Iginia Boccalandro

Is time money? All too often, the answer is “no.” Looking after elderly parents and young children, volunteering for community projects, renovating the environment to reduce water and energy consumption – these efforts, though vital for our very survival as a people, go unpaid and uncounted by the way we traditionally measure economic production.

Enter “Time Banking.”

Lack of money or social connections usually keep people from the goods and services they need. With Time Banking, people exchange time. They can help each other and receive credits for their service. Anyone who helps another member earns one time dollar per hour, which can then be spent on an hour of service from anyone else in the network. Time Banking is a way to value the work we do for others in our community.

Edgar S. Cahn, Fulbright scholar, professor of law and social activist, is the originator of the concept of “Time Dollars,” the basis for Time Banking. He promotes these concepts in his book, No More Throwaway People: The Co-Production Imperative – a forceful analysis and critique of the failures of our market economy, both socially and economically. Cahn describes Time Banking as a powerful, transformative force that is kicking off an international, alternative economy, one community at a time.

Enter Adrianne McCurrach,” co-founder of the Santa Fe Time Bank. When asked why she has spent hundreds of hours working to help develop the initiative, she quotes Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Time Banking is a set of training wheels for something larger,” McCurrach explains. “When we can remember that people come before the dollar and that we are all in it together, a new kind of society can exist. The Time Bank allows people to find ways to rely on each other again and makes it okay to need each other. There are many of us who have made it our life’s mission to ‘not need anyone,’ and part of that journey is to get a good job that pays well so that if we do need something, we can just buy it. This mentality contributes to the chasm that has developed between people. There is a rift to climb over, through and under to get to know ‘a stranger’ on a deeper level.”

McCurrach is excited about the global reach local Time Banks can achieve. “Time Banking is an international economic model,” she says. “It is a way to match unmet needs with untapped resources, and it is a vehicle for myriad change-making opportunities in local communities that can make a global ripple. It inherently honors the diversities found in our smaller communities. The Santa Fe Time Bank is another arm of the web in the revolution that is reweaving community.”

McCurrach was inspired by the teachings of Larry Santoyo of Earthflow Design Works and Scott Pitman, President of the Permaculture Institute. She came away from one of his workshops determined to leave the world better than it is right now, in her lifetime. Investing her surplus energy and time – commodities that must be in short supply for a recent mother of twins! – she brought the vision of Time Banking to Santa Fe and found the right people to get a Time Bank off the ground. The response has been profound. “Time Banking addresses all of the issues that are dear to me both directly and indirectly – poverty, access, respect, community, tolerance. All of these things have the potential of being addressed on a grassroots level.”

The Santa Fe Time Bank currently has 65 members. The first planning session was in July 2009, and the initiative officially launched a few months later. Last month the group sent two members to Oregon to learn about the thirty-year history of Time Banking and gain practical knowledge. “Hours Exchange” in Portland is 15 years old and has six hundred members with over one hundred health providers.

The Santa Fe group holds informational potlucks on the third Sunday of each month. “It’s a great place to get to know your neighbor, learn about the time bank, and eat,” McCurrach explained. She has had first-hand experience of the benefits of the system: “When my boys arrived, I used the time dollars that I had earned from being one of the primary organizers to have people make us food and help with early parenting support. It was amazing. I paid for the cost of the food with conventional money and paid with time dollars for how long it took to prepare and deliver.”

So, maybe time is money, after all! Using time as currency is a tax-free way to get goods, services, labor, and provide in kind within your own community. People are what make Time Banking so powerful: the more the merrier – the more diversity, the richer the social capital from which to draw. No need for federal bailouts or underwriting. When people count on each other, Time Banks can’t fail.

For more information, contact Ms. McCurrach at: info@santafetimebank.org or visit www.santafetimebank.org.

Iginia Boccalandro is Santa Fe-based Advanced Certified Rolfer and a Permaculture practitioner. She works with the Arête Consulting Group to help clients with sustainable development. E-mail: Iginia@aretecg.com