Guest Post: Time Banking

I promised a more detailed post about time banking, and I figured, why not hear it from an expert? Phyllis Kim was kind enough to write a guest post about what time banking is and how you can be a part of one right here in Pittsburgh.


Imagine a network of artists, makers and creative workers sharing their individual talents and skills to advance each others projects.

Creative Labor Exchange is a brand-new time bank for creative workers in Pittsburgh that connects makers all across the city in the spirit of collaborative work.

A time bank allows people to exchange time, doing hands on work and sharing skills.  Each hour of time spent working on someone else’s project will be redeemed for time on your own projects.

CLX_Launch board

What better way is there to get to know your community while learning new skills?

Especially in Pittsburgh, with such a vibrant and active artist community, a time bank seems to be an important resource to have. I’ve heard so many people say over the years they wanted to learn a new skill, or needed help on a project or two. We’re hoping Creative Labor Exchange can facilitate in all kinds of exchanges.


A time bank works like this: When you need help on a project, just post a request on the Facebook page. Once you get a response you can work out the details with one of the members of the CLX community. When they come over to help you on your project, you pay them in hours instead of dollars. The same thing happens in reverse: you earn hours by helping others on their projects. Spend your hours for help on small tasks or save up for a huge undertaking. What’s important is strengthening the creative community through collaboration.

Time banking may sound like a new and foreign idea, but actually, time banking began in the early 1980s USA. Since then the concept has grown to 33 other countries with the help of Robert Wood Johnson foundation that invested 1.2 million dollars in 1990 to pilot time banking. Edgar S. Cahn, the founder of time banking, went on to study it philosophically, in particular it’s ability to solve what he thought to be three interlocking problems of America:

  1. Growing inequality in access by those at the bottom to the most basic goods and services
  2. Increasing social problems stemming from the need to rebuild community
  3. Growing disillusion with public programs designed to address these problems

According to Cahn though, the root of all these problems was the unwillingness of social service organizations to enroll the help of those they were trying to help. Time banking had the unique ability to enable both individuals and communities to help themselves.

Creative Labor Exchange isn’t promising to solve any of the above problems, but it’s an interesting approach to creating a community I want to live in. I love Pittsburgh because a stroll down the street means you’re bound to meet your co-worker’s cousin, or your ex-boyfriend’s grandma, or your barber’s boyfriend. I’m convinced everyone is nice to each other in case it gets back to their grandmother that they were rude through a cousin, or ex or barber. I like that accountability and the close-knit yet wide community I live in.

I hope CLX is just an an extension of that – an incentive to be a good neighbor.

Mr Rogers would love that.

Why I’m so excited to have a time bank in Pittsburgh:

  1. A resource to mine for skills/labor/instruction in any field.
    Have a side project you’ve been putting off? No excuses now! With every additional member your resources grow. Pour that concrete countertop. Learn how to play the mandolin. Find out why your car is making that weird sound. Dream big!

  2. Meet your community.
    Collaborate with people in your neighborhood you wouldn’t have otherwise known. This can only strengthen your community and make you appreciate where you live. Maybe Mary down the block can finally help you finish that comic book you’ve dreamt of making.

  3. Sharing your dormant resources.
    Whether you realize it or not, you’re sitting on some valuable resources. Don’t let those piano lessons you got 20 years ago sit wasted. That recipe for stuffed grape leaves that’s been in your family for ages can be exactly what someone needs. It’s delightful to find value in something you found joy in the past.

  4. Learning by teaching.
    You’ve heard it before – the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. If anybody wants to learn how to play Mad World very poorly I’m your gal! I’ll only get better I assume…

  5. Dollar saved by investing in community
    I’m still amazed that any given weekend, I can arrange to get lessons in video production, play a set of drums, or mend up all those clothes I have in my closet. For free! Or better yet, by investing time into doing something for a fellow member. Save a buck, help a neighbor.

We’ve only just begun but I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of projects come out of this. In addition to being a resource for creative labor, we hope to create a community of creative people and have more regular events to attend and meet/learn. Stay tuned for future events and keep CLX in mind next time you help on a project.

plus get some sick buttons

Boost the potential of your own creative work and Get involved in the creative process of others!

CLX_Ray with wine

Phyllis wanted me to include a picture of myself to “interest my readers”. I hope you’re “interested” to learn that I hold my glass like a moron.

Now that you know all about time banking, put it to use!

One thought on “Guest Post: Time Banking

  1. It’s neat to see that something like this is getting going in Pittsburgh! I’ve often thought about offering childcare as an exchange for some of these services, since that’s my “trade” right now. Of course, that’s the kind of thing you want some stability for, so I’m not sure how well it translates.


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