[permaculture] Time Dollars: Rebuilding Social Fabric
keithdj at mindspring.com
Tue Feb 1 23:58:31 EST 2005
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Subject: Time Dollars: Rebuilding Social Fabric
Date: Tue, 01 Feb 2005 20:41:32 -0500
From: "E.F. Schumacher Society" <efssociety at smallisbeautiful.org>
John McKnight's 1984 E. F. Schumacher Lecture "John Deere and the
Bereavement Counselor" is frequently read and referenced
(www.smallisbeautiful.org/lec-mck.html). McKnight compares the coming of
the professional bereavement counselor in a small community to the coming of
the plow to the prairie. The very presence of the social service
professional leads neighbors to doubt their adequacy to comfort the new
widower or the grieving mother. They turn their faces away rather than
exchanging a natural embrace of understanding. That turning away is the
beginning of the breakdown of the social soil of community just as the plow
broke the age-old top soil of the prairie.
It is a powerful analogy for the distancing and distrust ever more
experienced in our fragmented society. We are relegated to being the
passive consumers of social services, rather than active shapers of our
neighborhoods taking responsibility to solve the common problems faced by
the citizens of a common place.
In this light Edgar Cahn's marvelous telling of how he first created Time
Dollars and how Time Dollars have developed in communities throughout the
United States and around the world, is a story of rebuilding the social
fabric of community.
Time Dollars are a simple tool for recording the good deeds of neighbors for
each other. Help with shopping, or stacking wood, or simple household
repairs are paid in hours of Time Dollars represented by paper notes, or
alternatively called in to a central record keeper. The credit earned can
later be spent for piano lessons, or baby sitting, or a home cooked meal
from someone else listed in the local Time Dollar network.
The Time Dollar coordinator is the broker of these exchanges, knowing who
has needs and who has skills to offer. The exchanges are not those that
would normally be paid for in federal dollars, but they do add to the
quality of an individual's life. The Time Dollar coordinator provides the
common element of trust to those offering help and those receiving, so that
fear of the stranger is bridged and the embarassment of asking is moderated
by the knowledge of a reciprocal exchange in the future.
In such a transaction the soil of community again takes root. Time Dollar
coordinators report that after several exchanges, those involved will
sometimes forget to call in their credits and just continue to help their
neighbors for the simple pleasure of the deed.
Time Dollars are a community response to the breakdowns John McKnight
described in his visionary lecture.
Edgar Cahn, the founder of Time Dollars, is speaking on Friday, February 4th
at the Annual Meeting of the Community Land Trust in the Southern
Berkshires. The event begins at 7:30 at the First Congregational Church,
251 Main Street, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The title of his talk is
"Time Banking: Where Local Currencies and Social Justice Converge" Tickets
are $5 at the door, $3 for students and seniors. The event is co-sponsored
by Railroad Street Youth, The Orion Society, and the E. F. Schumacher
Society. Copies of Dr. Cahn's book, No More Throw-Away People, will be
available following the talk.
For those unable to attend this event, the Time Dollar Institute
(www.timedollar.org) provides information for establishing Time Dollar
Time Dollars do not replace the necessity for other forms of local currency.
We still need regional currencies specifically designed to finance
technology for new businesses producing food, clothing, shelter, and energy
from local resources for local needs. Communities would also benefit from a
local currency to facilitate low cost credit for purchasing these regionally
made goods and services. The growing Time Dollar movement, while primarily
working to reknit the social fabric of community, can at the same time
provide the foundation for partnering initiatives that strengthen the
economy of regions.
One of Dr. Cahn's many innovations with the Time Dollar concept is the
establishment of a Youth Court in Washington, DC. Young people arrested for
minor crimes are routinely referred to the Youth Court. A group of peers,
other youth who have been through the court system, then "try" the
offenders. It is a tough jury that tolerates no excuses. Punishment
involves apologies to those hurt, financial restitution, and community
service. In this case the community service is paid for in Time Dollars.
The value of the work is acknowledged and so completed with greater care.
But the offender does not keep the Time Dollars for his/her own use.
Instead the Time Dollars earned must be given away to a community
non-profit. Latent criminals transform into practicing philanthropists.
Organizers describe hot debates over which neighborhood groups are most
deserving of the Time Dollar contribution.
The possibilities with Time Dollars are endless. We urge you to support
such programs in your region and, if you are able to attend Friday's talk,
to join us in hearing Edgar Cahn tell his own inspiring story.
E. F. Schumacher Society
140 Jug End Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230 USA
Permaculture Activist Magazine
PO Box 1209
Black Mountain, NC 28711
also Patterns for Abundance Design & Consulting
Culture's Edge at Earthaven Ecovillage
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