridgeshire Time Credits programme ..................................................... 17
4.3 Integrating time banks and time credit networks in Cambridgeshire ...................... 19
5 Conclusions ................................................................................................................. 20
References ......................................................................................................................... 21
To cite this paper:
Markkanen, S. and Burgess, G. (2015) Introduction to time banking and time credits.
Cambridge: Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research.
The evaluation
The Public Health Practice Evaluation Scheme (PHPES) enables people who are
introducing innovative public health initiatives to work in partnership with the National
Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research (NIHR SPHR) to conduct
rigorous evaluations of their effectiveness. This scheme is particularly focused on local
The aim of the evaluation of the public health outcomes of the Cambridgeshire Time Credits
project in Wisbech is to determine its potential to tackle social exclusion, loneliness and
deprivation and to assess the extent to which it can reduce health inequalities. The
Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (CCHPR) is carrying out this
research in collaboration with the Cambridgeshire County Council Community Engagement
Team, Spice, and the Cambridge Institute of Public Health (CIPH).
The research uses a mixed methods approach that engages service users, practitioners and
policy makers through interviews, surveys, focus groups and ethnographic research
methods. One of the key research objectives is to analyse how this type of project can best
secure positive health outcomes and how it could be sustainably established in other
localities, should these benefits be demonstrated.
The main outputs will consist of an interim and final report with research findings detailing
project outcomes for individuals, organisations and the wider community, disseminated in a
range of accessible formats, e.g. a film, and a user guide aimed at local authorities, those
commissioning and delivering health and social care services and those involved in
establishing time credit projects.
The Principal Investigators of the research are Dr Gemma Burgess at CCHPR and Dr Louise
Lafortune at CIPH. The research is being undertaken by Dr Sanna Markkanen at CCHPR.
For more information about the evaluation please contact Sanna on or
01223 330802.
This study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Public
Health Research (NIHR SPHR):
This is the first of a series of six Working Papers, each of which focuses on a separate
aspect of the research. The purpose of this first Working Paper is to set the context for the
evaluation. The first section of the paper provides an overview of the time banking
movement and its origins. The second section looks at how time banks work, the different
ways in which the time banking approach has been utilised, and the key characteristics and
core values associated with time banking. The benefits of time banking and the enablers and
obstacles to achieving positive outcomes are discussed in section three. Section four
outlines the way in which the Spice Time Credit model has developed from time banking,
and how the Time Credit model has been implemented in Cambridgeshire.
This paper draws primarily on desk-based research of existing literature on time banks, Time
Credits, and time-based currencies more generally. An exception to this is the second part of
section four, on the Cambridgeshire Time Credit programme, which is based on qualitative
interviews with key stakeholders from Spice and Cambridgeshire County Council.
1 What are time banks?
Time banks are a time-based currency system, a form of community currency where the
value is pegged to time (Boyle, 2014). In their purest form, time banks are service exchange
systems that value everyone’s contributions equally, and which focus on social rather than
economic improvements. Some variants of time banks, however, allow time credits to be
exchanged for goods or supplemented by cash payments, or involve organisations and
community groups in a greater capacity than the original model (for examples, see Cahn,
2004; Cahn and Gray, 2005; Weaver et al, 2015).
The exact origins of the time banking concept are unclear, but the concept itself is known to
date back to the 19th century (Boyle and Bird, 2014). Some variants of this approach are
known to have been operating in Japan in the immediate post-war era (Bretherton and
Pleace, 2014). However, it is possible that the concept may have been developed
independently in several places more or less simultaneously (Weaver et al, 2015).
The Member Organized Resource Exchange (MORE) programme at the Grace Hill
Settlement in St. Louis is believed to be the first modern time banking project in the U.S. It
was on this project that Edgar Cahn, who is often accredited for ‘inventing’ time banking,
built his Time Dollars model in the 1980s (Weaver et al, 2015), as a means of rebuilding
social networks and neighbourhood support in response to reduced social spending in the
US (Boyle and Bird, 2014; Gregory, 2012). In the mid-1980s, Cahn founded the Time Dollar
Network (now known as Time Banks USA) to promote the time banking approach as a tool
to build caring community economies through inclusive exchanges of time and talents
(Collom, 2007). Today, various types of time banks and their differently labelled local
variants (such as Japan’s Fureai Kippu, Washington Youth Court and the bancos de tiempo
in Spain) are operating in over 40 countries in six continents (Boyle, 2014; Bretherton and
Pleace, 2014).
Time banking in the UK was adapted from the US Time Dollars model and Local Exchange
Trading Schemes (LETS) that were already in operation in several locations across the
country (Seyfang, 2003). Supported by a grant from the King’s Fund, the New Economics
Foundation (NEF) organised a series of UK seminars with Edgar Cahn in 1997 (NEF, 2002;
Seyfang, 2004a). The first UK time banking project was set up in 1998 in rural
Gloucestershire and the movement has grown rapidly since then (Seyfang, 2003 and 2004a;
Boyle and Bird, 2014). Together with a newly-founded time banking charity Fair Shares and
two local initiatives (Valleys Kids in Wales and Gorbals Initiative in Scotland), NEF set up a
national support network, Time Banks UK (now Timebanking UK), which became a
charitable trust in 2003. The key objective of Timebanking UK is to develop time banking into
“a widespread, mainstream tool to provide participatory, inclusive, empowering service
delivery models for health, community development, education, training and social welfare”
(Seyfang, 2003: 258, see also Boyle and Bird, 2014). In 2014, Timebanking UK had some
300 member organisations whose members had exchanged over 2 million time credits
(Boyle and Bird, 2014).
2 How do time banks work?
2.1 The underlying logic
Time banks are typically community-based organisations that provide the framework for
giving and receiving services in exchange for time credits. One hour of time helping another
member of the network equals one time credit (or a time dollar), which can then be used to
buy an hour of someone else’s time (Cahn, 2004). The underlying logic is that of reciprocity
and equality: the participants are encouraged to spend as well as earn time credits, and
everyone’s time in valued equally. In other words, the value is the time the participants give
rather than the skill (Gregory, 2014). By encouraging people to share their time and skills
with their community and neighbourhood, time banks work towards building stronger social
networks and more cohesive communities.
Time banking has been developed on the idea of there being two economies: the ‘market
economy’ and the ‘core economy’. The market economy relies on people’s material,
intellectual, financial and physical assets that can be traded at a commercial price in a
competitive market (Granger, 2013). It picks and chooses the people, communities and
specialized skills it needs, enabling those with marketable skills and resources to get more
while excluding people who lack these skills and resources, such as the poor, the elderly,
the frail and the uneducated.
The ‘core economy’, on the other hand, consists of the non-monetary, unmeasured sector of
the economy comprising family, neighbourhood and community, including unpaid housework
and caring for family and relatives (Boyle, 2003; Cahn, 2004). In the ‘core economy,
exchanges are built on a sense of obligation and reciprocity, rather than price determined by
supply and demand. Unlike the market economy and skills associated with this, the ‘core
economy’ is often taken for granted and given little value (Cahn, 2004).
Co-production is a conceptual framework for bridging the two economies and elevating the
function of the ‘core economy’ to a level equal to that of the market economy (Cahn, 2004). It
regards the role of the social support provided by family and neighbours as essential in
underpinning everything else in the economy and builds on a notion of all people as assets.
Even those typically excluded from the traditional job market, such as the old, the young, the
uneducated, disabled and ill, are regarded as capable of making an important contribution as
everyone has something valuable to give (Boyle, 2003). The co-production principle is
integral to the time banking approach, but has also been expanded to consider the role that
people who are normally labelled as service ‘users’ can play to help improve the design and
delivery of those services they are recipient of and, by working alongside professionals,
achieve more positive outcomes through co-production (Boyle, 2003; Boyle and Bird, 2014).
Incorporating the principle of co-production, time banking aims to build a healthier
relationship between the monetary economy and the core economy by valuing the
contributions of individuals who have been overlooked by the monetary economy. It can also
be used to provide new entry points into the monetary economy (Seyfang, 2004a).
2.2 Types of time banks
Time banks operate in a variety of different settings and the scope, scale and character of
the schemes can vary considerably. Most time banks are either place-based (small local
area such as a neighbourhood, or a broader area such as a local authority) or are mission-
based (such as focused on senior care, juvenile justice etc). They may arise spontaneously,
or with support from other time banks, local authorities or NGOs (Weaver et al, 2015). Some
are embedded in existing social service institutions, such as schools, churches, food banks,
or health organisations (Carroll and Bellotti, 2015).
The services exchanged in time banks can range in terms of sophistication (the level of
expert skill or knowledge required) from simple to complex, and may include sensitive
personal services, such as child-minding or provision of personal care (Weaver et al, 2015).
Typical services exchanged in time banks include giving lifts, befriending, small household
repairs and gardening. The time banking approach, however, is a flexible tool that can be
adapted to address a range of needs or requirements depending on the setting, including
targeting specific types of activity or client groups (Weaver et al, 2015).
As time banking has evolved, several variants of the original time banking model have
emerged, including some that specifically facilitate access to goods or services that people
could not otherwise afford due to adverse financial circumstances. Some time banks have
been developed to address a specific issue with a clearly defined target group and outcomes
in mind (Granger, 2013; Weaver et al, 2015). Others have made a broader range of facilities,
equipment and professional services available to their members by allowing organisations to
join as members (Weaver et al, 2015).
In the US, time banking has been used in different ways in a variety of settings, including the
juvenile justice system, elementary school education (Cahn and Gray, 2005) and healthcare
(NEF, 2001; Rosenberg, 2011). In the UK it has been employed in the criminal justice
system, health service settings and to address social isolation and facilitate social inclusion
by, for example, developing lunch clubs for older people and social car schemes for isolated
people in the countryside (Boyle and Bird, 2014; Gregory, 2012; NEF, 2002). Time banking
is increasingly integrated in a variety of health, education and regeneration initiatives to
facilitate involvement of the socially excluded in community activities (Seyfang, 2004a and
2004b; 2006). The Rushey Green time bank in the UK grew out of GP practitioners’ desire to
address the root causes of ill health arising from anxiety and social isolation to get away
from prescribing medication for problems they knew to be social rather than medical in origin
(NEF, 2002; Seyfang, 2003). The Skills Swap project in London was adapted from the time
banking approach but involves swapping skills and know-how rather than time (NEF, 2001).
The Gorbals time bank in Glasgow was set up to promote social inclusion and address a
wide variety of issues including health inequalities, community safety, unemployment, lack of
skills and educational achievement. In recent years, the Euro crisis has resulted in growth in
time banking in a number of European countries (Granger, 2013).
2.3 Key characteristics and core values of time banks
In spite of the diverse range of different types of time banking projects across the world,
there are some basic characteristics that most time banks tend to have in common with each
other. These include:
- Employing a time broker or a service broker (who is often a paid worker), who
recruits participants, maintains a database of services, arranges transactions and
balances the accounts. In some (reasonably rare) instances a member or members
take on this responsibility on a volunteer basis.
- Details of the participants’ skills, availability, likes, dislikes and needs are stored
confidentially in the time bank computer.
- One hour of time always equals one time credit / time dollar.
- Time credits / time dollars are ‘banked’ in the time bank and can be ‘withdrawn’ when
needed, or donated to someone else.
- Computer software counts each transaction and issues regular statements to the
(Boyle and Bird, 2014; Seyfang, 2003 and 2006; Timebanking UK, 2011)
There is also a set of co-operative, egalitarian principles that function as the ‘core values’ of
time banking and which make time banking different from traditional volunteering. These
- Inclusion and recognition of people as assets: everyone has something to give, and
everyone’s contribution is welcomed.
- Redefinition of work to include the typically unpaid core economy work in the
neighbourhood and community: everyday skills are valuable and needed in the
development of sustainable social development.
- Equality: everyone’s skills are valued equally. One hour of time given always equals
one time credit, regardless of the level of skill required or the type of task.
- Reciprocity: time banking is a model of mutual volunteering seeking to develop
reciprocal social relationships instead of dependency.
- Community and social capital: time banks seek to provide the framework for the
development of supportive and secure social networks.
(Boyle and Bird, 2014; Bretherton and Pleace 2014; Carroll and Bellotti, 2015; Granger,
2013; NEF, 2001; Seyfang, 2003, 2004b and 2006; Volunteer Now, 2011; Weaver et al,
In basic terms, time banking is a way of rewarding active citizenship and community
engagement. As such, it is regarded as a powerful tool for social inclusion and community
building, especially among excluded populations (Seyfang, 2003). One of the most
distinguishing features of time banking is the way it utilises previously untapped resources
and skills and places value on work that normally goes unrewarded. By doing so, time
banking challenges the idea that only paid employment and those in paid employment have
value. Instead, it values the contributions of people who are often marginalised by the
mainstream monetary economy such as older, disabled, uneducated and long-term ill
people equally to that of the most advantaged and central members of society. As a result,
it provides a framework for generating and channelling informal mutual support from and
toward people who otherwise lack access to such interactions (Bretherton and Pleace 2014;
Carroll and Bellotti, 2015; Seyfang, 2003 and 2006).
3 Benefits and challenges of time banking
3.1 Benefits of time banking
Research and evaluation focused on time banking is fairly limited, and much evidence on the
outcomes is qualitative in nature or based on surveys that rely on self-recall rather than more
robust designs, such as a pre-test post-test design. However, it is widely believed that time
banking has the potential to generate positive outcomes for individuals and communities
alike (Bretherton and Pleace, 2014; Ozanne, 2010).
Like other community currencies, it is argued that time banks have the potential to bolster
the local economy; help develop new social ties and strengthen existing social ties; facilitate
access to health services; enhance social integration and community self-efficacy; and to
enable participants to gain experience and improve their skill set (Collom, 2011). Community
participation and volunteering can help to incorporate the excluded into the mainstream by
building social networks and improving employability and may also generate more
widespread benefits to those who are not directly involved in the volunteering, including
better services, regeneration, and greater degree of community-level political activity
(Seyfang, 2004a).
The typically cited positive outcomes associated with participation in time banking include
enhanced self-esteem, confidence and skills; expansion of social networks and friendships;
increased community involvement; social inclusion; and improved health, wellbeing and
quality of life (Bretherton and Pleace, 2014; Ozanne, 2010; Seyfang, 2003). Many of these
benefits are believed to arise from the reciprocal nature of time banking activity and its
guiding principle of focusing on people as assets, allowing anybody in society, including the
elderly and housebound, to give something back. It is by enabling people to feel needed
that time banks allow their participants to gain confidence, self-esteem and a sense of
purpose (Seyfang, 2003). As summarised in a report by the New Economics Foundation,
feeling needed is ‘a critical missing piece of the social capital jigsaw’ (NEF, 2001: 6).
Reciprocal relationships between people are more enduring than dividing people into givers
and receivers (NEF, 2001) and remove the stigma associated with receiving charitable
assistance, lowering the threshold of accepting support from others (Seyfang, 2003). The
two-way nature of time banking activity makes it possible for the participants to save scarce
monetary resources without having to accept ‘charity’ (Seyfang, 2003). There is also some
evidence to suggest that the recognition of people’s contribution, in form of time credits or
time dollars, helps cut the drop-out rates of volunteers and keeps people volunteering longer
than in conventional volunteering schemes (Boyle and Bird, 2014).
Time banks have been shown to attract and engage people who do not normally volunteer,
including people from socially excluded groups, with financial and social needs and few
resources to meet them (NEF, 2002; Seyfang, 2003 and 2004a). There is some evidence of
the benefits of time banking for these groups in terms of saving money, future employability,
inclusion and social networking (Seyfang, 2003).
The Skills Exchange is a time bank for homeless and vulnerably housed people with the aim
of increasing employment skills and supporting access into paid work. An external evaluation
of this initiative recorded evidence of multiple benefits to participants, ranging from improved
self-respect arising from engagement in meaningful and worthwhile activity to opportunities
to acquire work experience. While the volunteering activity itself was regarded as personally
rewarding, the capacity to exchange time credits for education and training was also highly
valued (Bretherton and Pleace, 2014).
Gorbals time bank in an inner Glasgow estate characterised by high levels of deprivation,
low educational attainment, unemployment, poverty and ill-health was set up to build local
capacity, promote social inclusion and share skills. An evaluation of the initiative suggests
that it was successful in enabling the local people to share their gifts and talents and in
providing the framework for local organisations to develop partnerships and share expertise.
As a result, individual participants enjoyed improved access to services and were able to get
work done in their houses, save money, and even acquire paid work (Seyfang, 2004a).
Getting small and vital improvements done at home may also have resulted in positive
health outcomes as a result of a reduced likelihood of an accident.
In the US, time banking has been shown to be beneficial in building communities,
strengthening families, helping children to learn and engaging them with their school
environments, building relationships across age groups, fostering social capital, reducing
hospitalisation and helping older people remain self-sufficient and living independently for
longer (Cahn and Gray, 2005; Collom, 2007 and 2007; Lasker et al, 2011; Rosenberg,
2011). Some evidence of positive health outcomes is available from both the US and the UK,
particularly in relation to mental health outcomes (Lasker et al, 2011; Boyle, 2014; Boyle and
Bird, 2014; Seyfang, 2003). In the US, an evaluation of a telephone-based support network
utilising the time banking approach to provide help and advice for asthma sufferers showed
some evidence of positive health and wellbeing outcomes, with potential to generate
significant cost savings (NEF, 2001; Boyle and Bird, 2014). The robustness of the evaluation
methodology used in relation to this study, however, is not clear (Dentzer, 2003). In the UK,
the findings from two evaluations of the Rushey Green time bank in London (NEF, 2002;
Seyfang, 2003) suggest that time banks can be effective in helping to make connections
between people, rebuilding community, local trust and sense of self-worth among those
taking part with positive impacts on health and wellbeing (NEF, 2002; Seyfang, 2003).
3.2 Challenges faced by time banks
In spite of their considerable potential, time banks also face a set of challenges. Many of
these are similar to those faced by other community currencies, and include:
- Difficulties in ‘selling’ the concept.
- Overcoming the psychological hurdle that stops some participants from asking for
help and results in supply and demand imbalances.
- The need for considerable financial resources to launch and maintain the projects.
- Difficulties in monitoring of processes, activities and outcomes.
(Collom, 2011; Seyfang, 2003 and 2004a)
In order to survive and succeed, time banks need to retain their informal approach, provide
opportunities for personal growth and development, utilise peer support network, engage
sufficient numbers of people to enable the time bank to offer their participants a broad
enough range of incentives and spending opportunities, ensure that communication with
members is regular and inclusive and facilitate reciprocity in the members’ transactions
(Boyle et al, 2006; Seyfang 2003). Meeting all these requirements is a difficult task, and
requires a motivated and organised time broker or a programme coordinator, solid
recruitment strategy and active groups of local members who are devoted to developing their
local communities and attracting new members into their local time banks.
Getting people to understand the difference between time banking and traditional
volunteering is not always easy (Seyfang, 2004a). Considering that many of the benefits
discussed in the previous section are believed to arise from the reciprocal nature of the time
exchanges that enables those who are used to being at the receiving end of ‘charity’ to do
something useful, it is essential for the participants to be willing to spend as well as earn
(Seyfang, 2003). If too many members prefer to give time rather than use their time credits,
this can result in frustration for those who wish to be asked to provide a service and lead to
potential benefits not being fully realised.
Another obstacle preventing time banks from reaching their full potential is to do with
funding, or the lack of it. Although the start-up costs for time banks are fairly low, the ongoing
costs related to the day-to-day running of a time bank are considerable, making most time
banking projects dependent on external financial support (Boyle, 2014). A dedicated
coordinator or a time broker with good organisational skills is essential for the success of a
time bank (Boyle, 2014; Weaver et al, 2015). The survival chances of time banks are greater
if the coordinator / broker is paid, and their operating costs, including the cost of an office
space with a drop-in facility and support, are covered by sponsors (Boyle, 2014; Seyfang,
2003; Weaver et al, 2015). The challenge to individual time banks is that the funding
required to support their operations tends to come primarily from grants or the state
(Seyfang, 2006), typically on a short-term basis (Weaver et al, 2015). Seeking funding is
time consuming and takes up resources from the day-to-day running of the time banks,
making them vulnerable to failing. There is a considerable need for long-term, secure,
sustainable, small-scale, base-level funding to support time banking activity (Seyfang, 2003
and 2006; Weaver et al, 2015). There is also a continuing need for central organising and
marketing if the currencies are to reach the groups in society who would benefit most (Boyle,
Detailed and well-designed monitoring of activities and outcomes could enable time banks to
generate more robust evidence to support applications for competitive grant funding. In the
absence of hard evidence on actual, robustly measured outcomes over a longer period of
time, it is difficult to prove any quantifiable effect, which is often needed to secure continuous
funding. Most time banks, however, are attached to or run by small organisations, many of
which lack the required skills and knowledge to implement sophisticated monitoring systems
to generate the kind of evidence on outcomes and outputs that appeals to funders.
Moreover, the financial savings from time banking activity are likely to accrue elsewhere in
the public budget, making it hard to identify and draw down these savings to pay for the time
bank infrastructure (Boyle, 2014). As suggested by Seyfang (2003: 263) “statutory agencies
should fund time banks, reflecting the contribution the projects can make to public health,
education and training.” This has been partially realised in parts of the UK where local
authorities have taken interest in funding time banks in anticipation of accruing savings from
reduced demand for social services as a result of time banking activity.
3.3 Time banking and UK public policy
Time banking is a form of self-help drawing upon the skills, knowledge, power and labour of
the local people. Following the New Labour vision of volunteering as an extension of social
and political inclusion (RSA, 2015), time banks have become popular among the UK local
authorities as “tools for fostering social inclusion and generating social community self-help
in excluded areas” (Seyfang, 2003: 258). This is facilitated by the fiscal treatment of time
banks and time banking activity as distinct from employment and volunteering and thus
subject to privileged fiscal treatment: time credits are tax-free in the UK, and earning and
spending them does not affect people’s entitlement to welfare benefits (Seyfang, 2004a and
2004b; Weaver et al, 2015). However, this ruling has been criticised for not going far enough
as participants receiving incapacity benefit may find their benefits cut because participation
in time banks can be “presumed to demonstrate an ability to work” (Seyfang, 2006: 438), in
spite of the degree of commitment required to actively and productively participate in time
banking and the formal paid labour market not being comparable. Furthermore, the
privileged fiscal treatment of time banks in the UK only applies to exchange of services
(Seyfang, 2004a), whereas in the US the tax-free status granted to time banking has been
extended to cover goods as well as services, enabling time credits to be used towards food,
visits to the doctor and other essentials (Seyfang, 2004a) and even recycled computers
(Cahn and Gray, 2005).
In recent years, time banking has been framed as a response to recession, unemployment,
social exclusion and the failures of the welfare state (Weaver et al, 2015). Fitting in with the
ideological shift away from state-provided welfare towards localism and volunteerism as a
way “to foster the re-growth of moral / social responsibility”, time banking and other
community self-help initiatives have been promoted as a policy tool by the Coalition (and
lately the Conservative government) (Gregory, 2014: 175). The reasons for this are linked to:
- Their potential to reduce the demand on rising welfare budgets.
- Their ability to counter-balance the breakdown of social cohesion by re-establishing
moral and social responsibilities.
- Their ability / potential to help cushion the impact of poverty.
(Burns and Taylor, 1998, cited in Gregory, 2014; Seyfang, 2003)
At a time of severe public sector funding cuts, community self-help initiatives such as time
banks have emerged as a way of providing a replacement system of service delivery, in
spite of the contentiousness of the use of volunteers to deliver public services (RSA, 2015).
This has become evident in particular in relation to the welfare cuts and social care reform
implemented by the coalition government (and carried on under the current Conservative
rule) (Gregory, 2014).
4 How are time credit networks different to time banks?
4.1 From time banking to Time Credits
The original time banking approach was designed to develop a general network of person-
to-person exchanges. Some of the more recent variants also facilitate person-to-agency and
agency-to-agency exchanges (Granger, 2013). Opening of time bank membership to
organisations as well as individuals can enable the provision of available services to be
extended to include access to a broader range of facilities, equipment and professional
skills. This has the potential to increase the appeal of time banking and to extend its
potentially transformative impacts (Weaver et al, 2015).
Set up in 2009 by a social enterprise called Spice, Time Credits is an example of a fairly
recent adaptation of the time banking model that enables organisations and existing service
providers to play a greater role. The Time Credits model is driven by the same vision of
wellbeing and social cohesion as time banking, and adheres to the same core principles.
Like time banks, the Spice model uses time credits as a way of rewarding people for
volunteering, only in this case the individual participants give their time to a local
organisation, community group, volunteer group or a statutory sector service provider. In
exchange for their contribution, they ‘earn’ printed Time Credit notes, one for every hour they
give, which they can then ‘spend’ on a range of leisure and other opportunities, typically
donated by organisations, local businesses and corporations to allow the community
members to take advantage of their spare capacity (Weaver et al, 2015). The key difference
to time banking is the way in which the network is operated. These differences are
summarised below:
- Time banks sign up individual members who then exchange services with each
other. The Spice Time Credits network signs up organisations and groups, who then
sign up volunteers to give their time to the organisation in exchange for Time Credits.
Individuals can join Spice time credits only by getting involved with an organisation or
a group that is a member.
- Time banks typically use a time banking software that records earn and spend
activity, and can issue statements to individuals. The Spice model uses a physical
currency, Time Credit notes. These notes are issued to organisations and groups,
which then pass them on to their volunteers when they give time. Partner groups and
organisations keep their own records of spend and earn activity, which they submit to
Spice. All data is collected at the organisational or group rather than individual level.
This is currently being done through quarterly submissions, though in the future
Spice have plans to develop an online platform.
- Most time banks enable their members to only exchange services with each other,
i.e. within one time bank, although some time banks may allow local organisations to
join in to increase the availability of professional spend opportunities. Spice operates
a number of local networks, within which the groups and organisations are
encouraged to collaborate with each other to develop local earn and spend
opportunities for their volunteers. The Spice spend partner network, however, is
national, enabling volunteers to spend their Spice Time Credits in a different locality
to where they were earned.
- Most time banks enable their members to ‘overdraw’, which is not possible with Spice
Time Credits which are a concrete paper currency.
- Spice networks, as well as most time banks, allow their members to donate unused
time credits to a friend, neighbour or a family member. The use of paper notes makes
this process easier, as transactions do not need to be organised by a broker a
Spice Time Credit note can simply be handed over to a recipient who does not need
to be in any way involved in earning Time Credits.
As is the case with time banking, the Spice Time Credits approach is informed by the co-
production principle. Time Credits are a tool for building stronger communities and to deliver
co-produced services, and benefit individuals, organisations and communities. They can be
used by organisations to encourage more active involvement from service users and to
engage with new groups and, as a result, to bring in new skills and insights that may help to
improve services. Earning Time Credits gives individual participants opportunities to learn
new skills, gain confidence and raise their aspirations by volunteering. Greater community
participation, in turn, can allow members to develop more extensive peer and community
support networks and feel the benefits of being able to make a positive contribution.
Spending their Time Credits encourages and enables the participants to try new activities
they may not otherwise be able to afford (Apteligen, 2015).
Helping to establish stronger networks at the community level is one of Spice’s key
objectives, and a route to revitalising communities and developing a more co-productive
culture. Individual members form ties with each other and local organisations through
volunteering, and the participating organisations are connected with each other through the
Spice Time Credits network, which enables them to link with each other and make better use
of their resources. Organisations participating in Spice Time Credits networks as earn
partners include local authorities, housing providers, schools, health and social care
providers and a wide variety of community organisations (Apteligen, 2015). The network of
spend partners includes a wide range of public, community and private sector organisations
and service providers, including some corporate partners and high profile tourist attractions
who allow Spice Time Credits to be used as a payment to access their facilities and services
(Apteligen, 2015).
The groups and organisations within each local Spice network are encouraged to develop
opportunities for their volunteers to spend their Time Credits within the community. The idea
of ‘community spend’ is an integral part of Spice’s co-productive approach to developing a
Time Credit network and activating citizens and communities to meet their own needs.
Community spend activities are often created by a combination of staff and volunteers, and
can be open to volunteers from other partner organisations and groups as well as the
general public. Examples of community spend include equipment hire, social events and
learning opportunities. Community spend is a key way to measure how well Time Credits are
working as a tool for co-production and community resilience.
An impact evaluation of Spice carried out by Apteligen in 2012-2014 and a survey of over
400 individual Time Credit volunteers across several Time Credit networks across the
country in 2015 sought to identify the potential benefits individuals feel they have accrued
from earning and spending Time Credits. The findings of these exercises indicate a
significant potential of time credit projects to generate individual-level positive outcomes in
terms of quality of life, self-confidence, outlook on life and overall wellbeing. The findings
also show an increase in the levels of social and physical activity, associated with both
earning and spending of the time credits (Apteligen 2015).
4.2 The Cambridgeshire Time Credits programme
The Cambridgeshire Time Credits programme is jointly funded by Cambridgeshire County
Council and Cambridge Housing Society (CHS). It was set up in collaboration with Spice in
July 2014, following a successful completion of a nine-month pilot in Wisbech. The idea to
support the development of multiple Time Credits networks across the county emerged as a
response to the budget cuts that forced the County Council to identify new tangible ways to
engage local communities, to build up community resilience, and to reduce and prevent the
escalation of need. The County Council was particularly keen on models that could be built
up and, after being supported during the initial set-up period, be able to run with less
ongoing financial support from the Council.
In the summer 2013, time banks were already in operation in Cambridge and other parts of
the county, but the County Council was concerned that the time banking model may not take
off in the more deprived areas where engaging community activity was desperately needed.
The purpose of the Time Credits programme was to help bring the time banking model to
new areas in a way that would enable organisations alongside individuals to act as the
driving force to generate momentum for the movement, and that would enable larger
numbers of people to get involved. A Spice Time Credits network was already running in
neighbouring West Norfolk, with several corporate spend partners in Cambridgeshire.
Wisbech’s location bordering West Norfolk, together with its size and socioeconomic profile
characterised by high levels of need and deprivation, were among the key factors leading to
Wisbech being selected for the Time Credits pilot in 2013/2014.
The Wisbech pilot was set up with little financial input and a view of wanting to find out if the
Time Credit approach would work in an area like Wisbech, and what outcomes could
potentially be achieved. Three local organisations were invited to join in at the pilot stage as
earn partners, and a few local services signed up as spend partners. Further spend
opportunities were available via the West Norfolk Spice Time Credits scheme. All earn
partners were also encouraged to develop ‘community spend’ opportunities for their
volunteers, potentially in collaboration with each other. The benchmark targets for the pilot
were basic, including the numbers of people engaged, and the number of Time Credits
earned and spent. Apart from these, the success of the project was largely measured in
terms of the individual experience, i.e. what motivated the earn partners and individual
members to get engaged, and what they got out of it.
Positive feedback from the pilot partners encouraged the Community Engagement team to
seek further funding to commission Spice to expand the Time Credits programme to include
other parts of Cambridgeshire, with an ultimate objective of developing a county-wide
network of local Time Credit projects. The model’s focus on developing stronger and more
resilient communities resonated well with the Building Community Capacity project set up in
2009 to support the transformation of adult social care services in the UK, and attracted the
attention of the Children, Families and Adults Directorate (CFA) at the County Council. Its
focus on co-production and active community involvement also fitted well with the CFA’s
new ‘Transforming Lives’ model, designed to help people and communities to help
themselves, to reduce the need for more intense, longer-term support and high-level service
dependence among those who could potentially be supported to remain more independent.
In 2014, the Cambridgeshire Time Credit programme was allocated a total budget of
£251,000 over three years, of which £10,000 per annum comes from CHS and the rest from
In order to maximise the benefits from the funding, a degree of clarity regarding the target
populations was required to develop meaningful benchmarks against which the performance
of the scheme would be measured. In collaboration with contributors from the Community
Engagement team, Public Health, CFA, CHS and Spice, the following priority areas were
agreed upon:
1. Strengthening families
2. Skills and employment
3. Older people
The decision-making process was guided by financial considerations and the working group
members’ existing knowledge of the potential benefits of volunteering and community
involvement for different population sub-groups. The decision to focus on the high-need
groups was born out of the necessity to devise new ways of delivering adult social care to
meet the new 2015 Care Act obligations whilst reducing spending as a result of severe
budget cuts. However, consideration was also given to who would potentially benefit the
most from participation in the Time Credits initiative. The processes through which Time
Credits could help to achieve positive outcomes for each target group are described below:
Strengthening families - This objective, the working group believed, could be met through
both earn and spend activities. One of the local earn partners was keen to engage parents
by encouraging them to volunteer at their children’s school and, by volunteering at the
school, become more comfortable around the school environment and in helping their
children with their studies. Having earned the Time Credits, families could then spend them
together to try new things and to undertake activities they may not otherwise be able to
afford. During the pilot, it became evident that many of the active participants were from the
lower end of the income scale, making the latter consideration particularly relevant.
Skills and employment - This objective was inspired by the poor employment figures in parts
of Cambridgeshire and existing evidence of time banks’ ability to successfully engage
unemployed and economically inactive people. Preliminary findings from the Wisbech pilot
project suggested that Time Credits incentivised people to engage with activities that
enabled them to acquire new skills and work experience, which then helped them to improve
their CVs and employability. People’s volunteering pathways also seemed to develop over
time, and many who started volunteering in jobs that require very basic skills eventually
‘moved on’ to more demanding tasks as their confidence increased. In addition to the
benefits acquired from the earning activities, Time Credits could be spent to access
additional training. The potential of Time Credits to help individuals and communities to
enhance their social capital was regarded as a worthwhile goal for social as well as
economic reasons, and an important step towards developing stronger, more resilient
Older people - Organisations supporting older people or providing volunteering opportunities
specifically for older people were not part of the Wisbech pilot project. However, Time
Credits were thought to be a potentially useful tool for enabling and encouraging older
people to support their communities, to facilitate greater levels of social activity among older
individuals, and to keep newly retired people active for longer. Focus on reducing loneliness,
social isolation and low activity levels was motivated by health and wellbeing concerns as
well as the financial implications of health and social care needs. In particular, the funders
were keen for Time Credits to be used to generate intergenerational activity to help build
more integrated and cohesive communities.
The research evidence guiding these assumptions will be discussed in more detail in
Working Paper 2 of this series.
4.3 Integrating time banks and time credit networks in Cambridgeshire
At the point of writing, the Wisbech Time Credit network is the most well-established one in
Cambridgeshire. During the three years of funding, the County Council is keen for the Time
Credit networks across Cambridgeshire to link with local time banking schemes, and to
develop into a network of mutual contact, collaboration and support. The ultimate objective is
to help a number of active organisations to develop as ‘hubs’ for their local networks, and to
link with each other in a sustainable way that enables them to continue operating the Time
Credit network across Cambridgeshire with less financial support from external sources.
Some steps have already been taken to promote connections between time banks and Time
Credit networks. This process is facilitated by shared values and the guiding core principle
that everybody’s time is equal and one hour of time spent helping others or volunteering for
a local organisation always equals one Time Credit or one hour in the bank. Several time
banks across Cambridgeshire are already offering their members the opportunity to
exchange up to 10 of their timebanked hours for Time Credits, and both the County Council
and Spice believe that there is potential to develop this further in future. If the integration
process is carefully planned and executed, the subsequent joint networks will have great
potential to bring the strengths of each model to a wider audience.
5 Conclusions
The purpose of this first Working Paper has been to set the context for the evaluation of the
Wisbech time credits network. It has sought to describe the origins of the time banking
movement, the underlying core principles, typical time banks, the opportunities and
challenges time banks and other time-based currencies face, and the way in which the Time
Credits model has been developed from time banking.
Time banking and other time-based currencies are favourably viewed by fiscal regulators in
countries such as the UK and US. In the UK, time-based currencies have grown rapidly in
popularity since the late 1990s when first time banks were set up. Following the cuts to local
authority budgets in recent years, local authorities have become increasingly interested in
the potential of time-based currencies to help communities help themselves and enable the
continuous provision of certain non-essential services in the face of growing budgetary
Existing research on time currencies has associated participation in them with numerous
beneficial outcomes, including improved health, wellbeing, skills and confidence. Time
currencies such as Time Credits are believed to provide an efficient tool for engaging people
who are often excluded from the mainstream economy, and instrumental in helping to
develop more inclusive, cohesive and resilient communities. Much of this evidence,
however, is drawn from small-scale, qualitative studies or surveys using a self-recall method
instead of more robust research methodologies. There is a need to address this knowledge
gap by rigorous, independent evaluation of some of the existing models to enable more
accurate estimates of the extent and degree of their potential impact to be drawn. In
particular, evaluations of time-based currencies may need to focus more on monetary value
outcomes so that the case for the economic impact of time banks can be more convincingly
made. This, however, would be an extremely challenging undertaking, not least because of
the versatile nature of the time-based currencies and the multitude of ways in which financial
benefits may be generated.
This evaluation utilises a mixed-method research design, which incorporates a more
scientific approach to quantitative data collection than has previously been used in
evaluations of time-based currencies. If successful, the emerging data may enable us to
form a better understanding of the source and nature of the potential cost savings to enable
suitable tools to be developed to capture these benefits in a more systematic manner. As
such, this is an experimental and ambitious research project, with significant potential to
make an important contribution to the existing literature on time-based currencies. The
existing research evidence guiding the initial assumptions informing the survey design and
the content of the survey questionnaire are discussed in detail in Working Paper 2 of this
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Full-text available
العُمُلات المكمِّلة: ما هي؟ ولماذا؟ المستخلص. هَدفت الدراسة إلى تسليط الضوء على ما يُنعتُ في الأدبيات النقدية والمالية بالعُمُلات المكمِّلة؛ وذلك بالتعرض لحقيقتها، وبيان أهميتها ودواعي ظهورها وانتشارها. باستخدام المنهج الوصفي مع التتبع والاستقراء لبعض التطبيقات خَلصت الدراسة إلى عدد من النتائج، من ذلك: (1) - العُملة المكمِّلة نوع خاص من العمُلات تستحدثها سلطة عمومية أو مؤسسة خاصة أو مجموعة من الأشخاص على مستوى نطاق جُغرافي معين لتحقيق أهداف اقتصادية واجتماعية محددة، وهي بهذا التحديد لا تُمثل بديلاً للعملة الرسمية المُتداولة وإنما مُكَمِّل يعمل بالتوازي معها، (2) - يؤثر نوع النقد المُستخدم في توجيه النشاط الاقتصادي، وفي طبيعة العلاقات التي تنشأ بين المتعاملين وفي القرارات الاقتصادية التي يتخذونها، ومن ثَم فإنه ليس محايدًا (value neutral) كما تَدَّعي النظرية الاقتصادية السائدة، (3) – أبانت تطبيقات العُملة الخاضعة للرسم أن افتراض ثبات معدل دوران النقود من قبل المدرستين الكلاسيكية والنقدية ليس معقولاً ولا واقعياً؛ لأن توجيه هذا المتغير يُؤثر في النشاط الاقتصادي، وأخيراً (4) – قدمت الدراسة إطارًا لتفسير ظاهرة انتشار وتطور هذا النوع من العُمُلات يتمثل في ما أطلقت عليه اختصاراً "تتس"؛ وهي حروف مأخوذة من كلمات (التكريم - والتقدير - والاستثمار)؛ التكريم للإنسان من كونه إنساناً خُلق على أحسن هيئة وَزُوِّد بأَهم أداة للتمييز وهي العقل، والتقدير للجهد النافع الذي يفيد به الإنسان نفسه ومجتمعه، والاستثمار الإيجابي لتنوع البشر واختلافهم فيما يتمايزون به عن بعضم من كَفاءات وخبرات وقُدرات.
Full-text available
A conceptual framework is developed for analysing UK social policy with respect to work, employment, inclusion and income. A range of possibilities for (PEW) outside the home are identified, ranging from formal employment, through informal employment, working for local community currencies, to unpaid voluntary work, each attracting particular policy responses, according to the hegemonic discourse of social exclusion, namely a liberal individualistic model which sees insertion into the labour market as the solution to exclusion. A new initiative is examined which is increasingly being adopted by local authorities in their efforts to tackle social exclusion and build social capital, namely : a type of community currency which rewards people in time credits for the work they put into their neighbourhoods. Time banks are found to occupy a space in between what is already known about informal employment, LETS (Local Exchange Trading Schemes) and volunteering, raising a number of issues for policy makers and practitioners. While time banks may be promoted within the UK government's social inclusion remit as a means of increasing job-readiness through volunteering, they have wider and deeper implications. They represent a response to a radical social democratic understanding of social exclusion and hence exert a collective effort to redefine what is considered , and thus present an alternative to hegemonic paradigms of work and welfare; their greatest potential is as a radical tool for collective social capital building, resulting in more effective social, economic and political citizenship, and hence social inclusion. Policy recommendations are made to enable time banks to flourish and provide a powerful tool for achieving social inclusion objectives.
Full-text available
Purpose – The paper aims to improve understanding of the UK policy context for the social economy and thereby increase policy effectiveness in promoting the sector. Design/methodology/approach – First the term “social economy” is discussed and defined. Then the range of policy responses to the social economy is reviewed. The interface between the social economy and policy is examined in detail using a case study initiative: time banks, a type of community currency which uses time as money. Findings – UK government policy responds very positively to the social economy, viewing it as a potential provider of social cohesion, public service delivery, and sustainable development. However, the time bank case study reveals that existing social policy on work and employment is a barrier to realising the potential of the sector. Practical implications – Proposals to overcome these policy barriers are suggested: they share the approach of redefining “work” and valuing and rewarding unpaid community efforts in the social economy. Originality/value – The social economy is attracting increasing policy attention, but there is little empirical research in this area. This paper presents a review of existing policy and examines the impacts of policy in the social economy.
Full-text available
Findings from a comprehensive survey of the membership of a Time Bank in the United States are reported. This system has a total of 505 individual members, 233 of whom responded to the author's online survey (46.1% response rate). Respondents were asked 193 questions in six categories: motivations, engagement, outcomes, satisfaction, community experience, and demographics. The membership is mostly female, white, and highly educated. Incomes are found to be quite low and members are politically engaged and overwhelmingly liberal. Respondents were motivated to join largely by needs and values-based reasons. This Time Bank has been most successful in allowing participants to act on behalf of the values that they cherish and to give back to their community and help those in need. Implications of the findings are discussed and the survey instrument is provided as a potential resource.. While the Time Bank studied here will remain anonymous, I would like to thank the coordinators and executive director for all of their assistance with data collection.
Full-text available
Time banking is an international movement that seeks to transform traditional asymmetric social service models into social networks in which members both provide and receive services that are assigned equal value. Time banks have been shown to enhance social capital, and there is some evidence for improved health. This article, based on a survey of 160 members of a hospital-affiliated time bank, examines the likelihood and predictors of improvement in physical and mental health as a result of membership. Men, people with lower income, and those who were not working full-time reported highest levels of participation in exchanging services; attachment to the organization was greatest among women, older members, people with less education, and those with the highest participation levels. Multivariate analyses revealed that physical health improvement attributed to membership was significantly predicted by attachment to the organization and living alone; mental health gains were predicted by general health changes, average number of exchanges, and attachment to the organization. We conclude that a sense of belonging, a dimension of social capital, is key to improved well-being and that time banking may be particularly valuable in promoting health and belonging among older and lower-income individuals and those who live alone.
Conference Paper
Paradigms for the collaborative creation of value through trade and exchange have developed over millennia. Thus, coins emerged in response to a set of challenges in barter and gift exchange. The development of paradigms for trade and exchange continues today, and is accelerating due both to crises in the mainstream global economy, and to new possibilities enabled by information technology. In this discussion paper, we consider alternative and complementary currency and exchange innovations, including local/community currencies, timebanks, crypto-currencies, and person-to-person collaborative economy microenterprises, as a technology design space for currency and exchange. We consider the consequences and trajectories of the rapidly evolving currency ecosystem, particularly with respect to research and development opportunities for CSCW.
Time banking, a form of community currency facilitating time-based exchanges, developed in the United States during the 1980s before transferring to the United Kingdom in the late 1990s. Whilst now operating in over 30 countries, this paper explores the US–UK link, focusing on time bank practices within criminal justice. Examining time bank theory and the UK/US policy contexts, this paper provides an account of the Time Dollar Youth Court and the UK time bank prisons initiative, to facilitate a discussion of policy transfer and lesson drawing. Such an approach provides a fresh insight into time bank development, opening up a previously unexplored aspect of time bank policy experimentation.
Within the UK the economic crisis has been utilised by the coalition government to promote a very specific policy response. Through the notion of ‘austerity’ there has been an efficient attack on welfare provision, building on the tradition of UK governments since the 1980s, to demonise welfare claimants, advocate cultural and behavioural explanations of social problems and continue to pursue a neo-liberal policy agenda. The coalition government has associated this with the need to further promote self-help through the localism and, now defunct, Big Society agendas. This paper explores one initiative promoted by the UK coalition government within both the Big Society and social care reform: time banking. Time banking is a form of community currency which has developed globally since the 1980s (including a number of European countries) and in the UK since the late-1990s. The paper sets out how austerity and the Big Society present a particular form of neo-liberalism within the UK and are built upon the notion of responsibilisation. How time banking is drawn into the Big Society is then illustrated before examining the potential for promoting resistance to neo-liberal ideas and practice and the challenges faced by efforts to resist.
Findings from a qualitative study of Time Bank members from the first Time Bank in New Zealand are reported. Using focus groups, this study identifies benefits of Time Banking in terms of physical, human, social, and cultural capital. Unlike previous research, this study explores Time Banking in a relatively affluent community thus allowing us to understand why those from other populations may participate in Time Banking. This study also identifies a range of obstacles that may prevent individuals from fully utilising Time Banking and may hinder the full development of individual Time Banks. Finally, a number of recommendations for practitioners are discussed.