Timebanking is based on the principle of co-production. This involves co-operating together for mutual benefit.

Our market economy is based on people using money to exchange things. Money is useful, but markets don’t recognise most of our real value. In a market economy, “value” is based on scarcity. If something is scarce it has a high price. If something is commonly available it has a low price. Many things that people value most (e.g. caring, learning, sharing, socialising, raising children and being a good neighbour) are not valued highly in a market.

Timebanking helps us to develop more of our potential. It’s based on these values, as outlined by Edgar Cahn:

1. Asset

The real wealth of our society is its people. Every human being can be a builder and contributor. A Timebank recognises this by allowing members to define for themselves what they consider to be a valuable asset. This is valued through the hour for an hour principle.

2. Redefining work

Work isn’t simply about earning money. Our work as human beings also includes raising healthy children, sustaining families, making neighbourhoods safe and vibrant, caring for the vulnerable, redressing injustices and making democracy work. A Timebank helps to generate activities that lead these things.

3. Reciprocity

Giving back is a universal impulse. We favour two-way transactions over one-way acts. “You need me” becomes “we need each other” in a Timebank.

4. Social capital

Our social infrastructure (i.e. the relationships we have with one another) are just as essential as other forms of infrastructure (e.g. roads, bridges and utility lines). Social networks require ongoing investments of social capital. This is generated by trust, reciprocity, and civic engagement. A Timebank creates a system that builds social capital – every action leaves a footprint.

5. Respect

By recognising value in all our contributions, we keep on building more and more respect.

You can read more about co-production here: Co-production, Timebanking UK