Thursday, March 3, 2011
Time: The New Social Currency
Meet the accordeurs, a group of people with accounts in a time bank, where their currency is not money but hours. An hour is worth an hour, and it's the same for everyone. At L'Accorderie de Trois-Rivières, (and Québec city, in the video above), you can buy an hour's worth of someone's time by providing an hour's worth of your time.
It is an economic system to fight poverty and social exclusion--marketable but not monetary--based on a network of trade services.
Need your hair cut, kitchen floor tiled, taxes done, or upstairs painted? You pay however long it takes to do those tasks with hours you've saved in an "hour bank". Can you cook, do carpentry, set up a person's website, teach someone to dance? How about speak Italian, repair a car, sew a hem, accompany someone to a doctor's appointment or provide babysitting services? Someone will pay you, in exchangeable hours, for those kinds of services.
Think of swapping, or bartering, on an individual level (I'll let you use my car if I can borrow your golf clubs Saturday; I'll give you my old file cabinet for two quarts of your preserves). But what if a whole group of people got together and did this--bartered and swapped not objects, but Time? What if that group offered to help you in other ways as well? Such as giving you a loan to buy a refrigerator if you don't have a credit card and the bank won't lend you the money. Wouldn't it be great, too, if they had a local food co-op program where you could buy produce for less than at the supermarket? Service-exchange organizations such as the ones mentioned above could fulfill that wish.
It's called social microcredit, a creative response to globalization, decreased employment opportunities, poverty, and isolation. A service economy where not only expertise and craftsmanship are shared but respect for each person's contribution, with membership open to everyone regardless of age, nationality, income or social class. Where skills are acknowledged, talents appreciated, resources pooled; and solidarity felt with those in your community in these difficult economic times. (Did I mention the community suppers, summer picnics, holiday festivities, and occasional language, dance, exercise, computer and cooking classes?) As models go (for innovative projects to alleviate expenses and build a sense of community), this one seems a winner.