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Using time as the currency, Michigan communities exchange skills, strengthen bonds

Feb 9, 2017

The Next Idea

Match people who need a service with people willing to provide a service. Use time as the currency.

That’s the concept behind a time bank.

“A time bank is a community skill exchange," said Kim Hodge, executive director of the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks. "It’s a way of saying we all have something to offer – we all have skills and assets and we all have needs, and we could be sharing them with each other. So it’s kind of a pay-it-forward, or circle-of-giving program.”

Hodge said time banks are popping up around Michigan right now, the goal of each group being to share skills and resources throughout a community.

“I may drive you to the airport,” she said. “You might walk someone’s dog. That person might cook for somebody else and another person might make a friendly phone call to someone who just got out of the hospital.”

"Time is the same for all of us, so it's based on respect and reciprocity."

The idea behind a time bank is different from other volunteer opportunities. Hodge said the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks asks its members not only to share their skills and time, but also to get something back in return – maybe not from the same person they gave to, but from some member of the time bank.

That’s where using time as currency comes into play. Members of a time bank list offers and requests on the time bank’s website. Other members can then take the offers and fill the requests.

“It’s all based on time,” Hodge said. “So one hour is one hour, no matter who you are and what you do; so you could be a doctor performing a physical exam, or a ten-year-old child pulling dandelions from someone’s yard. Time is the same for all of us, so it’s based on respect and reciprocity.”  

In addition to the exchange of skills and time, another benefit is the social support and community time banks build.

For instance, Hodge said she moved to Michigan from a small town in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, she knew her neighbors well. When she moved to Michigan, she knew no one. That is, until the community time bank came into the picture.

“I wanted to feel connected to my community, so that, for me, has been the huge benefit,” she said. “I have friends that now when I walk, I talk and I know people. I can go out with my neighbors; I can play cards with them. I can walk other people’s dogs and kids, because I don’t have any of my own. And I have that connection to my neighbors.”

To learn how to launch a time bank in your community, visit the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks website.

For Stateside's full conversation with Kim Hodge, including recommendations for those looking to start a time bank, listen below.

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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