The basic idea behind time banking is to encourage people to share their skills with each other and to build a stronger sense of community by strengthening connections among people. In very simple terms, a time bank keeps track of the hours you spend doing things for others. Maybe you’re helping an neighbor repair his lawnmower or volunteering at a local school. That time can be recorded in the time bank, and you can exchange it for services provided by others who participate. So when you want help with holiday baking or need a ride to the airport, you ask for help through the time bank. Every hour you put in is worth an hour of someone else’s time.
Because I write and teach about work, I find this concept especially interesting for the way it seeks to value work that doesn’t usually receive either recognition or compensation. So often, we think of work only as what we have to do to earn a living, instead of viewing it as part of how we contribute to the well-being of others. We also rarely think of work as labor we choose to do, much less labor that we control. Time banking seeks to redefine work with a focus on how it contributes to improving people’s lives and our community. We may not be able to accomplish that with all kinds of work, but valuing the work we do for each other is a good first step.
Here in the Mahoning Valley, where the local economy has been tight for a very long time, time banking seems like an idea that might help people get things done while also building stronger community connections. You can sign up to participate and learn more about the Timebank of the Mahoning Valley Watershed online.