hOurworld is an international Network of Service Exchanges (time banks)


an international network
of neighbors helping neighbors

• 43,664 members • 656 communities • 2,156,073 hours of service received!


Frequently Asked Questions About Time Banking

How widespread is time banking?
At this time in history there many kinds of exchanges operating, in all sizes, around the world. The majority are not known as time banks; in fact many opt not to use that title because of the association with the cash economy "banking". As you know we cannot legally mix the two currencies. So the names of Time Share, Hours, Time Trade, Exchange, and others are more common, although the movement itself is most commonly referred to as time banking.
Is Exchanging the same as barter?
No. Barter is based on the cash economy in a one to one relationship. Example: a plumber and carpenter agree to each provide $1000 worth of work on each other's homes—that's the cash world. In the Exchange Economy the services are based on TIME, not cash. Each service hour is valued the same and they are exchanged within a network, not one to one.
Why did the IRS rule this tax exempt?
The IRS views exchanging as "the provision of friendly neighborly favors" based on the currency of time.
Can one go into debt?
Sure, although member policies are created by each local exchange. All allow debt. We recommend capping member debt at 25 hours. The same is true with credit. If one is only earning time, and not spending time, then there is no flow... no current. It's important to earn and spend Time. That's why we call it CURRENCY.
How can I trust the other members?
How can you trust anyone? Get to know them, just as you would with any other relationship. People are people whether they are in the Exchange or not. There are also many features built into the software that allow you to assess the connectedness of another member.
What if the service I want isn't listed?
Go find someone to provide that service. Recruit that skill, and the next skill provider, and the next one. This will enrich your service menu for everyone!
What if I'm not satisfied with the service offered? Example: I didn't like my haircut.
What would you do if you paid cash for that haircut? Same thing. Talk to the provider. Express your opinion, work out a solution. Treat the situation the same as you would in the cash economy.
Can "professional" people join my Exchange? You know-- lawyers and therapists, etc.?
Of course. There is room for everyone to feel equal…give equally….receive equally. Exchanging is wonderful because it lets fall away the hierarchy of classist thinking. The beautiful garden I planted for the doctor is equal to the doctor's examination of my skin disorder. We are each offering something of value to the other person; thus, we are valued equally.
Do we have to have a paid Coordinator?
No, you don't. However, we strongly urge you to plan for that position right from the start. In the thirty years since this Movement began we've learned, sadly, that Exchanges that do not have paid coordinators usually fail. Exchanging is about RELATIONSHIPS among people. The Coordinator is key to organizing gatherings, events, stories and building communication among members. Advisory Groups do this too, of course, and some Exchanges operate beautifully by rotating their Advisors/Kitchen Cabinets in these roles.
Is this economy a threat to the cash economy?
No. Why should it be? It's a complementary currency. Many businesses see the value in becoming Exchange members. They get amazing marketing benefits, loyal customers and can save cash dollars in starting or supporting their operation. We're not competing, we're cooperating!
So businesses can join?
Can Non-Profit Organizations join too?
You betcha! The non-profit organization has to offer services and provide services. This is the same rule as for every other member. Everyone fits in this model-- Everyone.
Should we have an office space or can we operate out of one of our homes?
You can do either, but we recommend an office. Find a non-profit that can give you a small room and access to a larger meeting space. You'll have the company of other community folk, will be easy to find and will start off with a "presence" in your town/city that helps with marketing. All this is good.
Are there more things I/We need to know about starting an Exchange?
Yep. So after you've formed your core group (see First Steps To Starting An Exchange) you may want to come to or host an Immersion Training. You'll stay with members, eat member food, receive services and go home with a CD that gives you every tool necessary for operating a successful Exchange. You just have to commit to being part of this creative economy. And once you've changed your thinking to appreciate community currency, you'll be part of the change we all want to see in the world (Gandhi). Or, as the Hopi Prophesy says, "We are the Ones we've been waiting for…."
How many members do you have that help administer and monitor your program and its activities?
Hour Exchange Portland, an 800 Member Excange, has 2-4 people who run orientations. New member mentors check in with new members to see if they have any questions getting started, check in a week and a month after get started via phone and email. They have ebuddies who help those who are not tech savvy or don't have access to a computer. A few office helpers do data entry and phone calls to process new applications. 1 bookkeeper who works with treasurer. They have a Board of Directors or Kitchen Cabinet with a treasurer, a lawyer who can look at legal issues and paperwork, someone good at outreach, fundraising, and event planning.
What protections are in place to help cover the time bank from liability claims?
Members sign a waiver upon logging in agreeing to hold the exchange and hOurworld harmless of any and all injury to property or person. What protects members from claims on each other?
There is a release form that holds the exchange harmless. To my knowledge no member has ever sued another. You can get CIMA volunteer insurance to help in case of injury https://www.cimaworld.com/htdocs/volunteers.cfm

To protect your volunteers, CIMA's Volunteers Insurance Service program offers the following three coverages separately or combined:

  • Up to $1,000,000 in volunteer liability insurance - $1.72 per volunteer per year with a minimum premium of $100
  • For those volunteers who drive, up to $500,000 in excess automobile liability insurance above the volunteer's own insurance - $6.34 per volunteer per year with a minimum premium of $100.

Total cost per volunteer if all coverages are elected: $12.00 per year.

The only other cost involved is the required annual $135 fee that the organization pays for membership in VIS.

"We don't need another movement. We need to move together..."