Traditionally, a bank is a financial institution that deals with lending and depositing money and exchanging currency. But that is overrated. A relatively newer concept is that of a time bank, where people exchange time. Some might say time is priceless, but it seems a new type of economy is appearing where time has been assigned a value.
Although the digital world made time banks popular, the concept is actually quite old. Its history can be traced back to the 1820s, when an American anarchist created the Cincinnati Time Store. There, time spent during a specific activity could be translated into material goods, usually corn, meat or gold . Nowadays, time banking works a bit differently: time is exchanged directly between people doing different types of activities. Thus, digital platforms where people auction (sell and buy) time have developed all over the world, Romania included.
TimeBank Romania is a non-profit platform developed by a group of students, while participating in a social entrepreneurship event. After winning the RestartEdu competition (a contest about online ideas that transform education), TimeBank received a substantial funding from the Romanian-American Foundation with which they have developed the online platform. As mentioned, the purpose of this platform is not to earn money, but rather to create an alternative learning community and an economy of free.
In TimeBank Romania’s case, users exchange abilities and knowledge using the hour unit as currency. Therefore, people can for instance learn a foreign language, IT skills, sports or crafts if they also offer “training” back to the bank for the same amount of time. Sellers use the platform in order to contribute to the community and earn time resources (to use afterwards), while buyers buy because of the products’ authenticity. Pricing, or in this case, the translation of effort in units of time, is left completely in the hands of the sellers.
To function correctly, TimeBank Romania requires a large crowd. Although the community of alternative learners in Romania is increasing after the release of the Alternative University, the number of people involved is still quite low and TimeBank is still in a beta version. However, the community is expected to grow in a fast pace in the next couple of years so I think we’d better start thinking what kind of skills we have on offer and what we yet have to learn.
— Alina —
- E-flux. (nd). About time banking. Retrieved 2014, May 1st