Local group starts service trade system

An online time bank is being created in Ashland to allow people to trade services tax-free and with no money changing hands between members.

"It lets people give and receive freely," says organizer Will Wilkinson.

All members' time is treated equally, he says, and no one will have to report their work for tax purposes.

"You may think it's horribly unfair or you may think it's revolutionary to value every human being equally," he says.

The system will be explained at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13, at Hidden Springs Wellness Center, 635 Lit Way, behind the Ashland Shopping Center. To reserve a seat, call the center at 541-488-8858.

The time bank will be launched within a month after that, using the Web site www.southernoregontimebank.org.

A video on the Web site explains the process. It's also at www.timebanks.org.

Members will be charged a joining fee, which will help pay for the time bank software and for background checks on all participants, Wilkinson says. The joining fee tentatively will be from $15 to $40 on a sliding scale, supplemented by corporate support, he says.

The time bank will be for services only, such as haircuts, painting, carpet cleaning, babysitting and life coaching, says Wilkinson.

"It's about people doing what they love," Wilkinson says. "If a brain surgeon is doing what he loves, he trades it, hour-for-hour, with the gardener who does his yard and is doing what she loves."

Wilkinson says he's received a "very enthusiastic" reception from people who hear about it.

The exchange would not cover materials. For example, a carpet cleaner would exchange his work, but not the carpet cleaning chemicals.

"When you take money out of the equation, it lets people give what they like to give," he says. "You don't order from the right side (prices) of the menu. You don't say, 'I need this but I can't afford it.' You can also say no when you want."

The group's webmaster, Bram Larrick, says the system is "quite simple. You find out what's being offered and you post what you have to offer. You need to make an investment of your time at first. You spend two hours and it goes in your account for you to use on services."

Larrick says more than a thousand time banks are operating in the world, including one in Eugene, the Emerald Valley Time Exchange. The Southern Oregon Time Bank likely would draw members from Ashland to Rogue River.

"In a town like Ashland, people are looking for alternative ways, other than the supply-and-demand system, which has gotten us to this place," Larrick says, "where giant Wall Street firms and multinational corporations make huge profits while others are trying to get enough money to buy food."

The system also builds community by enabling successful, constructive transactions between local people that "value us for what we do, rather than what we own. It's a healthier way to look at exchange of energies between people."

The time bank is looking for half a dozen volunteers to run it at first, says Wilkinson, and will eventually have a paid director.

Background checks will be required of members because many services, such as babysitting, require a level of trust and "we need a firewall there," he says.

Ashland volunteers in the 1970s launched a similar venture, called the Skills Bank, which operated for several years before petering out. The new venture overcomes the earlier problem of data management, Larrick says, by using "cheap, comprehensive software" that's already been developed and proven online.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Share This Story