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Time-based currency

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Title: Time-based currency  
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Subject: Local currency, List of community currencies in the United States, Numismatics, History, Ancient Greek coinage
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Time-based currency

In economics, a time-based currency is an alternative currency or exchange system where the unit of account/value is the person-hour or some other time unit. Some time-based currencies value everyone’s contributions equally: one hour equals one service credit. In these systems, one person volunteers to work for an hour for another person; thus, they are credited with one hour, which they can redeem for an hour of service from another volunteer. Others use time units that might be fractions of an hour (e.g. minutes, ten minutes - 6 units/hour, or 15 minutes - 4 units/hour). While most time-based exchange systems are service exchanges in that most exchange involves the provision of services that can be measured in a time unit, it is also possible to exchange goods by 'pricing' them in terms of the average national hourly wage rate (e.g. if the average hourly rate is $20/hour, then a commodity valued at $20 in the national currency would be equivalent to 1 hour).


  • Early time-based currency exchanges 1
  • Time Dollars 2
    • Time Banks 2.1
    • Time banking 2.2
  • Origins and philosophy 3
  • Time banking and the time bank 4
    • The time dollar 4.1
  • Criticisms 5
  • Time banking around the world 6
    • Global Time Banking 6.1
  • Collaborative Platform for Time Exchange 7
    • Bliive 7.1
  • Studies and examples 8
    • Elderplan 8.1
    • Gorbals time bank study 8.2
  • See also 9
  • References 10
    • Bibliography 10.1

Early time-based currency exchanges

Time-based currency exchanges date back to the early 19th century. The National Equitable Labour Exchange was founded by Robert Owen, a Welsh socialist and labor reformer in London, England, in 1832. It was established in Birmingham, England, before folding in 1834. It issued "Labour Notes" similar to banknotes, denominated in units of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 40, and 80 hours. John Gray, a socialist economist, worked with Owen and later with Ricardian Socialists and postulated a National Chamber of Commerce as a central bank issuing a labour currency.[1]

In 1848, the socialist and first self-designated anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon postulated a system of time chits. In 1875, Karl Marx wrote of "Labor Certificates" (Arbeitszertifikaten) in his Critique of the Gotha Program of a "certificate from society that [the labourer] has furnished such and such an amount of labour", which can be used to draw "from the social stock of means of consumption as much as costs the same amount of labour."[2] Josiah Warren published a book describing labor notes in 1852.[3]

Edgar S. Cahn coined the term "Time Dollars" in Time Dollars: The New Currency That Enables Americans to Turn Their Hidden Resource-Time-Into Personal Security & Community Renewal, a book co-authored with Jonathan Rowe in 1992.[4] He also went on to trademark the terms "Time Bank" and "Time Credit".[5][6]

Time Dollars

Time Dollars are a tax-exempt complementary currency[7] used as a means of providing mutual credit in Time Banking. They are typically called "time credits" or "service credits" outside the United States. Time Bank members exchange services for Time Dollars. Each exchange is recorded as a corresponding credit and debit in the accounts of the participants. One hour of time is worth one Time Dollar, regardless of the service provided in one hour or how much skill is required to perform the task during that hour. This "one-for-one" system that relies on an abundant resource is designed to both recognize and encourage reciprocal community service, resist inflation, avoid hoarding, enable trade, and encourage cooperation among participants.[8][9][10][11]

Time Banks

Time Banks have been established in 34 countries, with at least 300 Time Banks established in 40 US states and 300 throughout the United Kingdom.[12][13] Time Banks also have a significant presence in Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, Senegal, Argentina, Israel, Greece, and Spain.[14][15][16] Time Banks have been used to reduce recidivism rates with diversionary programs for first-time juvenile offenders; facilitate re-entry of for ex-convicts; deliver health care, job training and social services in public housing complexes; facilitate substance abuse recovery; prevent institutionalization of severely disabled children through parental support networks; provide transportation for homebound seniors in rural areas; deliver elder care, community health services and hospice care; and foster women's rights initiatives in Senegal.[17][18][19][20][21][22]

Time banking

Time banking is a pattern of reciprocal service exchange that uses units of time as social capital". Time banking had its intellectual genesis in the USA in the early 1980s.[24] By 1990, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation had invested USD 1.2 million to pilot time banking in the context of senior care. Today, 26 countries have active Time Banks. There are 250 Time Banks active in the UK[25] and over 276 Time Banks in the U.S.[26]

Origins and philosophy

Time Banking is a community development tool and works by facilitating the exchange of skills and experience within a community. It aims to build the 'core economy' of family and community by valuing and rewarding the work done in it. The world's first time bank was started in Japan by Teruko Mizushima in 1973 with the idea that participants could earn time credits which they could spend any time during their lives. She based her bank on the simple concept that each hour of time given as services to others could earn reciprocal hours of services for the giver at some stage in the future, particularly in old age when they might need it most. In the 1940s, Mizushima had already foreseen the emerging problems of an ageing society such as seen today. In the 1990s the movement took off in the USA, with Dr Edgar Cahn pioneering it there, and in the United Kingdom, with Martin Simon from Timebanking UK.

According to Edgar S. Cahn, time banking had its roots in a time when "money for social programs [had] dried up"[27] and no dominant approach to

  • Cahn, Edgar S. (1999). "Time dollars, work and community: from 'why?' to 'why not?'".  
  • Cahn, Edgar S. (2004). No More Throw Away People. Washington, DC: Essential Books. 
  • Seyfang, Gill (2001). "Re-stitching the social fabric: one favour at a time".  
  • Seyfang, Gill (2004). "Time banks: rewarding community self-help in the inner city?".  


  1. ^ "TUC - History Online". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Tadayuki Tsushima. "Understanding "Labor Certificates" on the Basis of the Theory of Value―The Law of Value and Socialism― 1956". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Warren, Josiah (1852). Equitable Commerce: A New Development of Principles (PDF). New York: Burt Franklin Press. p. 117. 
  4. ^ Cahn, Edgar (1992). Time Dollars: The New Currency That Enables Americans to Turn Their Hidden Resource-Time-Into Personal Security & Community Renewal. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press.  
  5. ^ "TIME BANKS Trademark". TrademarkHound. US PatentOffice. 
  6. ^ "TIME CREDITS Trademark". TrademarkHound. US Patent Office. 
  7. ^ Lietaer, Bernard; Dunne, Jacqui (2013). "Chapter5: The Future Has Arrived But Isn't Distributed Evenly...Yet!". Rethinking Money: how new currencies turn scarcity into prosperity. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. p. 85.  
  8. ^ Ryan-Collins, Josh; Stephens, Lucie; Coote, Anna (2008). The new wealth of time: how timebanking helps people build better public services. London, UK: New Economics Foundation. pp. 3–4.  
  9. ^ Ferrara, Peter (March 1, 2013). "Rethinking Money: The Rise Of Hayek's Private Competing Currencies". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved March 17, 2013. 
  10. ^ Lietaer, Bernard; Dunne, Jacqui (2013). Rethinking Money: how new currencies turn scarcity into prosperity. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. pp. 5, 79–85.  
  11. ^ Collom, Ed; Lasker, Judith (2012). Equal Time, Equal Value: Community Currencies and Time Banking in the US. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Limited. pp. 19–20.  
  12. ^ Cahn, Edgar (November 17, 2011). "Time Banking: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?". Yes Magazine. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Simon, Martin (2010). Your Money or Your Life: Time for Both. Gloucestershire, UK: Freedom Favours. pp. 110–115.  
  15. ^ "Minister hails Japan care scheme". BBC News UK. 30 October 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Madaleno, Margarida (29 August 2012). "Time-banking offers hope to the dispossessed youth of Europe". New Statesman. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  17. ^ Shah, Angana; Samb, Pape (October 2011). Time Banking™ Is More Than Money for Women in Senegal (PDF) (Report). World Bank, International Finance Corporation. pp. 1–4. Retrieved 7 April 2013. foster women's rights initiatives in Senegal. 
  18. ^ Building Social and Economic Support Networks with Time Dollars (Report). Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation, Center for the Study of Public Policy. 2004. pp. 5–10. 
  19. ^ Ryan-Collins, Josh; Stephens, Lucie; Coote, Anna (2008). The new wealth of time: how timebanking helps people build better public services. London, UK: New Economics Foundation. pp. 19–51.  
  20. ^ Phelps Stokes Fund (November 2008). Coming Home: An Asset-Based Approach to Transforming Self & Community (Report). Co-Production at Work 1. W.K. Kellogg Foundation. facilitate re-entry of for ex-convicts 
  21. ^ Letcher, Abby S.; Perlow, Kathy M. (December 2009). "Community-Based Participatory Research Shows How a Community Initiative Creates Networks to Improve Well-Being". American Journal of Preventive Medicine 37 (6S1): S292–S299.  
  22. ^ Miyashita, Mitsunori; et al. (June–July 2008). "The Japan HOspice and Palliative Care Evaluation study (J-HOPE study): study design and characteristics of participating institutions". American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine 25 (3): 223–232.  
  23. ^ Seyfang (2004), p. 63
  24. ^ Cahn (2004)
  25. ^ About Time Banking UK Accessed March 23, 2012.
  26. ^ "Time Banks Directory". 
  27. ^ Cahn (2004), p. xix
  28. ^ Cahn (1999), p. 499
  29. ^ a b Cahn (1999), p. 507
  30. ^ Cahn (1999), p. 505
  31. ^ Cahn (2004), p. 87
  32. ^ a b Cahn (2004), pp. 5–6
  33. ^ "Time Trade NZ" (PDF). 
  34. ^ "The Five Core Values". 
  35. ^ Seyfang (2004), p. 66
  36. ^ a b Exchanging Services - Banking Time - Strengthening Communities Hour Exchange Portland, Accessed May 30, 2008
  37. ^ e.g., the Hour Exchange Portland
  38. ^ a b e.g., the Cape Ann Time Bank
  39. ^ In the U.K.: TimeBanking UK; in the U.S.: TimeBanks USA, Portland Time Bank
  40. ^ Seyfang (2001)
  41. ^ Cahn (2004), pp. 59–77
  42. ^ Cahn (2004), p. 6
  43. ^ a b c Seyfang (2004), p. 69
  44. ^ Sustainability - The Business of Timebanking.. Time Bank Aotearoa New Zealand, Accessed July 23, 2012.
  45. ^ Pensabene, Francesco. "TimeRepublik è la banca del tempo mondiale". FOCUS. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  46. ^ "TIMEREPUBLIK finalist at LeWeb London". Startupticker. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  47. ^ Bolino, Francesca. "Cuochi, scrittori, idraulici ecco la banca online per prestare un' ora di talento". La Repubblica. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  48. ^ "Portfolia - Women in Social Business". Portfolia - Women in Social Business. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  49. ^ "Bliive Groups". Vimeo. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  50. ^ Moin Ahmed. "Home - InnoCentive Custom Challenge Division". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  51. ^ "Bliive – Our time at ESpark". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  52. ^ "Entrepreneurial Spark - Business Startup Glasgow - Starting a business Edinburgh - New Business Ayrshire". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  53. ^ "Bliive, Winner of the Brazilian Startup Competition: Daily Update - The Rio Times - Brazil News". The Rio Times. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  54. ^ "Winners". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  55. ^ "YouNoodle - YouNoodle Camp 2014 – A Crash Course in Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  56. ^ "Global Agenda Council on the Creative Economy 2014-2016". Global Agenda Council on the Creative Economy 2014-2016 - World Economic Forum. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  57. ^ "Sobre - Bliive - a rede colaborativa de troca de tempo". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  58. ^ "We Bliive - Bliive - a rede colaborativa de troca de tempo". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  59. ^ Louv, Richard. "Time Dollars gain currency helping the needy" San Diego Tribune May 31, 1995.
  60. ^ Wetzstein, Cheryl. "Seniors use time, not money, to buy services; Idea helps promote independent living" The Washington Times December 17, 1998.
  61. ^ a b Seyfang (2004), p. 64
  62. ^ a b c Seyfang (2004), pp. 67–68
  63. ^ Seyfang (2004), p. 68


See also

In 2004, Dr. Gill Seyfang published a study in the Community Development Journal about the effects of a Time Bank located in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland, "an inner-city estate characterized by high levels of deprivation, poverty, unemployment, poor health and low educational attainment."[61] The Gorbals Time Bank is run by a local charity with the intent to combat the social ills that face the region.[61] Seyfang concluded that the Time Bank was effective at "building community capacity" and "promoting social inclusion."[62] She highlights the Time Bank's success at "[re-stitching] the social fabric of the Gorbals."[62] by "[boosting] engagement in existing projects and activities" in a variety of projects including a community safety network, a library, a healthy living project, and a theatre.[62] She writes that "the time bank had enabled people to access help they otherwise would have had to do without," help which included home repair, gardening, a funeral, and tuition paid in Time Dollars to a continuing education course.[63]

Gorbals time bank study

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.[59] 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."[60]


Studies and examples

On Bliive users can add their friends, find people near them by geolocation and filter their interests in order to search for new activities close to them. Bliive users can also volunteer in one of the accredited NGO's and receive TimeMoneys in return.[58]

The platform has become popular in Brazil for its revolutionary idea, allowing people that don't have money to study a second language, for example, to do so through the platform. When registering, users are given 5 TimeMoneys so that they can start requesting activities and experiences from other users. TimeMoney is the currency used within the platform. One TimeMoney equals to one hour.[57] Their idea is to show that everyone's time is valuable and everyone has something worth sharing.

Financed by the UKTI [50] and accelerated by Entrepreneurial Spark,[51] the worlds' larger free business accelerator [52] the team has achieved several goals since Bliive's launch: - Creative Business Cup Brazil [53] - Intel Challenge Brazil [54] - Entrepreneurship camp in the Silicon Valley [55] - CEO became Global Agenda Council for Creative Economies, a World Economic Forum initiative.[56]

Bliive is the first social network for time exchange.[48] It is originally from Brazil, today is established in the United Kingdom and has more than 60000 users in 100 countries. The platform is free of charge and the company profits from Bliive Groups, a solution for companies, co-workings, universities and schools that want to promote a collaborative environment to their employees and students.[49]


Collaborative Platform for Time Exchange

The Community Exchange System (CES) is a global network of communities using alternative exchange systems, many of which use time banks. Time banks can trade with each other wherever they are, as well as with mutual credit exchanges. The system uses a base 'currency' of one hour, and the conversion rates between the different exchange groups are based on national average hourly wage rates. This allows time banks to trade with mutual credit exchanges in the same or different countries.

In 2013 TIMEREPUBLIK[45] launched the global Time Bank. Its aim is to eliminate geographical limitations of previous Time Banks.[46][47]

Global Time Banking

Time banking around the world

One of the most stringent criticisms of Time Banking is its organizational sustainability. While some member-run Time Banks with relatively low overhead costs do exist,[38] others pay a staff to keep the organization running. This can be quite expensive for smaller organizations and without a long-term source of funding, they may fold.[43][44]

Dr. Gill Seyfang's study of the Gorbals Time Bank—one of the few studies of time banking done by the academic community—listed several other non-theoretical problems with time banking. The first is the difficulty of communicating to potential members exactly what makes time banking different, or "getting people to understand the difference between Time Banking and traditional volunteering."[43] She also notes that there is no guarantee that every person's needs will be provided for by a Time Bank by dint of the fact that the supply of certain skills may be lacking in a community.[43]

Some criticisms of time banking have focused on the time dollar's inadequacies as a form of currency and as a market information mechanism. Frank Fisher of MIT predicted in the 80s that such a currency "would lead to the kind of distortion of market forces which had crippled Russia's economy."[42] It is precisely the non-commercial, not-for-profit, noncontractual, and non-monetary value of time dollars which exempts them from taxation in the United States; were they to be used as a substitute for money, they would simply be another form of exchange.


The time dollar is the fundamental unit of exchange in a time bank, equal to one hour of a person's labor. In traditional time banks, one hour of one person's time is equal to one hour of another's. Time dollars are earned for providing services and spent receiving services. Upon earning a Time Dollar, a person does not need to spend it right away: they can save it indefinitely. However, since the value of a Time Dollar is fixed at one hour, it resists inflation and does not earn interest. In these ways it is intentionally designed to differ from the traditional fiat currency used in most countries.[41] Consequently, it does little good to hoard Time Dollars and, in practice, many time banks also encourage the donation of excess Time Dollars to a community pool which is then spent for those in need or on community events.

The time dollar

The mission of an individual time bank influences exactly which services are offered. In some places, time banking is adopted as a means to strengthen the community as a whole. Other time banks are more oriented towards social service, systems change, and helping underprivileged groups. In some time banks, both are acknowledged goals.[40]

Child care Legal assistance Language lessons
Home repair Respite care Account management
Writing Odd jobs Office/business support
Tutoring Driving instruction Delivery

Example services offered by Time Bank members[36]

[39] Time Bank members earn credit in Time Dollars for each hour they spend helping other members of the community. Services offered by members in Time Banks include: Child Care, Legal Assistance, Language Lessons, Home Repair, and Respite Care for

Time banking and the time bank

[the time bank] involves everybody coming together as a community . . . the Gorbals has never — not for a long time — had a lot of community spirit. Way back, years ago, it had a lot of community spirit, but now you see that in some areas, people won't even go to the chap next door for a some sugar . . . that's what I think the project's doing, trying to bring that back, that community sense . . .[35]

Ideally, time banking builds community. Time Bank members sometimes refer to this as a return to simpler times when the community was there for its individuals. An interview at a time bank in the Gorbals neighbourhood of Glasgow revealed the following sentiment:

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

As a philosophy, time banking, also known as Time Trade[33] is founded upon five principles, known as Time Banking's Core Values:[34]

[32] He hoped that the system "would enable individuals and communities to become more self-sufficient, to insulate themselves from the vagaries of politics and to tap the capacity of individuals who were in effect being relegated to the scrap heap and dismissed as freeloaders."[29] He theorized that a system like time banking could "[rebuild] the infrastructure of trust and caring that can strengthen families and communities."[31]

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