AIM: To develop agency-related time banking systems for communities and public services, intended to empower and increase levels of citizen engagement in services, including those related to housing, schools and local communities.
BACKGROUND: Spice is a social enterprise focused on the use of time-credits as a means for facilitating the inclusive delivery of mainstream public and community services. Initially established as the Institute for Community Currencies at the University of Wales, primarily working in the Welsh Valleys, the initiative has since expanded, along with their sister organisation, ‘Timebanking Wales’. The decline in the mining industry across South Wales resulted in the exclusion of many individuals and communities from the market economy, leading to widespread disengagement, weakened social capital and growing social problems. The Spice initiative aims to rebuild the relationship between such communities and agencies. Agencies encourage community members to actively deliver community services, run community cafes, transfer learning, run support groups, after-school clubs, bingo nights and comedy events etc; every hour ‘donated’ by an individual to such activities is an hour which can be used to access other community events, trips and services of personal salience.
- Spice developed the ‘Citizen Time Audit’ tool, which measures and provides local services and organisations with information regarding current levels of citizen engagement with their particular service or organisation. The tool enables services to go through a process of consultation with citizens, and also collects information on citizens’ skills and interests, to ensure the most appropriate targeting of resources and to improve community involvement.
- Spice runs a range of housing projects, in which housing tenants can earn Spice credits by contributing to a series of residential activities. These include community programmes (e.g. organisation of social events), community support (e.g. childcare, health groups) and core tenant participation (e.g. interview panels, board meetings, sub-groups). Tenants can exchange Spice time credits for leisure, learning and recreation services organised and brokered by the landlord in partnership with local community centres.
- ‘Time School’ credits have also been introduced, which may be earned by school pupils, parents and community members who offer support to their school community. The credits may be redeemed for tickets to school concerts, use of school IT facilities, local leisure and recreational services.
- A ‘loyalty card’ for the environment: in partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government, Spice is currently developing time currencies to promote more sustainable behaviours amongst local communities and businesses. Such time credits will be used to incentivise and remove barriers to pro-environmental behaviours within communities and businesses, such as recycling, energy saving, use of renewable energy and home retrofitting, and the sustainable use of water. As part of the project, exchange of services and resources between businesses, voluntary groups and agencies will be supported.
- Spice is also working with the Young Foundation and four local authorities to create community currencies for health and social care, called ‘UpLift Time Credits’. These will target socially isolated individuals, particularly older people and those suffering with long-term illness.
Tris Dyson, Director of Spice, highlights three key principles underpinning the success of time credit systems such as Spice: (1) Know your assets – successful public engagement (moving beyond the ‘usual suspects’) relies on recognising the valuable and specific contributions that each individual is able to offer; (2) create a two-way street – creation of ‘fair exchange’, whereby people who contribute an hour are acknowledged by an hour, helps to nurture social capital, increases participation and helps to redefine service delivery; and (3) look upstream – through positive ‘upstream’ engagement, empowerment and recognition of people as valuable contributors to the community, public and third sector services can often ease the pressure on ‘downstream’ resources.