The basic idea of time banking is that everyone can contribute to the welfare of the community by making exchange of services with the others. As an example, if a person needs his car to be repaired, a second person needs flowers for his front yard and another person needs a new table for his kitchen, they could make a deal one with another, even if they don’t have the money to pay for these services. In order to make these kind of exchanges, people who generally don’t meet need to interact, and they need an infrastructure for doing this. This infrastructure is now here.
Time banking is based on time currencies, the units of time exchange. The name of the time currency is different from one time bank to another, but, in every situation, one hour of work has an equal value with one hour of any other kind of work.
The person who had the greatest influence on the time banking movement is Edgar Cahn, a former lawyer. While he was recovering after a heart attack he began thinking about the influence of the 80 hours of work a week on the relationships with his community and family, and imagining the terrible effects of medical emergencies on the uninsured and underinsured. In the 1980s Cahn made known his ideas and he created the concept named time banking, as a solution for these problems. After bringing the time banking concept to Maine, Cahn launched a pilot time bank here in 1998.
Time banking is expanding and time banks, such as Cahn’s Time Dollar networks, now exits in many states of the world, including every state of the U.S., Canada, Japan and Western Europe. For instance, in the U.K. there are more than 140 time banks which have more than 5,000 members. One of these time banks, Time For Health, has been so effective that the U.K.’s National Health Service has commissioned a study on how it works.
Offering equal pay for equal time, time banking has positive effects on women and people of color, whose work has been often under-compensated in the market economy. A proof is that Spain’s time banking movement’s slogan was in the beginning, “Sharing: Promoting the Equality of Time Among Men and Women”. Time banking is also used to offer medical care to the uninsured and underinsured, because many of the members earn too much money to receive free services, but they don’t get health insurance through their jobs.
Edgar Cahn has a new purpose: to create accessibility for groups that are deprived of their citizenship rights and to increase leaders’ consciousness of race and class issues in time banking.