Frequently asked questions...

What is the unit of exchange for the Golden Hours Time Exchange (GHTE)?

All transactions take place in GOLDEN HOURS. A GOLDEN HOUR represents one hour of time in service as part of an exchange. When a member provides service to another member, GOLDEN HOURS are banked for use to 'purchase' service from another member.

What can I exchange?

Timebanks work best when the exchange is primarily time; time spent in the garden, time spent teaching, time spent caring. Timebanks place the same value on everyone's time, regardless of their expertise. Whether the service you provide is raking a lawn, translating a letter or reading with a child, one hour of your time equals one hour of my time.

How do you value goods that are exchanged?

Some goods can be traded on the GHTE, but these goods are those that primarily exist as the result of abundance of harvest, creation, discovery or repurposing. These goods whose value can be calculated primarily based on the time used to create them. Some examples are surplus plants, produce, crafted items made from found or repurposed objects and repaired or refurbished found items.

Why not just set up a volunteer bank or clearing house for barter?

Timebanking is a very specific concept that embodies a number of core values. Timebanking is a much broader societal concept.

These are the four core values of timebanking:

  1. The real wealth of a society is its people. Everyone has something of value that they can, and want, to contribute. Every human being can be a builder and contributor.
  2. Work must be redefined to include whatever it takes to rear healthy children, preserve families, make neighbourhoods safe and vibrant, care for the frail and vulnerable, redress injustice, and make democracy work.
  3. Giving is more powerful as a two-way street. To avoid creating dependence, acts of helping must trigger reciprocity: giving back by helping others. Whenever possible, we must replace one-way acts of largess, in whatever form, with two-way transactions. 'You need me' becomes 'We need each other'.
  4. 'No man is an island'. Informal support systems, extended families, and social networks are held together by trust, reciprocity, and civic engagement.

Timebanking is a tool that facilitates community building by rewarding community-building activities, and, in the same way, timebanking can also facilitate system change.

Timebanking allows for circular exchange. Providing a denomination for goods and services in 'time credit' makes creative circular, non-linear exchange possible.

What will the economic impact be if we stop purchasing services from local business and getting those services from GHTE members?

In the strictest terms, if more people exchange volunteers time for services such as haircuts, it will have an impact on local business. But one of the key purposes of timebanking is community building, and local businesses benefit from a healthier, more resilient community. Service providers can also choose to be members of the GHTE as a way of giving back to their community and making their own lives more affordable.

Isn't it an insult to people who already volunteer for intrinsic reasons to set up a system that 'pays' them to volunteer?

People who are currently volunteering will continue to do so whether or not they receive a reward. And only volunteering for member organizations would qualify for GHTE credits. And those who already give of their time to provide unpaid services for individuals can encourage the recipient to become a member of the GHTE so that he or she can become involved in the reciprocal relationship that is timebanking.

For instance, the elderly neighbour that you do shopping for will continue to have their shopping done. But they will also have the opportunity to have other needs met by GHTE members, and they will have the chance to give of their skills and knowledge by earning GOLDEN HOURS themselves.

Isn't this very complicated to keep track of?

The GHTE uses an open-source online database to manage user accounts that was developed specifically to support these types of community projects around the world. The GHTE is currently a pilot project with minimal administrative requirements.

Shouldn't we just help out our neighbour because it is the right thing to do?

Yes. But participating in the GHTE has a much wider effect than just one person helping out another person that he or she happens to know. Timebanking is about building community, increasing social networks, becoming more aware of the needs of our neighbours, allowing recipients of care to give as well as receive. And timebanking helps develop an understanding that volunteers are also better off having received services from their neighbours.

What if people take advantage of the system? What if the quality of work done is poor?

In any situation that involves humans, there is a risk that some members will try to take advantage of the system. But GHTE is a community, and any tightly knit community provides a natural disincentive to poor behaviour.

GHTE members will have to show discernment in deciding what services to procure from whom. As with all transactions buyers must always beware.

What if there is nothing I need? What do I do with all my banked hours?

A key principle of the GHTE is building reciprocal relationships. That means that any person must be a giver as well as a receiver. Part of community building that is key to this concept is that we should each be just as willing to receive service from others as we are to give service.

Asking for someone to give you a hand in the garden may not be something you have ever considered. But the benefit of that request is not just a few hours of help in the garden. It is the opportunity to allow someone else to have a sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a task. It provides a chance to build a relationship with someone you would not have met in another way. And it keeps GOLDEN HOURS moving through the community.

There will be some GHTE members who accumulate GOLDEN HOURS more quickly than others. If this is the case, members can gift their hours to others, such as the frail elderly, who are less able to earn GOLDEN HOURS.

Can businesses join the GHTE?

Businesses can benefit in many ways by joining the GHTE. They can connect with their community and encourage local shopping. In turn, they can offer discounts to GHTE members, offer some services for GOLDEN HOURS, help support the GHTE through advertising, and offer assistance to low-income customers. Timebanks offer community stability and sustainability.

How do I get started? How do I exchange if I haven't earned any GOLDEN HOURS?

Timbanking is not about balancing the books. It is about trading skills in the community and reciprocity. You can still exchange even if you have not yet earned any GOLDEN HOURS. In fact, for the system to work properly, most members will move in and out of debit and credit based on their activity.

What would be the goal of the GHTE?

Timebanking does many things for different people. There are many goals that can be accomplished through the GHTE: neighbourhood renewal, community safety, health improvement, mutual support for single parent families, peer self-help, involving elders as active citizens, integrating people with physical and learning disabilities, providing respite for caregivers, and increasing inter-generational understanding.

What is expected of a GHTE member?

For the GHTE to be successful, members need to provide a fair bit of information about what they can do for others and what services they may be interested in receiving. Members will also need to be committed and active, quick to respond to requests, and open-minded in the thinking about what will make this community-building project a success.

What other communities have timebanks?

There are many timebanks around the world, including many in the United Kingdom. To learn more, google some of the following timebanks: Otaki, NZ; Maine, USA; Kent, Ohio; Wales; Lyttelton, NZ; Los Angeles, CA; Dane County, WI; and Edmonds, WA.