A growing number of Sarasota residents are preparing to celebrate Labor Day with a special twist this year. They are test-driving the concept of “time banking” before the celebratory launch of the Common Wealth Time Bank, set for September 3, 2012.


The alternative currency will be launched at the Economics of Happiness Summit at the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center, 525 Kumquat Court from 1 pm to 7 pm, where Sarasota residents can learn more about how they can use time banking to lead happier lives. All are invited to enjoy a personal introduction to the new Common Wealth Time Bank, a delicious potluck meal, a screening of the award-winning documentary The Economics of Happiness, and a World Café discussion on the local economy.


Sarasota is the latest city to join cities across the U.S. and the world that have been using this cash-free, community-based currency since it was introduced in the 1980’s by economist Edgar Cahn. While the practice resembles barter systems, time banking focuses on creating a Core Economy that recognizes the value of all the work that people do to build and maintain vibrant communities, the true wealth that makes the market economy possible.


“A different approach to our economy is desperately needed,” says Common Wealth Time Bank co-developer Don Hall. ¨The official unemployment rate is currently 8.5 percent in Sarasota, which is still higher than the national average (8.2 percent). The main approach that has been taken by our community leaders and decision-makers thus far has been to try to lure in outside businesses to create jobs. What I think we need more of instead is ´growth from within.´¨


In a nutshell, participants who provide services are paid in time dollars. People pay for the services they receive using time dollars earned providing their services to others. All exchanges are recorded and accounted for using the TimeBanksUSA Community Weaver 2.0 open source software.


¨The time bank’s web site also provides people with a place to offer their services and find people offering the help they need,¨ says Hall.


“Basically,¨ says time bank co-developer Steve McAllister, ¨time banking is simply a way to account for the Pay-It-Forward economic model, and more greatly appreciate the abundance of the world around us instead of merely operating on the system designed to account for the lack.”


In his ninth month of living without money, McAllister is living proof that the currency works. Fifty members have signed up since the soft launch last month, and that number is expected to double by the public launch on Labor Day.


In addition to providing space for residents and neighbors to connect with each other, time banking places value on services that are undervalued in a traditional economy. This enables everyone to participate and allows social entrepreneurs to launch new ideas and services into the new economy.


¨The monetary system obviously still serves a purpose,¨ says McAllister, ¨but as we realize its limitations in providing us with what we really want and need, we must direct our energies toward currencies that will. I think that the time bank is but an introduction to other currencies that we will develop as we seek ways to meet our needs, and the needs of the world, in more just, efficient, and sustainable ways.¨


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Submitted by Annie Lindstrom


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