DEFINITION of Time Banking

Time banking is a reciprocity-based work trading system in which hours are the currency. It is a form of community currency, which enables a person with one skill set to trade hours of work with someone with another skill set, without any money changing hands.


Time banking was conceptualized in the 1980s by Edgar Cahn, an American law professor, to address unfulfilled societal needs, and reward community participation. It provides a means for community self-help, as well as fostering "decency, caring and a passion for justice."

Time banking has spread to communities around the world, because it helps to foster community ties and attracts people who would not normally get involved in traditional volunteering. The services traded focus on community outreach, such as the care of the elderly, social work and home repair, and it enables people on low incomes to access services that would be unaffordable to them in the traditional market economy.

In 2018, there were around 120 time banks in the United States. For more information, go to Timebanks USA.

The 5 Key Principles of Time Banking

  1. We Are All Assets: Everyone has something to contribute
  2. Redefining Work: Rewards all work, including non-paid and care work
  3. Reciprocity: Helping each other builds strong relationships, and community trust
  4. Social Networks: Belonging to a social network gives our lives more meaning
  5. Respect: Respect is the basis for healthy and loving community, and lies at the heart of democracy