No Price Tags: These Neighbors Built Their Own Economy Without Money

Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Economy with 0 Comments

Cowry Collective members participate in a time bank market, where products and produce can be exchanged for tokens, not cash, at the New Roots Urban Farm in St. Louis, Missouri.
Photo by Tosha Phoenix.

By Araz Hachadourian | Yes Magazine

When Chinyere Oteh welcomed her first child in 2009, she found herself in a predicament familiar to many new stay-at-home mothers: Stress was high, but money and time were short.

“I thought to myself, I can’t be the only person trying to figure out how to have a healthy family life as well as make ends meet,” Oteh said. That’s when she remembered an article she had read on time-banking.

Time-banking is a model for trading skills, goods, and labor instead of money—a sort of barter system where members “deposit” hours doing things like teaching, cooking, or repairing things, and “withdraw” hours of other members’ services. It’s been around in the U.S. since the 1980s, and there are close to 500 such banks across the country today.

Oteh started small in 2010. She invited 10 friends in St. Louis to meet and gauge whether there was enough interest to start exchanging. Those who liked the idea invited more friends, and the group quickly grew to 25 people swapping things like lawn-mowing (Oteh’s first ask) for casseroles, mural-painting for help with cleaning. The goal was to improve their quality of life and show that neighbors can meet some needs without money—and that everyone has something to offer.


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