Monday, October 12, 2009

Echo Park Time Bank Visits LA Ecovillage

A group of people braved yesterday afternoon's autumnal chill and sat out in the courtyard at the ecovillage learning about the Echo Park Time Bank. The legendary Lois Arkin had invited the time bank's founders, Lisa and Autumn, to lead an orientation here for interested folks. They both had on cozy scarves, and recapped the mission and goals of the time bank.

Since the 1980s, LA Ecovillage has been the site of a LETS (local exchange trading system) group, but participation has dwindled in the face of software that is not user friendly (I registered months ago and cannot figure out how to access the website) and in a relatively stable environment where people exchange goods and services without logging them into a system. The time bank offers us an opportunity to meet new people and gain access to all their unique skills!

I've been hearing about the Echo Park Time Bank for some time, having attended an event they hosted at Farmlab a few months ago. They arranged to have the inventor of the timebanking concept, Edgar Cahn, give a talk that evening, and now I own a signed copy of his book, No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative. From my perspective as an anthropologist studying innovations in the way people live, exchange, and move through space, I find timebanking to be a really exciting concept.

Basically, the idea is that people do things for other time bank members, who may be strangers, and then they acquire "time dollars." Each hour of time, regardless of what the skilled or unskilled labor may be, earns and costs one time dollar. Dr. Cahn spoke about the successes timebanking has created in communities torn apart by crime and drugs, and I really appreciate that part of its use is placing value on things like companionship and domestic chores whose required time and labor have gone unnoticed.

There were about twenty people at yesterday's orientation, some existing Echo Park Time Bank members, and others interested in becoming members. We did a go-around to hear what people thought they could offer and purchase through the time bank. Greeting cards, guava harvesting, guitar lessons, and other stuff that doesn't start with "g" came up.

I hope that as the time bank and the ecovillage develop their relationship we observe an increase in class diversity among members; all the timebankers I met yesterday were lovely, but there did seem to be a certain similarity in their education and inclinations, not to mention their preference for vintage clothing (there were some really nice outfits). Crossing cultural/ socioeconomic boundaries can be very difficult, and I don't want to criticize the time bank for the fact that it attracts like-minded people. And yes, obviously we struggle with this here at LAEV as well, but the more of us working to redesign life in LA, the better!