From Timebank to Flywheel Skill Sharing: What’s the Difference?

When I started working at Dane County Timebank two years ago, I was very interested in the idea of independence from the death grip of money over our lives. Timebanking opened the door to go beyond the constraints of money. People were exchanging their skills and resources based on something much more important than money. The exchanges were offered through a sense of lifting up the values of reciprocity, autonomy and a sense of can-do empowerment. Dignity, strength and connection were supported in these exchanges.

When I started working at Dane County Timebank two years ago, I was very interested in the idea of independence from the death grip of money over our lives. Timebanking opened the door to go beyond the constraints of money. People were exchanging their skills and resources based on something much more important than money. The exchanges were offered through a sense of lifting up the values of reciprocity, autonomy and a sense of can-do empowerment. Dignity, strength and connection were supported in these exchanges.

As Flywheel Skill Share emerges on the shoulders of that good work, we are seeking community-based sharing while we work to deepen connection to and respect the autonomy of Black folks. We want to continue to offer opportunities for community members to meet each other’s needs while shifting some of our intentions and actions. (Read Article here)

We are enhancing the collective aspect of sharing above the transactional aspect of banking. We recognize that 1 to 1 exchanges are still an important part of skill sharing and also want to move away from the idea of this for that. Beneath the banking model there was the community ethic of care in which we simply look out for each other. Because we care we give and because we have needs we receive. Skill sharing is just remembering this basic part of who we are– our natural generosity. One of the ways racialized capitalism has dehumanized us all is to create the myth that possessions make us better or worse than others. It has led us to believe that you can define yourself by what you own. And it has bound racial identity to the history of enslavement of Black people. So, as a part of calling out and undoing the of harm this racial hierarchy which is inseparable from money, we have created a collective tally of shared hours. Every hour shared goes into a reparations tally. Skill sharing then is never just an individual gain, but also an offering to the collective benefit. This collective benefit can be seen as an act of initiating abolitionist restorative justice.

A tally cannot erase the ongoing harm of racialized oppression but it can change the conversation. We should see this as a conversation starter that inspires ongoing and collective action to transform our communities and our connections across the race-class divide. As members complete a minimum of 4 hours a month, that becomes a basis of commitment to building sustainable alternatives to systemic power abuse. When you attend Letter writing action, your time is added as a skill share, when you drive for the transportation project, your time is a skill share and when you build your own project using our project builder, your time is also a skill share that benefits the whole community.

We also wanted to amplify the idea that reciprocity is a challenge when some people have learned that they have nothing to give, not enough to give or that their giving is somehow unseen or undervalued. Because so many of us are wrestling with the systemic disparities that eliminate or impair choices and opportunities, there is always a sense in which deficit thinking can skew our view of equality. It also changes the meaning of hour for hour when you are battling those disparities. What we are suggesting is that letting go of money-based models (banking) might move us closer to humanity. It’s an experiment.

We are asking members to contribute 4 hours a month in sharing. These shares can take many forms from attending a Skill Share event like the monthly happy hour where members meet and workshop ideas and catch up with each other to the Community Lab for intentional Practice which has been running for 2 years now. By attending these activities or others hosted by Members, we strengthen our community and we move away from dependence on systems that are steeped in dominance. A major difference with Flywheel is that every share whether 1 to 1 or toward a project is added to a collective sharing tally. Even the gift of presence can be overlooked within the math of transactions. At a very basic level showing up for each other is one of the richest gifts we have to offer. 

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48 Comments

  1. When I joined the Timebank over a decade ago, it was not only to help others out but also to build up volunteer hours that I could draw on for help in my old age. During the past few yrs., I continued to help out the same people but stopped reporting my time because the system had broken down and I couldn’t reach anyone when I called the office. Because I feel a commitment, I keep up my weekly volunteering. Now that I have become a Caregiver in my personal life, I do have less time and energy and am bothered that I no longer have what I’d hoped would be an earned repository of help that I could tap into as needed. It reminds me of finally obtaining “seniority” after years of hard work in my profession only to have it abolished in favor of employees having to decide among themselves who would work the holidays. It may have been a faulty capitalist system and I realize that life is far from fair for many just as deserving as I am. But it’s very hard to be labeled a Boomer and written off by those who don’t care to look behind the stereotype.

  2. Kris,
    We honor any previously earned tb hours in the madison mutual aid network coop, madison hours too. We welcome reciprocity and interoperability with any systems operating along compatible models, policies, and principles. Every member owns and governs the system, as a cooperative governed sociocratically

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