Jean Lievens: Human Time-Based Currency

Cultural Intelligence

Jean LievensCooperative currency is a global movement to to rethink money. Time to join a timebank

The currency is time, an hour for an hour, with everyone’s time valued equally. Time is recorded in an online database and can be used at your convenience

If you want to save money, be more involved in your community, and help create an alternative economy, there’s a simple solution — join a timebank.

As a timebank member, you decide what service you are willing to offer and provide that service for another member at your mutual convenience. You earn credit for time spent and then use that credit to get a service from any other member. The timebank operates on the model that everyone has something to give; everyone can use some help. Want advice about edible landscaping? Want a dog to hang out with? Want to learn Spanish or get tech help? A wide range of services are offered and requested in local timebanks.

The currency is time, an hour for an hour, with everyone’s time valued equally. Time is recorded in an online database and can be used at your convenience. You make arrangements with others in the timebank to give or get a service; you decide if that person is a good fit for what you want done. Unlike bartering, service provision is tax-neutral.

The founding timebank organization, Timebanks USA (, is part of a global movement. Timebanks facilitate community members helping each other out by way of services offered and requested through an online database, but once a timebank is big enough, members can support diverse projects. According to Wikipedia, there are timebanks in 34 countries, and timebanks have been used to reduce recidivism rates with diversionary programs for first-time juvenile offenders, deliver health care, job training and social services in public housing complexes, prevent institutionalization of severely disabled children through parental support networks, provide transportation for homebound seniors in rural areas and foster women’s rights initiatives in Senegal.

Timebanks are also part of a larger movement to create cooperative currencies that link unused resources with unmet needs. An in-depth discussion of the thousands of systems worldwide is “Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity” by Bernard Lietaer—one of the world’s most knowledgeable experts about our money system—and journalist Jacqui Dunne, who provide a roadmap to cooperative money systems around the world, showing a way out of our economic morass. (The book is available at the Seattle Public Library.)

Another movement with which the global timebank network is linked is the Transition Movement, which helps build communities that can successfully make the transition from fossil-fuel dependence to self-sufficiency. Timebanks are also part of a circular sharing economy described in the Collaborative Commons; economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin called it the “oldest form of institutionalized, self-managed activity in the world,” in the Huffington Post.

It is easier to give and get services if they are close by. In addition to my timebank, the Central District Timebank in Seattle (, there are timebanks in West Seattle (, on the Eastside (, north of Seattle ( and on Vashon (

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