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Elizabeth ClayPosted by: Elizabeth Clay, Director of Grassroots Governance

The spirit of the “Common Wealth” remains strong, and is finding a new way to thrive- through Time Banks. Timebanking is simple- for every hour you spend doing something for someone, you earn a “Time Dollar”. You can cash that in when you ask someone to spend an hour helping you out. Instead of the one-way dynamic in traditional volunteering, Time Banks are built on the idea that everyone in the community has something to give, and everyone has needs. I can bake and deliver a cake to a busy parent, or help an older neighbor move furniture, but I need help mending a torn hem and learning a new language (Bengali, in case there are teachers out there).

Massachusetts has at least six Time Banks, from Cambridge to the Berkshires, the Cape to the North Shore and beyond, where members are exchanging services and skills to help each other and build community. Timebanks blend the best of traditional family and neighborhood ties with new technology and a network with a broad range of skills. Katherine Ellin, founder of the Time Trade Circle (based in Cambridge) blogged about the diverse membership of timebanks and some of the services being traded.

Michael Costerisan and Karen Andrews are members of a local community action group based in West Stockbridge called Co-Act, and the timebank is an offshoot of that. After hearing about a new timebank in New Haven, CT, they went to Timebanks USA to get started. “There is a pretty decent learning curve to starting and running a timebank which I am still climbing but it’s not too bad and well worth the effort,” said Michael. “The very nature of a timebank is community development, so that is the largest focus. However, meeting people’s daily and even special needs on a one to one basis is really the grease for the wheel. At 54 members we are really just beginning.  Our longer term goal is to get a few hundred members, or more. Currently members are mostly doing things like simple handyman tasks or helping someone clean out the garage or receiving a health service like shiatsu, exercise or Pilates and we have a community garden as a member.”

Look for a Timebank near you, or consider starting one in your community or as an off-shoot of an existing organization or faith-based group. Louisa Rosenheck, a coordinator with Time Trade Circle has shared some tips about what a person should consider before starting a time bank, and they have a great FAQ page:

“First consider whether there is already a timebank in your area! Even if you want a smaller     subgroup in your specific neighborhood or town, you might consider joining up with an established timebank to increase trading opportunities as well as an established setup and experience. Otherwise if there are no timebanks nearby, be prepared to commit to the group over time. It can be hard to get started and get people to really trade and take advantage of all the group has to offer. For some people it takes a change in thinking. Coordinators need to be consistent and encouraging, but once people get into it, the group will grow and trade on its own and really give back to the community!”

Websites for MA Timebanks:
Valley Time Trade at Commonwealth Center for Change

Time Trade Circle (Cambridge and Greater Boston)

Cape Ann Time Bank

Lynn Time BankCo-Act Timebank of Berkshire County

Cape Cod Time Bank

Let us know what you think of Timebanking- have you been a part of one? Any tips for members or questions for those are are involved?

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