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≼sowing seeds

time banking Public Service Delivery with Time Currency public services

≥Public Service Delivery with Time Currency Time Banking was founded by Edgar Cahn in 1980 and has now spread to 24 countries. A Time Bank is a local scheme that measures and rewards the effort that people put in to help others in their community. The scheme allows people to earn time credits for each hour they help out in their local community, work on a project or work for other organisations. They can then use the credits they have built up to access services and support offered, in time, by other scheme participants. Time Banks are able to build a sense of community by using time as a medium of exchange. They create reciprocal relationships between people and allow almost anybody in society to give something back.

Time Banking is an innovative tool designed to increase active citizenship, equality and encourages individuals to value theirs and others’ skills. The first Wales Public Service Time Bank is being developed in partnership between Public Service Management Wales (PSMW) and social enterprise organisation, Spice. This project involves developing and adapting Time Banking methodology to promote the equitable exchange of skills across organisational boundaries. Such a scheme has significant potential to enhance efficiency and achieve measurable cost savings for organisations across the Welsh public service.

≥Edgar Cahn During the 1980s, Professor Edgar Cahn, a prominent lawyer and co-founder of United States (US) national legal services conceived a concept now known as Time Dollars and in his own words ‘committed economic heresy’. Following a severe heart attack, Edgar was surrounded by caring medical professionals and worried family members who catered to his every need. Edgar, used to being in charge of events, felt an overwhelming sense of uselessness, consigned to the scrap heap; he was told that there was nothing he could do. This document has been published by the Welsh Assembly Government’s Public Service Management Wales (PSMW). 

Person to Person Time Banking leaving them with the message that they were ‘throw-away people’. The state then handled ‘throw-away people’ as people with problems that needed to be resolved by public service professionals.

Everybody Can Give Something of Value Edgar reasoned that in civil society and in the local neighbourhood, everybody has something of value to contribute. People with problems may well need state help and intervention, but they should not be disempowered or made to feel useless, as though there is nothing that they can then do for anybody else. In addition, people in

the community that support one another and that work together for a happier, healthier and more sustainable neighbourhood are doing work, work which is valuable, but which cannot be valued in market terms. How do you put a market value on a person collecting their neighbour’s shopping or looking after their kids?

The Time Banking system established by Edgar is a system whereby people within a community can exchange ‘personal services’ with each other. This exchange of ‘personal services’ revitalises good neighbourliness and systems of support, where people, for example, will baby-sit and help each other with shopping or DIY. Time is exchanged

with time credits, a currency which values each person’s time equally. For example, every hour a person gives is an hour which they are owed. The currency provides a simple system of exchange that acts as a stimulus for people to become actively included in their community.

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Edgar recognised that his circumstances and feeling of uselessness were common place. That in a competitive society, less fortunate people were often sidelined and relegated to the scrap heap. Many people were excluded or poorly valued by the market economy,

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Throw-Away People

A Modern Language Edgar’s ‘economic heresy’ was that people who actively give time to help and support each other are doing work that is useful and valuable, and crucially that everybody’s time given in this manner was of equal value.

Edgar didn’t reinvent this type of active community time; he simply found a modern language for it, money for the civil society, that of Time Banking.

≥ People Working Together

These traditions of people working together gave birth to the mutual societies, educational settlement trusts, miner’s welfare institutes and chapels during the 19th and 20th century. These community initiatives fired the collective

imagination and were fuelled by the active engagement of ‘people in communities’. If the old agencies had failed to enlist the support of active constituencies the chapels and institutes would not have been built. By working together the agencies and their active membership laid the foundations for radical social change. The Miners Institutes were powerhouses generating social energy, creating an active culture and empowering peoples’ mutual capacity to work together for social purposes.

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Strong communities had always been a feature of Wales as a whole, but have faced the same corrosive decline experienced in the US and elsewhere. In Wales, there existed a strong feeling of collective identity that manifest strongly in the traditions of mutualism and collective action.

≥ Throw-Away Mutualism

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Public agencies are no longer designed and managed by the communities themselves. Community members have often become

passive recipients of services delivered for them by public and third sector agencies, or worse, are not engaged in anyway with their agencies. Community members often develop negative relationships with the agencies, demanding more and more fixes for their problems and valuing their services less and less. Public service professionals engage with community members that are active and willing, but citizen engagement and participation has become a minority activity. Widespread disengagement and weakened social capital have fuelled social problems.


The mutualism that was once so prevalent in Wales has been in decline. Faced with the same forces of corrosion many people in Wales have also often been excluded or poorly valued by the market economy, leaving them with the message that they too were ‘throw-away people’. The state here too has instinctively attempted to fix peoples problems for them, reinforcing this message.

≥ Reinventing Mutualism Geoff Thomas a social activist who himself comes from Wales, recognised the relationship between decreasing levels of engagement and social decline. Like Edgar, Geoff’s critical thinking was fostered as a researcher at London School of Economics, and in subsequent 

diverse application in the community development field, as a public sector consultant and as a successful property entrepreneur. Impressed by the concept of Time Banking, Geoff wondered whether it could be adapted to reignite mutualism in civil society. 

≥ Made in Wales The result was Time Banking Wales, an organisation that works with grass roots third sector organisations in the valleys, to reinvent mutualism with time currency. The Time

Banking developed in Wales acknowledges active time which people give to their community via their community agencies and it has been a remarkable success.

≥ Person to Agency Time Banking The time currency application developed in Wales, primarily rebuilds the relationship between community and agencies. Community organisations invite community members not to be passive recipients of community services, but to help actively deliver them, to run the community cafes, to transfer learning, to run support groups, afterschool clubs, bingo nights and comedy events. For every active hour that a community member ‘gives’ to the

community organisation is an hour which can be used to access community events, trips and services. The results are dramatic, levels of active engagement rapidly increase, negative social problems decrease and the negative cycles of dependency and inactivity begin to unravel. Like Edgar, Geoff hadn’t discovered active citizenship; he simply found a modern language for it, money for the civil society, that of Person to Agency Time Banking.

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Public Service Management Wales

≥Welsh Public Service Time Banking

1. Know your Assets

Spice, a new social enterprise, has developed Time Banking as a systematic methodology for a range of public services. There are two main ways to use Time Banking in the design and delivery of public services. The first strand of work has centred on increasing levels of citizen engagement in public services and some case studies highlight this work overleaf. The second strand of work has involved Spice and PSMW working together in partnership to use Time Banking to facilitate collaboration and resource sharing between Welsh public service organisations.

Citizen engagement makes sense. When citizens participate and have greater ownership, public services become more in tune with their communities and achieve better results. But, how exactly does a public service go about engaging with people who are not easily accessible or who don’t appear to want to be involved in the first place? How does a public service engage with the many, rather than with the few?

≥ Citizen Engagement in Public Services Community decline and civic disengagement is not confined to the old mining towns, it’s a national trend. If passivity, distrust and disengagement is a problem in the grass routes third sector, then it is also a challenge in mainstream public services. Spice has developed Time Banking applications to engage people in the design and delivery of their public services;

whether that is with pupils in schools or tenants in housing associations, these Time Banking tools increase active engagement, reduce dependency and build community and individual esteem. These Time Bank tools are cost effective, using many existing resources more efficiently and by reducing negative social costs and dependency.

≥ Transferable Principles for Citizen Engagement


≥partnership in work


Know your assets


Create a two-way street


Look upstream

Spice argue that public services wishing to engage citizens in a meaningful way must firstly view citizens, not only as service users, but also as people who have something of value which they can contribute. Spice advise that before

developing new engagement strategies and initiatives that public services should form a clear picture of the assets which exist within the community, of how they might be engaged and how well they are currently being engaged. In the area of citizen engagement there is very little knowledge about - how much, how often and by whom? One of the Time Banking tools developed by Spice is a citizen engagement time audit, used to measure the existing levels of citizen engagement within a single agency or across multi-agencies in a community. The audit enables public services to gain a clear picture of citizen engagement with their organisation. The tool enables public services to go through a process of consultation with citizens to determine where they would like to be in a year, two years and three years time. The audits also collect information on the diverse skills and interests that citizens have, to provide valuable guidance for the public service in targeting resources and improving engagement.


Public Service Management Wales

≥partnership in work

2. Create a Two-Way Street One of the challenges facing public services is that it is generally ‘the usual suspects’ that attend meetings, consultations, sit on all the steering groups and represent the agency externally. How do you broaden that base? Time Banking for citizen engagement is about moving beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and enabling a broader range of people to participate. The reciprocity of Time Banking enables people to feel valued and thanked. By simply thanking people for their time in a meaningful way, public services will start to engage with many more.

Case study: Time Banking in Housing


community events or improving the local environment. Participants of the Housing Association are able to use their time credits to access faciliaties in the city for example, Cardiff City Council leisure services and the Gate Art Centre. The time credits can also be used to access Taff housing events, trips and activities on an hour to hour basis. The Housing Association also uses Time Banking in its two hostels. The residents are given the opportunity to participate in decisions about the running of hostels, helping with the shopping, watering the flowers, arranging trips and activities.

Taff Housing Association is developing a ‘twoway street’ with tenants by applying Time Bank tools. Tenant’s time is accredited for any ‘active time’ given to the association. For example, the time involved in board meetings, tenants forum, interview panels, writing articles.

“The girls are coming now and asking how they can be involved” Hostel worker, Time Bank review.

In addition the Housing Assocation will use the Time Banking tool to be a catalyst for more generic community regeneration. For example offering time credits for time given by all members of the community for providing support groups, attending community forums and councils, organising and managing

The association recognises that in order to involve more people in participating in the design and delivery of housing services their needs to be a more creative set of ways people can give their time, recognition for the time that tenants give and positive ways for people to use their time credits.

“They are chuffed to be earning time credits” Hostel worker, Time Bank review.

CASE STUDY: TIME BANKING IN SCHOOLS Time Banking can be applied to support the development of a ‘two-way street’ between students and their schools and can also facilitate the development of a ‘two-way street’ between the school and the wider community. Gadlys Girls School in Rhondda Cynon Taff have begun their Time Bank with a project that gives pupils responsibility for the school grounds. The ‘flower Power Girls’ meet each week to take care of the area. The girls are involved in planting flowers and tidying the school grounds. For each hour that they give to the school they earn one time credit. These credits can then be redeemed against a time menu. The menu can include the school’s existing resources, eg an hour on the internet, access to a trip, discount in the canteen, access to additional courses and opportunities. In addition the school can link with other organisations in the community and partnerships with businesses and leisure services in the area. For the ‘Flower Power Girls’ they have already used their time credits to go out for a meal together and to go on a trip. Blaengwawr Primary school in Cynon Taff has been using Time Banking to encourage adults and young people from the community

to run the after school programmes. Community members are acknowledged for any ‘active’ time contributed, by acknowledging existing contributions, but also by creating many more diverse opportunities to engage. Parents and community members who come into the school and support staff to run sports and learning clubs earn one time credit for each hour that they give. The school has also facilitated an intergenerational project with a local sheltered housing scheme. The elderly members and the pupils both earn time credits for their participation. These credits can then be redeemed against a time menu. The menu can include: Access to events and activities at the school – e.g. school musicals, Christmas events, learning courses, hiring of school gym, sports fields and access to community-wide events and trips facilitated by community groups in the area, e.g. shopping trips, pantomime at the local theatre. The members of the Blaengwawr Time Banking project have used their credits to access community trips and activities. These activities have also helped to build stronger relationships between the school and the wider community.


Public Service Management Wales


Look Upstream

Public services are often straining to deal with social problems that have accumulated downstream. People can often come into contact with public services when they have developed a problem and need support. This can however generate a negative relationship and can promote dependency. By also engaging with people positively as active and acknowledged contributors to the community, and by empowering citizens, public services can often ease pressure on resources focused on problem solving and dependency.

earn time credits by giving their time to the community and the local Boys and Girls Club and giving time to the school. This includes anti-bullying projects and clean-ups at the school, environmental projects, supporting local community groups with activities, helping to run children and youth activities at the centre, attending training by the police and making decisions with staff and local community Police. The young people use their time credits on attending classes at the youth club e.g. Judo, cheerleading and carpentry or attending trips.

Case Study: Bettws Youth Time Banking Project

The project has been running for a year and now has over 100 members. The project has had a dramatic impact on levels of anti-social behaviour.

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In Bettws, South Wales Police, faced with high levels of anti-social behaviour from the young people recognised the need to engage with young people, positively and upstream. In partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, the school, local community groups and the Police have established a new youth Time Bank. Young people from the area



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The Police have recorded a 17% reduction in crime (mainly anti-social behaviour) over the past year, in particular anti-social behaviour within Bettws, since the introduction of the youth Time Bank into the Boys & Girls Club.

Collaboration between Public Services Collaboration between public services is necessary to ensure quality and efficiency. Quality is achieved with joined up strategies for mutual social outcomes. Efficiency is achieved when public services share and exchange resources. In principle this makes sense, however competition and accountability have become key drivers in public service reform in recent years. There have been many benefits, but the disadvantages are that this can discourage collaboration and fragment the way that public services work. Public services have outputs to meet and limited resources with which to meet them. How then, can public services be motivated to share people and resources when they are focused on achieving their targets?

Time to Exchange? The Wales Public Service Time Bank is a scheme set-up for public services to collaborate and exchange resources easily and fairly. The principle is that for every hour, day or week that a public service organisation ‘gives’ by loaning a staff member to another organisation, is time that is earned and can then be banked as credit and ‘spent’ when needed. Public service organisations open a secure online Time Bank account. Whenever external support is needed, adverts can be posted online via the social networking facility. These adverts may be requesting professional expertise, coaching and mentoring for staff, training and consultancy. Staff in other organisations can view adverts or choose to receive emails filtered with selected criteria.


≥partnership in work

≥ Interested in Time Banking? To find out more about Time Banking applications contact To find out more, or influence the creation of the Wales Public Service Time Bank, please contact

Reference and Research: Bernard Lietaer (2002) The Future of Money: Creating a New Wealth, Work and a Wiser World Dr. Edgar Cahn (2000) No More Throw Away People David Boyle (2000) Funny Money: In Search of Alternative Cash Institute for Welsh Affairs Agenda (2007) Calon Lan Town’s New Heart Martin Simon in association with Help the Aged (2006) A bridge To Tomorrow, Time Banking for ‘Baby Boomers’ Richard Douthwaite (1996) Short Circuit: Practical Approach to Building More Self- Reliant Communities Sarah Burns & Karen Smith (2004) Co-production Works



Public Service Management Wales

...To live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom That which comes to me as blossom goes on as fruit. Dawna Markova

The seeds of ideas become the basis on which we grow our knowledge and understanding, in turn, enabling us to develop the organisations in which we work.


Time Banking is one in a series of Sowing Seeds publications produced by Public Service Management Wales.