What makes a country, a city or a community wealthy? Behind the statistics about Gross Domestic Product and the balance of trade, rates of unemployment and inflation are… people. People who, for example, care for their loved ones. If you place an economic value on the care people provide – for free – in England, it dwarfs the budget for the NHS or the value added by Tesco and the big banks. Underlying the cash economy, then is a core economy. And its currency…. is time. But what infrastructure do we have for sharing use of time? Does the idea of ‘trading time’ help? Will communities, cities and countries with a developed time economy be wealthier, and healthier, than ones without?
A trip to the Time2Trade timebank in West Bromwich, on Friday 18 May, is next in the series of Chamberlain Forum study visits for neighbourhood forums, Community First panels, councillors and community and voluntary groups. Time2Trade is a timebank based in Sandwell and working with the local PCT to deliver positive health outcomes. It brings together residents and local public services to enable the local time economy to do more and, in the process, to:
- Strengthen communities – ensuring that people have good contacts and support networks; as well as strengthening links between people and community organisations;
- Promote group activity – volunteers are encouraged to lead and take part in group exercise;
- Provide access to goods and services – time credits earned through the timebank can be exchanged for fruit and vegetables and meals at local cafes.
Timebanks aren’t exactly new. Time2Trade has been working for the last ten years. Cuts in public spending, however, have brought into sharp focus the sustainability of expecting public services to solve problems by doing things to people, rather than enabling people to help themselves and each other. As the money economy recedes, leaving families and whole neighbourhoods high and dry is not an option. Enabling the time economy might be the difference between a community that works and one that doesn’t. An idea whose idea has come? If you would like to join the Chamberlain Forum study visit to Time2Trade and work with us and others to develop the local time economy, then email Chamberlain Forum or call 07795 448 462.