North Edinburgh Time Bank was launched at North Edinburgh Arts Centre last week. North Edinburgh’s Time Bank Broker Julie Smith gave a comprehensive explanantion of time banks – what they are, how they work and who they’re for - and we’re delighted to include Julie’s presentation in full below:
Welcome to the launch of North Edinburgh Timebank, and thank you everyone for coming along. I know that for some of you – Gena, Kate, Caroline, Cathy, Stuart and others who are or were involved in the steering group – this moment has been a long time coming! But thanks to all your stalwart work, some funding form the Council’s health inequalities fund and the management of the volunteer centre – we’re finally here. I’m sure you will earn golden time credits for your efforts!
And I hope it demonstrates the fact that your faith in timebanking was not in vain, as we have most of the timebank members here tonight – who are the real testament to the project. They understood and were excited by the idea of timebanking and happy to contribute to its success. So, what is it about timebanking that connects with people?
Very simply, it gives value to the time we spend with others. And a timebank is a tool to organise the exchange of people’s time. One hour of helping people equals one time credit.
It’s an idea developed by an American called Edgar Cahn who worked in the civil rights movement in the USA and who with his wife set up a legal centre to work with people who couldn’t afford access to the law. He saw all the work that people did, caring for older people and children, helping out in the community, making their neighbourhoods thriving places to be, fighting injustice and inequality as the ‘core economy’. This wasn’t work that people got paid for, but think of what would happen if this work wasn’t done…..it’s hard to imagine.
It wasn’t valued in the same way as paid work was, it didn’t contribute to GDP, and it didn’t confer status on people. But it was vital. The market economy doesn’t value all the capabilities people had and depends on competition, not co-operation.
The ideas behind timebanking challenge those ideas. It sees people as assets and encourages people to define themselves through their relations with other people. It encourages people to get together with other folk in their community to create a sense of belonging and to make a difference.
It’s a cliché that no-one ever lies on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time in the office. Think about what you spend your time doing, and the things you enjoy and the things that make you feel good about yourself. I will bet that most of the stuff you enjoy is about being with other people, whether it’s having a cup of coffee with a mate, or reading a story to your grandchild. It might be helping out at the local lunch club, or organising a holiday club for children. Things that make a difference to you, to others and to the community.
It is the relationships we create that sustain us and give us meaning and purpose.
I think most of us most of the time are only too happy to feel of use. We want to make a difference, we want to be helpful. And if we can help out, we will. And how would you feel if there was a neighbour who needed a hand, but felt they couldn’t ask you?
But how do you feel about asking for help? Can you sometimes feel you’re imposing on people, that you’re being a burden or you don’t know anyone well enough to ask for help? Do you worry people wouldn’t want to help? And does it make you feel useless when you can’t do something for yourself?
We are often told that it’s important that we stand on our own two feet and to be dependent on others is in some way a sign of failure. That needing support is being part of the ‘dependency culture’.
But we none of us can exist without each other. And these thoughts can come about because it can be difficult to trust people when we may live quite isolated lives. It can be difficult to meet people; if you’ve had a bit of a bad time for whatever reason it can be especially difficult to try to make friends. If getting our and about is difficult, if you’ve recently arrived in the area – all these things can make us quite nervous about meeting people.
So sometimes we can think two contradictory things at once: that it’s good to help folk our AND I don’t like to ask for help. We don’t like to feel helpless or useless. And too often if we are ill or old or young or don’t speak the language or don’t feel we fit in – we’re made to feel useless. But the principles behind time banking means everyone is valued, everyone can contribute and everyone can get something back.
Timebanking doesn’t just work on an individual level – it works to build communities. I think we all have a notion of what a thriving community is. It’s where people look out for each other, share good times with each other, care for each other, and stand up for folk who need support. We want to make a difference, to be there for folk when they need us and to trust that others will be there for us.
The trust that is woven between people when there is mutual respect, when we can give and receive help and support is what creates that thriving community we all want to be part of.
And this is where timebanking comes in. This is a way of recognizing and giving value to the time we spend with other people. (We spend time, we save time, now we can bank it!). It gives time a value, but not a price. It is based on a few core values that capture just what we’ve been discussing, namely:
PEOPLE ARE ASSETS -
The starting point for all Time Banks is the recognition that people are the real wealth in any community. Every individual can contribute to the well being of the local community through giving their time, sharing their skills and providing practical support.
REDEFINING WORK –
Activities such as bringing up children, caring for people who are marginalised, keeping communities safe and fighting social injustice have to be recognised, rewarded and counted as valuable work which contributes to a healthy society for us to live in.
Giving and receiving are the simplest and most fundamental ways of
building trust between people. They are the basic building blocks to positive social relationships and healthy communities.
BUILDING SOCIAL CAPITAL –
Belonging to a mutually supportive and secure social network brings more meaning to our lives and new opportunities to rebuild our trust in one another.
In summing up, I’ll quote Edgar Cahn from his book No More Throw Away People:
‘In communities where people feel safe only by staying behind locked doors, everyone knows the gossip and hears the bad things. But few know the good things about their neighbors, the talent and the capacity – until time banking uncovers what vast untapped capacity there is in each of us, far beyond what most people know about us. Timebanking unleashes that capacity.’
To find out more about time banking visit www.edinburghtimebank.org.uk