TimeBank Hours: A Time-Based Currency For Communities That Care

TimeBank Hours: A Time-Based Currency For Communities That Care

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

There's never enough money. There are unlimited TimeBank Hours to pay for caring, mentoring, civic engagement, social justice and environmental work. In TimeBanking every hour is equal. Every human being and every contribution is valued. TimeBank software links untapped capacity to unmet need. Thousands nationwide and in 33 countries earn Time Dollars building community, reclaiming habitat, bridging divides. As trust builds and capacity is honored, possibility expands.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Money can destroy as well as create. When money rules, short term self-interest, exploitation, discrimination, inequality, and divisiveness grow. Another medium of exchange is needed to reinforce other values which we know are not defined by market price: family and loved ones, care for the vulnerable, spiritual values, social justice, cultural traditions, environmental protection, all that we regard as priceless. The market can exclude and the market can exploit. We see the impact of unchecked pursuit of profit: unrelenting poverty, growing inequality, environmental degradation, communities that have lost all. TimeBanking was designed to build an economy that rewards working for the common good, helping each other, preserving the planet and advancing social justice. Thirty years of striving have proven that another kind of money can expand the range of what is possible. TimeBanking has yielded results many regarded as impossible. But taking it to scale involves a paradigm shift. So far, it is barely a drop in the ocean - but the successes are growing and they are kindling a movement.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

It is unique to have a form of money that values what we share -- the not-so-small and basic things like love, caring, social justice, respect for the environment. These universal capacities enabled our species to survive and evolve. Our monetary system devalues them. TimeBanking values them. TimeBanking creates money with generosity built-in. Every hour helping another earns one TimeBank hour. This kind of money pays for caring, helping, mentoring, civic engagement, social justice and environmental work. TimeBanking software links untapped capacity to unmet need. A child and father-in-prison writing eachother earn TimeBank Hours; ADD students tutoring 1st and 2nd graders earn TimeBank Hours; persons coping with disability or mental illness earn Time Dollars supporting each other; seniors in hospital can get their dog walked with Time Dollars; ex-prisoners giving back earn Time Dollars providing Safe Passage across gang territory. TimeBank celebrations restore life to distressed communities. TimeBank Hours are unique because they reject market price, making all hours equal and creating only a moral (not a legally enforceable) obligation to give back by paying-it-forward. Altruism and self-interest work in tandem. Community Weaver software turns strangers into a vast extended family. Like regular money, the TimeBank currency stimulates creativity, generates social entrepreneurship and civic engagement. Circles of giving and receiving replace inequality created by charity and one-way transactions. Relationships created by TimeBanking empower every recipient to give back and have that contribution honored. Moses did not wait for a travel grant. Einstein did not wait on a research grant. Mandella did not wait on public financing. With TimeBanking, we do not have to wait for money to pursue social justice.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

TimeBanking has spread to 200+ communities in 40 states and 33 nations. Hundreds of thousands earn and spend hours rebuilding the social eco-system of family, neighborhood and community. Specialized applications include youth courts, peer tutoring, multi-racial anti-violence programs, long term care insurance with Time Dollar premiums, outreach to refugees and immigrants, environmental restoration, community gardens, Homecomers Academy for returning prisoners. In social policy. TimeBanking turns "consumers" of service into "co-producers" of outcomes. Family, neighborhood, civil society emerge as an invisible Core Economy undergirding the market. Core operating principles generate unity and give substance to non-monetary values: every human being is an asset; real work, not valued by the market, must be honored; reciprocity empowers the recipient as a co-equal partner; community is more than market transactions and requires a sustainable social infrastructure; amplifying the voices of those ignored by the market and the political process provides an essential feedback loop and holds those with wealth and power accountable as stewards and trustees for posterity.
About You
TimeBanks USA
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About You
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TimeBanks USA

About Your Organization
Organization Name

TimeBanks USA

Organization Phone


Organization Address

5500 39th St NW

Organization Country

, DC, Washington

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Your idea
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Do you have a patent for this idea?


It is easy to underestimate how radical something as simple as TimeBanking is.

The challenge: getting people to understand and trust a different kind of money; getting decision makers to grasp the potential value and to make use of it to advance the common good; and getting funders to invest the money needed to sustain the infrastructure of a movement while pressing for continuous innovation.

Now I am
1. Meeting with TimeBank pioneers to brainstorm with them, to share learnings and to celebrate, support and promote their work
2. Seeking and entering partnerships to create self-sustaining social enterprises
3. Pressing for IT development to make Community Weaver multi-lingual and to adapt it for mobile application on smart phones and enlist the engagement of the open source community
4. Speaking, writing, reaching out to changemakers who will use this currency as an opportunity to create and to enlist others as changemakers


1. TimeBank pioneers will be increasingly engaged in shaping a dynamic learning network that incubates community-building innovations and expands widespread public awareness
2. Specialized social enterprises addressing specific social needs will thrive and multiply
3. Community Weaver will enable communities to bridge to diverse language groups, enjoy mass user increase with smart phone access and spawn open source alternatives that embody and promote the core values with fidelity
4. A vision of a new Civic GDP will emerge as public officials, think tanks, academicians, and change-makers in the non-profit world grasp the implications of TimeBanking as a currency to advance basic values

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Year 1. Steady growth, media coverage, recognition by public officials and by prominent organizations, new technological advances facilitating use, compelling evaluations. Inclusion of materials in college and graduate school courses of TimeBanking and system change. A book and speaking tour.
Year 2 Emergence of an application to eldercare or to youth at risk or for returning veterans emerging as a breakthrough of national significance – coupled with public funding taking that to scale
Year 3. A deeper awareness emerging that TimeBanking is just a tool (like money) but that the underlying values it promotes and reinforces are its most significant contribution to building the kind of world we want for our children and their children

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Shortage of funds to sustain the core staff that supplies the infrastructure, that is needed to maintain the web-based system, and needed for the technological innovations that can expand access.
The IRS could decide to make Time Credits taxable even though earned by doing good deeds and civic engagement.
Movements always develop factions – and those factions could get destructively righteous or competitive

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Please select

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.


How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

TimeBanking is a tool. If local champions, changemakers and organizations don't take ownership of it and use it to advance their vision, TimeBanking will falter, struggle on and eventually fade. If they take ownership of it and invest their own passion and energy, it will thrive and the movement will become an unstoppable force advancing well being, community building and social justice

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1. Formal recognition of the kind this contest is designed to confer on significant innovations to attract interest and investment in TimeBanking by decision makers, funders and change agents
2. Expanded adoption by leaders and organizations of national prominence such as Mayor Bloomberg has given TimeBanking in New York City coupled with major sustained investment in TimeBanks by the Visiting Nurse Service in New York
3. Core funding to sustain the infrastructure of the TimeBank network as a catalyst for change and an incubator of innovation

The Story
What was the defining moment that you led to this innovation?

In 1980, at the age of 44, I had a major heart attack that destroyed 60% of my heart according to the enzyme tests. Lying there in the hospital bed being cared for by a legion of professionals, I asked myself: “Why am I not enjoying all this care? “ My answer was: “For me, being truly alive is making a difference in the lives of others. I don’t like being useless.”

In 1980, millions were “useless”: old, young, unemployed, disabled, persons on public assistance. I asked: Is there some way we can begin putting people and problems together? With the government cutting back on social programs, my answer was: Why not create a new kind of money to ensure that no one willing to help others would be useless. My work at the London School of Economics proved that theoretically possible. In 1987, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invested in Time Banking in six sites. Funding ended in 1990 but the movement grew. It has now spread to 33 nations with hundreds of thousands participating.

Thirty years later, trying to spread the values of Time Banking seven days a week, my heart is now is now 80% healed. I credit that recovery to Time Banking and to knowing, each morning, that maybe I can make a difference in the life of someone else.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Edgar Cahn - My father was a legal philosopher who believed that Justice was too absolute and abstract a concept for humans to ever grasp fully - but that humans were born with an innate capacity to respond to injustice, to disparities they found intolerable and that by responding to injustice, we then backed toward an ever receding ideal of justice that we would never reach.

That philosophy has been a driving force behind my creation of legal services in the war on poverty, my research, writing and litigation on hunger, my work with Native Americans that helped spark a movement that lead to formal recognition of tribal sovereignty as a fixed element of federalism. It inspired me to create the first clinical law school, Antioch School of Law, where entering students were required to live the first six weeks with the clients served by the school's teaching law firm. It inspires me today as I continue to teach Law & Justice to every entering class, oversee their mandatory community service and teach a course in System Change for advanced students. It brought me to Ashoka as a Fellow to learn more about social entrepreneurship, to be the geriatric member of a network of changemakers, and to create a form of long term insurance, paid largely with TimeBank Hours as a way to enlist the vast capacity of older adult as a force for community building.

It is the passion that underlies my tenacity in developing and promoting TimeBanking even when my colleagues in law could not grasp its relevance. I see each of the Core Values through the lens provided by my sense of injustice. Through that lens, the core principle that every human being has unique value obligates drawing a line in the sand and declaring: No More Throw-Away People. The need to honor the work of building community becomes: No more labor exacted from the subordination of women and children, exploitation of immigrants and discriminatory treatment of ethnic minorities. Likewise, reciprocity becomes a mandate: do not exact dependency as the price of providing help.

So TimeBanking is not a "program" for me; it is my way of challenging the way in which money blinds us to a world of value that we all have, values that are priceless, values that tend to lose ground when confronted by "the bottom line" of profit and loss.

For me two types of energy come together in TimeBanking. The first is a desire for connectedness, a need to reduce social isolation, a commitment to reweave the web of family, neighborhood and community. The second is a sense of injustice, an unwillingness to tolerate the way in which we relegate people to the scrap heap, declare the young and the old and the disabled and others useless unless they have some marketable skills that can generate money. It is a fiery sense of outrage that our principle growth industries have been building prisons and nursing homes and when GDP growth is exemplified by a terminal cancer patient simultaneously undergoing chemotherapy, a divorce and a child custody battle.

Undergirding both the desire for connectedness and our sense of injustice is a primal need to feel that we make a difference, that our existence matters to others. TimeBanking provides connectedness and provides a simple but elemental tool with which to say" No More Throw Away People.

I am grateful for every day I get to expand awareness of our potential to build the kind of world we all want for ourselves and our children. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for me has been people who say: Oh Yes.We know about TimeBanking and trivialize it by saying: That's about people being nice to people and helping them out. Isn't that nice -- and by implication they are saying: But we have to do important things and deal with big problems.

For me, being human is awesome. It carries with it a trust and a stewardship to realize the full potential of our species, to utilize the consciousness that we bring into the universe to create a sustainable habitat for all species -- and to refuse to tolerate disparities which cripple our fellow-beings.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

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