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GlobalNet21: Recreating Our Futures Message Board Meetings Discussion Forum › Learning Exchanges and Time Banks

Learning Exchanges and Time Banks

Francis S.
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 162
There has been a great interest in our meeting coming up on September 2nd on Learning Exchanges and Time Banks and a number of different views have been expressed. So this thread is for those who want to start a discussion before and after this meeting to express viewpoints, ideas and examples around this issue. I hope you will use it as it will help this meeting and subsequent action a great deal.
A former member
Post #: 1
Can I suggest you broaden your vocabulary and talk less about time banks and more about a complementary currency. Time banks are a specific model of CC developed by Edgar Cahn for the purpose of helping the poor. There is a Time Banking association and organisations can become members and get all kinds of support. Governments like the Time Banking model because they can control it, but there are some aspects of Time Banking that do not translate very well into wider usage.
For example, the classic time bank design employs a full time broker to match needs to resources. This makes for good privacy and the broker also serves as a network hub, but this is expensive and makes the project absolutely dependent on outside funding.
Secondly history seems to show that the most useful services don't get listed on schemes which value everyone's time equally. This rule is a very crude way to impose an ethic.
Thirdly, you might consider designing currency which is actually backed by something. That gives people confidence to use it in a wider variety of circumstances, because they know it can be redeemed. Time backed currencies have a built in limitations the time of a random person is only so useful.
You have to start by stating your objectives. Your objectives might be:
- to build resilience to shocks on the national economy
- to foster community in a particular area
- to promote a particular ethic or activity
- to relieve poverty
For more information on designing community currencies, see John Rogers recently ran a course at Findhorn in which five currencies were designed!
Francis S.
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 164
This contribution came from Kevin Lovelady on our Linkedin site.

I think these are potentially an extremely important part of our future. The current monetary-based system has so many flaws, failings and inconsistencies for what is now a global society.

Taking the extremes of the current global monetary-based (“New World Order”?) system against the futuristic global resource-based system (“TheZeitgeistMovement/Venus Project”?), the truth lies somewhere in between.

The advantage is that LETS etc on a large scale, takes away a certain amount of power from profit-driven businesses which may cause a shift or rethink of their practices. However, the disadvantage or risk is that those still basing their transactions on non-LETS exchanges retain an ever-increasing share of wealth and thus become increasingly the arbiters of supply and demand of goods.

These risks of course have always been there and I only hope that social media allows more Howard Beales to shout at us from 1976. There have been a couple of other LinkedIn discussions elsewhere (­ and­ ) dealing with the purpose of 21C business which would seem very much related.

Is it that LETS etc can only work therefore in the service industries? And will they only ever work at a very local level? The jury is still out but I for one hope that they get more publicity and continue to grow.

You can visit that discussion here ....
Francis S.
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 165
This came from Vicki Siedow also on our Linkedin site

I belong to some trade/barter exchanges, and love it. It's helped grow my business and I've made some good connections. They generally charge a small cash fee for each transaction, which keeps the company running. I'm a private investigator, so say someone hires an attorney, and pays him $5,000 in barter. He in turn can hire me not only for the barter case, but for his cash clients as well. The barter exchange will debit his barter dollar account, and credit mine. I will pay around 10% of what I earn to the barter exchange for their services. OK, so say the attorney hires me for a cash client. He pays me $1,000 in barter. I pay the barter exchange $100. The attorney can bill his cash client $1,000 in cash, thereby turning his barter dollars into cash dollars. In turn, I can purchase goods and services with my barter dollars.

You do have to declare barter income on taxes, but you can also deduct business expenses paid in barter. I find that I get business and form relationships that I would not have if we hadn't been introduced through the barter exchange. My barter clients also refer me to non-barter clients, and the barter exchange advertises me to the barter members as much as I want, at no charge, so the 10% I pay I consider to be very cheap, effective advertising. Barter exchanges also barter among themselves, so if I travel to NY, I can get a limo and theater tickets through my local barter exchange, which trades California hotels to the NY exchange.

The only caveats are that you still need to make sure that you're getting a good price, and with a good company. Most barter exchanges don't do background checks on their members, although they often offer mediation, and will usually give the boot to companies who consistently disappoint. Also, you will want to find a barter exchange that has a good, stable history. They can pop up and go out of business, leaving you will a lot of worthless credits. The field sometimes attracts a questionable element, like the barter broker who was busted for pandering, because he had prostitutes as members, LOL!

Barter is definitely here to stay; in fact it's on a steady rise, especially in this economy. Taking barter dollars along with US Dollars is just like taking Euros, or credit cards; just another form of currency, making it easier to get paid.

Again you can visit that discussion here ...
Francis S.
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 166
This came from Kevin Carson also on our Linkedin site ...

The devil is in the details. If it's a LETS model where you earn conventional currency in the capitalist wage economy, and then go to participating local businesses to cash in your fed notes for LETS, then it's basically just a glorified green stamps program where the LETS are less functional than official currency (because they're only good at participating businesses). As such, it's just a greenwashed, feelgood yuppie consumption good. The problem is that people depend on the conventional capitalist wage economy to earn their money, and then trade in some of it for tokens to use in a local sub-economy dominated by conventional small businesses that see it as a useful "buy local" marketing tool.

OTOH, a good local currency system creates purchasing power where it does not already exist, by enabling ordinary working people to transform their skills into purchasing power outside the wage system. A good example of this is Tom Greco's credit-clearing networks. This kind of alt currency isn't a store of past value, where you first earn the money and then cash it in for LETS notes. Rather, you earn purchasing power by producting directly for the barter network. And rather than being a store of past value, the currency is a measure of value for denominating exchanges of present and future production.

The really important thing is not what kind of currency is being used, but on finding a source of capital for self-employment so the *productive capacity* of the alt economy is increased, rather than simply inventing a new kind of currency for exchange with old conventional downtown businesses. The main source of capital IMO is the household capital goods most people already own, whose spare capacity can be used for virtually zero-overhead microenterprises in the household sector: microbakeries using ordinary kitchen ovens, seamstresses using ordinary sewing machines, unlicensed cab services using the family car and a cell phone, people providing informal home-based daycare services for the neighorhood, informal hair styling out of the home, etc.

The potential for such microenterprise is being revolutionized, as well, by new developments in micromanufacturing technology. The underlying logic of the wage system is that the shift from affordable craftsman's tools to expensive machinery meant only rich people could buy factories, and then hired poor people to work in them on unfavorable terms. The wage system depended on expensive, inaccessible capital. The development of cheap CNC tools is reversing that shift: we're witnessing a return to cheap, high-tech, general-purpose craftsmen's tools. A garage factory with $10k worth of homebrew, open-source CNC machinery can do what used to require a million-dollar factory. So capital is becoming cheap and ubiquitous, and investment funds increasingly superfluous.

The capitalist economy used to benefit from its privileged access to large amounts of capital. New technological revolutions are nullifying this advantage. The fact that capital outlays required for production are falling by two orders of magnitude amount to a revolutionary force-multiplier for the alternative economy. "The stone which the builders refused," and all that....

You can find the site here ...
A former member
Post #: 1
I know John Rogers through timebanking - although not that well since, as you'll be aware, his main work is with the Welsh time banks. Perhaps he could be invited to a Meetup just on complementary currencys. An alternative involving John would be Co-production. I know he has developed a workshop on it. So have other people in the timebanking community. My own introduction to Co-production was a 'Master Class' Edgar ran. I didn't really get it until I ended up on a steering group to set up the King's Cross Time Bank. From Day 1 their hosts set out to blur the (artificial) distinction between staff, volunteers and 'users'. The New Economics Foundation has done some very interesting work on Co-production and KCTB / the Holy Cross Centre Trust.

But on Matthew's comments regarding Timebanking:

'Helping the poor' wasn't the top of Edgar's priorities when he formulated Time Dollars. Many time banks are charities but timebanking isn't charity. All exchanges are two-way. Everyone is a giver and a receiver.

Possibly governments do like Timebanking but if they think they can control it I'd like to know exactly how. Timebanking UK doesn't control or try to control any time banks. I don't control my participants. I can't control my particpants - and wouldn't want to. They can't control me either - but I do my best to facilitate them to do whatever they want anyway.

You shouldn't muddle up timebanking with a time bank. Timebanking is a system or a tool. A time bank should be a social network. It may have a space somewhere and it may have a paid Broker or even several staff but it doesn't have to. A Broker or someone else can act as a hub but as a time bank develops a good Broker stops being the hub. A Transformative Network can't have one hub. Camden Shares - in which HCCT is also involved - is getting interesting and might be a model people might want to look at. It is co-produced, member-led and uses timebanking to facilitate the sharing of resources between organisations.

You say ,"Secondly history seems to show that the most useful services don't get listed on schemes which value everyone's time equally. This rule is a very crude way to impose an ethic."

a) I asume these 'most useful services' are technical / craft skills. It can be difficult to find people willing to offer such services and it is often better to grow-your-own but that is only one area. Many Japanese participants only time-bank to earn credits they can donate to their parents for low level support and therefore get them involved in a local network. I've heard of one City gent using his credits to have someone take his dad down the pub back in his home town. One of the first big exchanges in Glasgow was to 'pay' for the cars, venue and catering for a funeral. These all sound pretty useful to me.

b) Valuing all activities equally at one hour of anything = one hour of anything else, is key to timebanking. When you expain that to people you get two responses. People either smile (or laugh) and join on the spot or back off because, I assume, that doesn't fit with their own idea of their 'worth'. It means an hour of ironing is valued equally with an hour running the country. We also extend 'work' to include activities with no market value so spending an hour writing a letter of complaint to the papers is of equal value to an hour writing a computer program. Equality is also central to Co-production. It - like the Big Society - won't work unless it is an equal partnership and that requires that resources are made available to ensure people participate on equal terms.

The sort of objectives you list can be the objectives of possible funders and that can be useful - as long as they fit with what the participants want to do.

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