Could We Live In A World Where Time Is The New Currency?

Have you ever been in a situation where money is tight and you’ve wished for there to be another way for you to pay for something? After spending 10 years as a Buddhist nun in Myanmar, Coral Sunone is now promoting an answer that could help to solve this problem. 

After her time as a Buddhist nun, Malaysia-based Coral decided that upon entering the outside world she wanted to get help with fashion after being a little out of step with modern trends. 

As money was low, Coral was looking for new ways to get financial assistance when she stumbled upon a website called TimeRepublik. Coral wanted help from a professional fashion assistant but she had almost no money. Could what she wanted even be achieved?

In our capitalist society where we generally always pay for things in money, this may seem like an easy answer – no. But in fact, websites such as TimeRepublik are actually providing people like Coral with a way to obtain goods and services without the need for money. 

TimeRepublik is a website that describes itself as “a timebank for the internet era”. But what exactly is time banking and how can it be used? 

A Delve Into TimeRepublik

TimeRepublik was created by Swiss co-founders Gabriele Donati and Karim Varini who launched the first version in Switzerland in 2012. 

Time banking is when you pay someone in time credits instead of money when they do a job for you, though of course, the way this is achieved will vary from platform to platform.

In the case of TimeRepublik, the website operates on a free-to-use basis to members of the public and works by users offering a service in return for a “TimeCoin” credit which amounts to 15 minutes no matter what job you provide. You simply advertise what you are offering and how long it would take in TimeCoins.

“We wanted to distance ourselves from financial transactions and find something that could create relationships between people,” says Mr Donati. “Because we truly believe that only through our relationships, you can gain the trust of another person.”

Despite being launched over a decade ago it isn’t until the past couple of years that TimeRepublik has seen international expansion take place, though the idea of time banking has actually been around for even longer. 

The concept of time banking has been around since the 19th century but has never really taken off in a substantial way. Now that time banking can be achieved in an easy and accessible way online, in today’s internet era, platforms such as TimeRepublik are hoping that their newfound success may change this fact and bring attention to this new kind of banking

The Value Of Time

The idea of time banking is perfect for people like Coral who have been unable to earn a substantial salary but still need everyday goods and services. Due to TimeRepublik, Coral was able to connect with Cherish Cullison – a New York-based professional wardrobe stylist and costume designer – who could help update her on current fashion trends. 

As you pay for goods and services with time credits, in response to Cherish helping her out with fashion advice, Coral then repaid Cherish by giving her some meditation lessons.

This favour of assistance is the perfect way to relieve pressure from mutually beneficial transactions and ensure that “the expectation of money is out of the way”, Coral said. 

“Instead you really get to the core of things and you discover something, I think, that’s greater and sort of priceless.”

Not only did both Coral and Cherish provide a useful service to each other, but the two have managed to stay in touch since the years of meeting on TimeRepublik – a heartwarming demonstration of how the value of time banking lies not just in its financial benefits, but in the personal touch it also offers. 

How Time Banking Can Open Doors 

Time banking offers huge benefits to those who ditch the norms and seek out alternatives to online money transactions, and TimeRepublik is not the only platform that has recognised the value of this new way of paying. 

Cardiff-based Tempo Time Credits also has its own interesting version of what can be achieved using an online time banking model. 

Instead of participants earning credits that they can redeem from someone by doing a job for them, credits on this platform can be redeemed at affiliated businesses, such as local gyms, cinemas, food shops and tourist attractions.

Furthermore, Rachel Gegeshidze, chief executive of Tempo Time Credits, has explained that the time banking app can also be used as a way of attracting and rewarding volunteers. 

Ms Gegeshidze highlights that a major advantage of the charity is that they can be used by local authorities across the UK to help aid community projects focused on addressing loneliness or tackling poverty.

“It really supports people to do new things and try new experiences… but also, we have programmes to engage tenants in their communities and to improve health and wellbeing,” she explains.

In short, not only can time credits be used to encourage people to get back on their feet by obtaining the goods and services they need without the need for money, but time credit transactions can also build a sense of connectivity and community.

This is an idea that is supported by the 2022 Impact Report for Tempo Time Credits which showed that 10,731 participants and about 1,100 involved organisations took part last year, with 84% of people who took part saying they felt more positive about their future after trying their hand at time banking. 

Another organisation helping to take time banking online is the charity Timebanking UK. This platform offers assistance and software to help communities and organisations across the UK set up their own time banking schemes. The platform allows users to post offers and requests, log hours and leave feedback.

Sarah Bird, Timebanking UK’s chief executive, explains that whilst time banking does not replace professional services or programmes, it can prop up certain areas of industry and help those trying to build a career to do so without the financial strains. 

Likewise to Ms Gegeshidze, Ms Bird has also highlighted the importance of time banking when it comes to how we view volunteering. 

Whilst many may not be interested or see the value in traditional volunteering, time banking may be a new way to get people excited and engaged with the idea. 

“Time banking might be the first step that someone will take from long-term unemployment before they go on to maybe volunteer or on a training course because it’s a method of making that person feel more confident about themselves,” explained Ms Bird.

So, for those who have struggled to get on their feet but need to obtain goods and services, time banking offers an ideal way to make this possible whilst helping to build connectivity and a sense of community. 

By using TimeRepublik, Coral and Cherish were able to meet and form a long-lasting friendship in addition to obtaining the services they needed. By using time banking charities, such as Tempo Time Credits and Timebanking UK, people who are struggling to get on their feet are being given a second chance to take control of their future.

While the method is still a relatively unfamiliar one, as Coral stated, by not using money the deeper kind of connection you can gain from the practice really is “priceless” in its own way.