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Time Banking at Bryn Mawr: A Dream

GraceNL's picture

Time Banking at Bryn Mawr: A Dream

"My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time." –Steve Jobs

Time. We all have it. Sixty seconds in a minute. Sixty minutes in an hour. Twenty-four hours in a day. Seven days in a week. Fifty-two weeks in a year. But what do we do with our time? We work, we eat, we sleep. And sometimes we have an hour here, an hour there that we have nothing to do. So what if you could use that unproductive time for something good? What if you could use that unproductive time as currency? That is what TimeBanking is.

A TimeBank is “a reciprocity-based work trading system in which hours are the currency” (time bank). Basically, “I earn a time credit by doing something for you. It doesn’t matter what that “something” is. You turnaround and earn a time credit doing something for someone else in your TimeBank Community” (What is Timebanking?). You can do anything to earn a TimeCredit, an hour of one thing is equal to an hour of anything else. Like, “an hour of child-care equals an hour of dentistry equals an hour of home repair…” (What is Timebanking?).

I first became interested in TimeBanks after reading Chapter 4: “Take Back the Market: Encountering Others”, from the book “Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide to Transforming our Communities” by Jenny Cameron, Stephen Healy, and J.K. Gibson-Graham as part of an assignment for my ESem class, “Changing our Stories”. I then did a six-week project on TimeBanks in which I explored the history of TimeBanks is general as well as at my college, Bryn Mawr College. As part of my research I conducted two interviews. One interview was with Jessica Hollinger Vinson who is currently the Associate Director of Experimental Education for LILAC and who back in 2011 as the Coordinator of Staff Education designed and implemented a time bank pilot at Bryn Mawr College. The other interview was with Edgar Cahn, the inventor of TimeBanks, and founder, current CEO, and Chairman of the Board of TimeBanks USA. He is also a Swarthmore College alum and his sister is a Bryn Mawr College Alumnae.

Through my interview with Jessica I was able to find out that in 2011 she had created a TimeBank pilot at Bryn Mawr in order to “break down barriers between staff and students” (Hollinger Vinson). But it was not successful. By talking to her and to Edgar Cahn I was able to deduce a few possible reasons why the TimeBank Pilot failed at Bryn Mawr. Basically, not enough people participated, students were too busy with academic work, there were restrictions due to college rules, and the Bryn Mawr students didn’t have the energy needed to run and maintain a TimeBank. Something that Cahn mentioned that really struck me as true is the fact that Bryn Mawr students tend to have a ranking order for things to get invested in outside of academics and at the top of that list is social justice work, and something like TimeBanks alone would be, unfortunately, pretty far down that list. But time banks and social justice work need not be separate.

As Cahn told me and as he wrote in his book, “No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative”, TimeBanks can be used as an agent in which social justice work can be done. So that is what I want to do. I want to start a TimeBank at Bryn Mawr College that focuses on social justice work.

I would run the TimeBank as a school club. That way it can stay student run. For that I would need a faculty advisor, who could possible my ESem professor Anne Dalke (?) or possibly a professor out of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Studies department. I would definitely make sure that the TimeBank would have a close relationship with the Peace, Conflict, and Social Studies department as well as other social justice related clubs on campus. I would want to talk to students in the intro class for Peace, Conflict, and Social Studies, students in other social justice related clubs, have a table at Fall Frolic, and maybe even talk to customs groups during Customs Week about the TimeBank.

I would run the TimeBank using a concept Cahn told me about called Dream Circles. Basically, people have different dreams for social change and it would be impossible to accomplish that dream alone but if people put time into accomplishing each other’s dreams then they would be able to collectively accomplish their dreams. So for the TimeBank at Bryn Mawr people would be able to earn TimeCredits working on someone else’s dream for social change and use those credits to get someone else to help them with their dream. What goes around comes around.

I believe that a TimeBank can succeed at Bryn Mawr. I believe that if I were to run a TimeBank focusing on social justice work using the concept of Dream Circles, Bryn Mawr students would be willing and able to put in the energy needed to run and maintain the TimeBank. And we would also be working to make a difference, however small, in the world. My dream is: to start and run this TimeBank at Bryn Mawr before I graduate.


Works Cited

"What is Timebanking?" TimeBanks USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <>.

Hollinger Vinson, Jessica. Personal interview. 29 Oct. 2015.

"Bryn Mawr College Time Bank: Join our Pilot!" Bryn Mawr College. N.p., 6 Sept. 2011. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <>.

"time bank." N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2015. <>.

Cahn, Edgar S. Personal interview. 8 Dec. 2015.

Cahn, Edgar S. No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative. 2nd ed. Washington D.C.: Essential Books, 2004. Print.