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Time Banking re-weaves community


Edgar S. Cahn, JD, PhD- Creator of Time Banking

Edgar S. Cahn, JD, PhD is a distinguished legal professor and former counsel and speech writer to Robert F. Kennedy.

But, he’s also known as the Father of Time Banking.

Cahn explains, “A time bank is a new kind of extended family, where we ask people what they can do. We have yet to find someone that can’t do 15-20 things that they can’t put on a resume.”

“And, for every hour that you give using some of those skills or capacities to help someone else, you get a credit and then they owe it to someone else to pay it forward to return the favor.”

Time Banking is a pattern of reciprocal service exchange that uses units of time as currency. -Wikipedia

Cahn says that there’s vast untapped capacity and there’s also vast unmet needs. And the question is- “How do we put the two together?” Take a look:

Exchange of services

Tutoring, home repair, child care, elder care, legal assistance, driving

But, it gets more creative than that, Cahn says. He is delighted in the examples of service he’s seen personally… from a 94-year-old woman who delivers a joke each day to her doctor’s office, to a man who plays poker with people.

“It’s remarkable to see the range of things they can do and appreciate how important they are to others,” he says.

“And, I think a medium of exchange that honors every human being for what they can do sends a message of respect.”

“And, that sense of mattering… of being valued for who you are and what you can do is something we all need. Because, I think we all need to feel that we matter.”

Time Banking philosophy

Cahn explains that this exchange isn’t a legally enforceable obligation- it’s amoralobligation. He says, “The IRS doesn’t recognize the existence of moral obligation, so they can’t tax something that doesn’t exist.”

As a philosophy, time banking also known as Time Trade is founded upon five principles, known as Time Banking’s Core Values: (Wikipedia)

  • Everyone is an asset
  • Some work is beyond a monetary price
  • Reciprocity in helping
  • Social networks are necessary
  • A respect for all human beings

New model for healthcare


Time Banking builds relationships.

“I think this is a pioneering effort that can in fact can change our whole approach to healthcare,” Cahn says. The Elderplan is one example of how this can transform healthcare

Elderplan was a social HMO which incorporated Time Banking as a way to promote active, engaged lifestyles for its older members. Funding for the “social” part of social HMOs has since dried up and much of the program has been cut, but at its height, members were able to pay portions of their premiums in Time Dollars instead of hard currency. The idea was to encourage older people to become more engaged in their communities while also to ask for help more often and “[foster] dignity by allowing people to contribute services as well as receive them.”(from Wikipedia)

Building community

Time Banking is spreading across the nation, and is going global. “And, what we’re seeing is that 100,00’s of hours are being generated of people helping each other,” Cahn says.

“Those transactions turn into relationships, the relationships turn into networks, and those networks begin to re-weave community.”

Find a Time Bank near you

Tell us: What do you think of this concept? Can this work in your own community? Please leave a comment below.