Bank organizers say practice of skilled people trading hours of work builds community

  • Maayan Simon takes part in Sonoma County Time Exchange. Simon is a Sebastopol business consultant to small businesses and non-profit organizations.

Maayan Simon of Sebastopol had three people do separate projects for her — and didn't pay any of them for their work.

An experienced designer created a graphic for Simon's business website. Another person filmed and edited a video for the website. A third person came to her home and prepped and painted a bench as a piece of indoor furniture.

Simon didn't pay for their labor because she's a member of the fledgling Sonoma County Time Exchange. It functions like a bank with people "depositing" and "withdrawing" hours of "time dollars" for services and talents.

Simon is a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and she's deposited time in the bank to do integrated marketing, donor-driven fundraising, coaching and campaign strategy plans for community groups.

The people who did the work for her may not specifically need the services she's offering, and that's what makes the time-bank approach unique.

"Somebody doesn't necessarily need my expertise to benefit from the Time Exchange," she said. "The guy who did the video is trying to stack up hours to get his car worked on. It's a cool experience."

As a grass-roots activist interested in creating a "gift economy," Simon signed up for the Time Exchange when it launched in December. Other local participants stress that they've joined not just to save cash, but to foster community and create new relationships.

"I like the potential it has for community building. It's good to be able to leverage skills rather than money to get all of your needs met," said Simon, who has participated in trade and barter arrangements in the past.

The Sonoma County Time Exchange, which was established under the auspices of the Santa Rosa-based Share Exchange, has about 240 members who've paid a $25 signup fee to participate. New members apply by using an online software questionnaire called "hOurworld," which asks what talents or services they are offering and seeking.

Many local members are small-business owners, artists and people who work in the manual trades, said Gilad Talmor, coordinator of the Time Exchange.

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