At the conclusion of a dynamic presentation last Friday by Piper Watson and John Shea, discussing the future plans of the Station North Tool Library, local juggler Jerry Raitzyk stood up and made a short pitch for the Baltimore Time Bank. Amidst an evening focused on sharing, combining assets, and working together for positive change, Raitzyk’s pitch was welcomed with enthusiasm, and many scrambled to find a pen to jot down the website, letsbmore.org
A time bank is an alternative currency, which functions as a service exchange, where active participants can provide community services (such as transportation, mentoring children, mowing lawns, etc.), and receive credits which they can exchange for other services offered by fellow participants in the time bank program. All work is valued by the hour, so you may trade one hour of your service for one hour of another’s. Essentially, you give time to get time.
The idea of time banking began in the early 1980’s, when its creator, Edgar Cahn, saw “money for social programs dry up.” He believed that alternative approached to sharing time and services could fill the void left by the vanishing funds. The time bank philosophy that serves as the underpinning principles of the idea are: Everyone is an asset, Some work is beyond a monetary price, Reciprocity in helping, Social networks are necessary, and A respect for all human beings. Time banking is designed to rebuild the community mindedness that was once present in all cultures, by utilizing a system designed to share resources in an organized way.
Though there are nearly 300 time banks in the United States alone, and many more around the world, The Baltimore Time Bank is responsible for bringing the creative resource-sharing model to the Baltimore area. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to join; from individuals and families, to small businesses and companies. The model works best with the largest possible pool of partners and resources. One of the greatest aspects of Time Banking is the opportunity to provide or receive services that are normally difficult to market in a formal monetary system. Everything from mothering advice to a simple ride to the airport becomes a potential service you can purchase with your Time Credits.
As a community resource, the philosophy behind The Baltimore Time Bank is based on the notion of community sharing and human interaction. An elderly person, who knows how to bake wonderful cakes, can easily connect with a college student who is willing to do some housework. As such, the community becomes a single organism. Apart from fostering community development Time Banking allows neighborhoods to become less and less dependent on national and world economies, and returns the focus to a community which supports its own.
Unlike a direct barter system, where two individuals or groups directly trade one thing for another, the Time Bank allows you to bank you hours, encouraging the sharing of skills and services among a larger audience. Raitzyk was one of a collective of members who have been working on the idea. The platform itself was created by Ian Schlakman who owns Civilizations Systems, a business located in Fells Point, provides technology solutions to schools and nonprofits. Schlakman’s interest in the non profit sector has also led him to develop a “hub” component of the online platform, allowing for pre-existing community groups to manage their own time banks as well.
Though the Baltimore Time Bank currently has less than 50 active users, with each new time banker who joins, the greater the time bank becomes. “Where Time Banking Can Take Us”, states that “as numerous individuals, agencies and organizations join the local Time Bank the opportunities available to them and their communities will multiply. The Baltimore Time Bank is a collective project and everyone is encouraged to share their ideas, skills and time.”
If you are interested in joining the Baltimore Time Bank, or for more information, please visit www.letsbmore.org