ABCD Europe

Asset-based community development in action, all over Europe.

                       A NEW COLLABORATION BETWEEN



It was a lovely surprise to receive an invitation to this ‘one day conversation’. An ideal opportunity, I thought, to hook up again with Rob Hopkins, with whom I had an enjoyable ‘one hour conversation’ in a field a couple of years ago, and to promote my new book “Your Money Or Your Life: Time For Both”.


After a chilly first hour or so of presentations on economics, Filipa Pimentel stood up and talked from the heart about what life was like now in Portugal. She changed the atmosphere and brought a real warmth to the room, people seemed ready to share and empathise from then on.

Where she lives 25% of families are living below the poverty line and the average wage is €800 a month, yet prices in the supermarkets are the same as here. The dominant narrative at the moment is all about blame – “let’s put those responsible for our 30% cut in wages in prison”.

There is only one Green MP in Portugal and the economic crisis has meant that environmental concerns have all but been abandoned. ‘Solidarity movements’ have been pushed to the fringes of society. However, at a very local level, people are beginning to talk about sharing resources and skills and acknowledging that they need each other.

How far away are we from a similar economic decline and how would people here respond?  

 As the founder of Timebanking in the UK I have many thousands of reasons to firmly believe that our inherent hospitality, kindness, generosity and fairness will provide us with the solid foundations that we will need for such a social climate change here, a social warming where ‘you need me and here is the bill for my services’ becomes ‘we need each other and we can co-operate and care for each other better’.

 There are 276 time banks in the UK where 22,000+ people are sharing their skills and caring for each other without exploiting the ‘givers’ and without the ‘receivers’ feeling that they are dependent on the charitable acts of others. There is no pricing system, one hour is one time credit and time credits are not linked to the national currency. This means that they are recession proof and more resilient and inclusive than other local currencies. We do use computer software to manage the transactions but Timebanking is all about the day to day connections and the friendships that grow between the members – and every time credit is backed up by a straight forward promise to do something for someone else in return.

 It was good to hear Peter Lipman announce his determination to avoid involving the transition movement in any “middle class shopping voucher schemes”. He also said that he wanted to ensure that they reached those most at risk, such as “unemployed” people. The good news I could tell him was that Timebanking has shown time and time again that people living in difficult circumstances understand mutual aid better than anyone else and are more prepared than any other sector of society to help out directly when their peers are in trouble. They will tell you that they are just doing what they have always done and what their parents have always done before them.

 Timebanking is not easy. There are cultural blocks to overcome. People are nowadays reluctant to offer unsolicited help to their neighbours. They like to be asked as they fear their motives might be misconstrued. People need help to overcome their shyness when it comes to asking others for help. And, perhaps most problematic of all, too many people believe that they have nothing of value to offer to others. As an elderly woman said recently, “I have nothing to give but my love”. That she felt her love was worthless shows how far we have gone in letting market forces define for us what is valuable.

 We need allies to help us break the spell cast by the financial wizards who have convinced nearly everyone that there is no alternative to unbridled growth. It would be wonderful if people in the Transition Movement would join their local time bank or set up some new ones. Together we represent a formidable force for social change. We have what we need if we use what we have.  


Martin Simon

Founder of Timebanking in the UK

Follow Martin on Twitter @TBUKMartin

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