Community Timebank in Oxfordshire: tips received from other initiatives

This could be inspiring in the exploration of polycultures: 11/04/12

“A timebank is just starting among an ethnic community in Oxford. And a system is underway in an Oxfordshire village where the neighbours log their needs and offers to support each other using nothing more than a shared mobile phone.

Here some tips I received from existing timebanks about how to get started:

  • There is no set way to do timebanking. It is an organic process depending on who is involved and what we are trying to achieve.
  • An office base in an institution that operates as a community hub can be helpful. Rushy Green timebank is based at the general practitioners surgery. This is a good base as almost everyone goes to the GP practice rich/poor/ young/old, different cultures. The GPs refer patients (eg with mild depression) to the timebank. People are able to use the timebank office to use the computer (IT skills were a very popular request) or to use the telephone (eg people without access to a landline). It is not necessary to have an organisation to host timebanking. The broker can operate from home. But it helps to have a base within the community.
  • Set up needs a “kitchen cabinet” from within the community to take it forward. It may be enough to start with 3-5 active local people to decide how to set it up and to concentrate on a few streets at first but it needs to develop to a larger scale to get a big enough pool of members.
  • Timebanking is more likely to be successful if it is led by residents and members, rather than by community development workers, housing associations, or local authorities. Involvement of professionals is helpful but timebanking must be led by the residents themselves so that it is not seen as professionals doing things to and for people. It can be inspiring to show videos from other timebanks and to invite members of other timebanks to come and talk to the community. It is also best if residents help to select the broker and define the scheme as they then champion it in their community.
  • What groups are already active in the community? Find out what they are passionate about. Present timebanking to them. Hold a community event to talk about timebanking (residents come up with ideas, prioritise 3-5, decide together how to set it up and start).
  • Offer time credits for group activities. This could be a coffee morning, an activity such as renovating a community garden (people can earn credits for gardening, building, making food etc), a parents group, a health group, a big lunch, a skill sharing event, a bring and fix event. Timebanking credits could offered for participation in events that are already planned. Good questions for participants include “When did you last ask for help” and “What are your concerns?” – to find out what energy there is around different issues.
  • Involve organisations at an early stage eg the schools who could earn credits by offering the use of their hall, then give credits to people who come in to help students with reading.”
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