TIMEBANKING AS A TOOL PRESENTATION 5TH NATIONAL TIMEBANKING UK GATHERING 16th May 2009 Martin Simon Chief Executive
Do people know of the late American comedian Bill Hicks? Well he used to start his stand up act by asking if there were any marketing or advertising people in the audience. If there were, he would ask them to leave. He would make it very clear that he wasn’t joking. They were not welcome at his gigs because of all the damage they have done to society. As he said “they have put a dollar price on everything”. It was a good political statement and pretty much a truth. However, imagine………………….. …you have been invited to your neighbours for Sunday lunch. She cooks you and your family a wonderful meal, she has taken account of everyone’s likes and dislikes and even cooked your children’s favourite dishes separately. Afterwards everyone settles everyone down in the front room and you sit back and relax with a glass or two of wine. A bit later on you get to your feet and pull out your wallet. You say, what do I owe you for such a lovely meal and good company? You will probably be met with silence or maybe a gasp. You continue and take out a handful of notes, shall we say £50, no let me make it £100. Chances are you will be shown the door and not be asked back again. You see there are still times where money is simply not an appropriate currency, there are some things that have no market price, places where the advertisers still have not reached.
Timebanking challenges the current cultural taboos – there is not enough to go around and more is better. We encourage people to step aside from a life driven by the media driven scares, of scarcity, of impending doom and danger. To stop working too hard, flopping into an armchair to watch TV and only rising to go shopping. We want to replace the media manufactured high of ‘shopping till you drop’ with a natural high of being a part of your local community. Compare us with the people of Bali who are happier because they still do Temple Time. We must rebuild the core economy and recognise that it runs on different principles – give and take, spontaneity, love, good enough – rather than profit, specialisation, scarcity and contracts like the market economy. This presentation is about the relationship between public officers and citizens. Between local authority workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, policeman, social workers, fireman etc and the rest of us, the public. They now have a ‘duty to involve’ and on your memory sticks you will find 10 reports to help you help them fulfil this duty by time banking. There are papers on housing, citizen involvement, well being, older people, mental health and this new idea called co-production. Co-production means that the users of public services, their families, neighbours and the wider community are all actively involved in delivering those services. This will require a complete culture change on behalf of our local authorities, its not enough any more just to drive around in vans and cars emblazoned with slogans like “doing it better together” - they will have to get out of their vehicles, get away from their lap tops and come out of their offices and talk to people. It means that local authority workers will 1) 2) 3) 4)
have to relearn how to trust people. actively seek out ways in which people can contribute build social networks that they don’t control bring some reciprocity, some give and take into their relationships with the public
They have to stop looking for what’s missing They have to stop viewing the rest of us as too risky to involve They have to stop telling us “we are here to help you but you have nothing we need” Timebanking is ready and willing to help them make this culture change. There are 116 active time banks in the UK There are another 87 developing 165 average members 70% women
TBUK is working with 46 partner organisations We are influencing policy in the three most relevant growth areas of our public services: Community Empowerment Volunteering Social Care And now with the recession we have an even larger role to play – time banks have been opening at steady rate of one a month for the past few years, this year we have been averaging 2 or 3 new ones each week! This is all very impressive but we have a long way to go if we are to meet our potential and truly become an everyday part of everyday life for everyone – if we are going to convert the ‘shop till we drop generation”. In 1976 the poorest half of the population owned 12% of the wealth, today they own just 1%. We know that living in a more equal society benefits everyone, not just the poor, because of the reduction in crime, addiction, mental and physical illness. Almost everyone would agree that they would prefer to live in a safer and more friendly society. We need a new route to a more caring and sharing society and timebanking is one of the best. With time banking we can overcome the two main barriers to becoming an active citizen – isolation and not feeling valued. Being kind always makes us feel better and yet being kind is not something we do as often as we would like. Why is this? Could it be that advertisers and marketing people have convinced us all that it is not cool to be kind? Ordinary kindness is not a manipulative bribe or a magical cure, but a simple exchange. We can enjoy the other without needing to transform him. With time banking we can be kind and energise connections between people: We are bringing back a ‘who you know’ society By helping people be better connected and by encouraging them to value themselves they will automatically be less at risk. By giving and taking we function more as equals and more like human beings have related to each other throughout history We have proved that everyone has something to offer others and that one hour for one time credit is a fair exchange.
But timebanking is even more than sharing emotional and practical support. As Edgar Cahn has told us we can compare ourselves to the environmental campaigners who fight to protect the ozone layer and keep our relatively clean air and water. We are activists protecting our social environment which is equally under threat. Community disengagement is a really big problem. Recently I have been reading up on conservative policy and in particular the views on social justice. IDS talks often of “broken Britain” – I totally disagree, the system may well be rotting away before our eyes but as people we are not broken, we do not need fixing. We are just as kind and friendly and willing to help as we have ever been. Maybe we have let ourselves be distracted, those advertisers again, but we have what we need if we use what we have - each other. As we have shown with timebanking - if you ask people to get involved, to help out then they will – trouble is our local authorities are just not asking us. A life time of seeing people as demanding and complaining has lead them to the false conclusion that they people are not willing to share in the responsibility of looking out for each other. They may not be able to commit to long term work but they are more than happy to dip in and out when needed. I can see whole new dimension to timebanking slowly emerging and it is really exciting. I trained in the States as a Community Organiser, just like Barack Obama, and we used to call ourselves ‘hope peddlers’, so here goes. Community organising taught us to use the enemies rule book for our own ends and to live and work in the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.
Local authorities have to find ways to involve new people and help them empower themselves. They have begun talking about co-production but still have along way to go in understanding it. For them it means little more than something about swift responses to enquiries and talking more with clients. So we need to tell them what they could do and offer them a means to do it In their language – we are working on the business case for timebanking and will send it to every LA and every PCT later this year. We want them to join us, to make changes. There is no question that, to quote Henry Spira “basically one wants to feel that ones life has amounted to more than just consuming products and generating garbage” People like time banking because
• • • • • •
We all want to make a difference It feels great to be needed We want to be a part of something bigger than self “Service users” want the chance to pay back We all want to feel safer and more secure We all need that extra bit of help from time to time
Timebanking is bringing social networks home again and our message to public service workers is simple If you don’t ask people to make a contribution and if you don’t genuinely value that contribution then they will not feel connected.
You need us as much as we need you! http://www.timebanking.org/conference09.html