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Spice: Using Time Banking to Engage People in their Communities and Public Services
What does this mean? Participants in time banking systems exchange credits. Credits acknowledge time given by local people to support their public service and to volunteer in their local community. For every hour given (‘time in’), an hour’s credit can be ‘redeemed’ against a menu of local recreational services (‘time out’).
Public services, along with local community groups, identify areas where people can volunteer and put ‘time in.’ People may give their time to local community projects, to community decision making processes or to organising community groups and events. Credits for banked time are printed notes, and are issued by community staff such as youth workers, teachers and housing officers.
Examples of places to take ‘time out’ include gyms, a rock climbing centre, an arts centre and a pottery workshop. The credits are low cost because redemption uses ‘spare capacity,’ for instance, when these centres and facilities are part empty. Alternatively, people can broker their own exchanges of credits with neighbours for mutual support, trading things like gardening, dog walking, or lifts to the station.
What does time banking achieve? The goal of Spice is to engage more community members as co-producers in public and community services. It hopes to engage the socially isolated, to generate a culture of mutual support and empowered engagement ‘upstream,’ and as such, ease pressure on ‘downstream’ resources that are spent on solving problems once they have escalated.
Evidence from 30 time banking projects in Wales shows remarkable success. Participants experienced increased levels of self-esteem, confidence and well-being, as well as improvements in health. Those giving their time learned skills, gained experience, and some used these new assets to move into paid employment. There was a dramatic increase in the numbers of people giving time to their communities (from 278 to 2981 in three years), resulting in more social capital and better relationships between the voluntary and public sector (results taken from report by the University of Wales, ‘Looking Back.’)