Time As Currency

The growing movement of time banking has roots in Denver, and advocates hope the time has come for the concept to move out of the fringe.

By Olivia Swenson-Hultz

  Credit: Adobe Stock

Credit: Adobe Stock

Time banking is redefining the concept of money and time by eliminating cash exchange, and it’s being brought to life in Denver. 

The concept is simple: rather than money, people exchange one time credit for each hour of service provided to somebody, allowing people to get paid in equity for the time they put towards work. Time banks allow these service hours to be used as a form of currency, which are redeemed for other needed services. 

Denver-area time bank advocate Karen Derrick Davis advocates for time banking for a Denver time bank in the developmental stages called Hour Community Interfaith TimeBank.

“To me, time banking is like a bridge between the part of our lives that involves giving and receiving the cash and economy. Time banking is a grey area. It redefines value because every hour is of value,” she said.

“If I offer some cookies through the time banks I’m charging hours through the amount of time it took me to make the cookies, or I could donate the ingredients. If it took two hours for me to make them, then two hours goes into my time bank. You really just have to think about the time it takes to make the service that you are providing,” she said.

Davis said the developing time bank will host events and provide immigrants and refugees two-way relationships, giving them the opportunity to give, not just receive. This could include giving immigrants and refugees the options to give rides or babysit in exchange for time credits. Others could receive payment for teaching English or secondary language classes to immigrants.

While still a fringe idea, the concept of time banking has been around for 40 years, slowly growing to establish more than 100 time banks across the U.S. and more than 1,000 around the world. Most operate under the nonprofit platform TimeBanks USA, started by time banking founder Edward Cahn, a former speechwriter for Robert Kennedy. 

There are three time banks in Colorado: two in Denver and one in Boulder. The StarTribe TimeBank in Boulder has nearly 100 registered members, while Davis’ Hour Community Interfaith TimeBank has nearly 40 members, according to the organization’s directory.  

Davis said that they are trying to partner with faith-based communities which could include any religious group, making it an inter-faith effort. Potential members would have to join through a partner group for security purposes.  

“It takes people who have time and commitment for this new way of interacting for a time bank to succeed,” Davis said.

Davis said in terms of her personal usage of time banking, she once used time credits to pay a photographer to take her daughter’s senior photos.

“I like time banking because it’s a different way of interacting with people. It’s not the same as paying cash for a service. It respects the fact that time is valuable. It values my time and I can earn credits to get other things I need,” Davis said. ■