Lyttelton Is Banking on Time
When the port town on Lyttelton was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, a time bank – the first of its kind in New Zealand – helped the community harness the resources to rebuild.
Time banking is a form of complementary currency that uses time rather than money as the medium of exchange. Every hour of service given earns a time bank member one credit and all hours earned are valued equally, meaning one hour of babysitting, for example, earns the same as one hour of legal help or gardening.
Lyttelton’s time bank was started in 2005 by Margaret Jefferies, who learned about time banking the year before at Bard College, New York, when she was seeking out a complementary currency to build social capacity in her home town. Over the following years, participants built up a local marketplace of members’ skills and abilities, creating a publicly available community skills inventory.
In September 2010, this inventory became invaluable when the first in a series of huge earthquakes hit the city of Christchurch and nearby Lyttelton. Residential, retail and hospitality properties were devastated, and roads, retaining walls, power, waterlines, hotels, hospitals and nature reserves were badly damaged.
In response, the time bank and its then 400 or so members (today that number is closer to 800) led a widespread effort that tapped into their local skills marketplace. By that point the time bank had already logged over 30,000 traded hours in total and an average of 400 hours were being traded each month. The latter more than doubled in the weeks following the earthquake.
As well as time banks strengthening communities’ ability to act in times of need, Lyttelton’s has helped further the town’s culture of caring where people spontaneously stepped forward to take care of their fellow community members and the community at large.
Original article by Edgar Cahn, Julie Ozanne and Lucie Ozanne, The Guardian, December 16, 2015.
Illustration by ImageZoo/Alamy.