Time banks. Edgar Cahn launched the first six in the USA in 1987. Martin Simon launched the first one in the UK at the end of 1998, but you can find them now all over Europe.
When I was writing our new report for the European Commission’s research centre on technology, this became tremendously clear to me, and they emerged from different places and traditions and to do slightly different jobs – the Italian time banks are a phenomenon partly of a struggling middle class, the Spanish time banks emerged out of feminist self-help, the Scandinavian time banks are now being taxed by the authorities, which is a little strange.
Now the report is out and you cans see for yourself. It is called The Potential of Time Banks to support Social Inclusion and Employability.
My conclusion on employability is as follows:
“The literature suggests that there is little evidence about the role of time banking in preparing people for the job market, but the case studies provides more insight here. There are examples in the case studies of time banks making training available for people and finding them jobs. The Garw Timecentre is experimenting with this and there was a long record of time bank training at the Grace Hill Settlement in St Louis. But it is still largely experimental, although there are examples where people have found paid work as a result. The main role of time banks appears to be earlier in the process of preparing people for employment – supporting people when they have been though depression or other disability or chronic problems, or when they have become isolated.”
In other words, time banks may not yet be able to slot people into jobs, but they do seem to be effective at building them back into the social networks they will need to be employable. That is a powerful tool.