Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Nobody makes a profit — on purpose

By Sara Isenberg
Editor-in-Chief, Santa Cruz Tech Beat

April 9, 2015 — Santa Cruz, CA

Time as currency: social capital accumulates and that’s priceless.

The TimeBank in Santa Cruz is a network to share skills and talents using time as currency. Their system uses software to match underutilized human resources to unmet needs. It’s a project of the Reskilling Expo, a nonprofit started six years ago by local Bonnie Linden to do local sustainable-living skills education.

It started with beekeeping

“The Reskilling Expo emerged when I started keeping bees,” says Linden. “Beekeepers are quirky people with niche expertise, kind of like techies. I got to know this reskilled community and I saw a valuable knowledge commons, a vast, informal network of skilled people committed to a sustainable future.”

Here’s how TimeBanking works: You provide a service to earn TimeCredits. You spend your TimeCredits for any timebank-mandalaservices in the network. You use the software to contact each other and keep track of transactions.

Tech skills welcome!

Service categories include Arts and Culture, Business/Clerical, Care/Companionship, Home Repairs, Food Preparation, Health and Wellness, Transportaion, Home and Garden, Sports/Leisure and more. All Tech skills and services are hugely valued from IPad instruction to WordPress assistance to Drupal programming, and more.

Nobody makes a profit

What’s different about TimeBanking as an economic institution is that nobody makes a profit. No money changes hands for services provided. It’s not a marketing platform or a commodities broker. It’s not barter because it doesn’t incorporate commercial exchange or price.

“Price values scarcity,” says Linden, “and devalues what makes us most human, our ability to help each other. In a TimeBank, everyone’s hour is of equal value… which is radical and not especially sexy, nobody getting richer. But social capital accumulates and that’s priceless.”

Since TimeBank Santa Cruz opened three years ago, over 350 TimeBankers have exchanged 9000 hours of service. A California volunteer hour is valued at $26. By that measure, the TimeBank has contributed $237,000 to the local economy.

Linden is rightly proud of this $200K ROI. “We did it on a shoestring! Our expenses for the last 3 years were $37,000. One beauty of TimeBanking is this extravagant ratio of social benefit to administrative cost.” A thriving TB of 2000 members can be staffed by one funded position. It’s the members themselves who provide the services.

Income inequality ranks high among the County’s most pressing problems and TimeBanking addresses it by providing cash-free services that frees up funds to be spent in the local economy.

This authentic sharing economy best-practice is not profit-driven nor risk-shifting nor share-washed. It‘s a  infrastructure that delivers services effectively, at low-cost, and creates social benefit in every register.

TimeBank provides classes, tutoring, mentors and job-skill consultations. Members offer health services such as nutritional counseling, massage, yoga and acupuncture.

TimeBank Santa Cruz has established a network of individuals committed to sustainable futures. Members regularly share skills that conserve water and promote alternative energies. Research shows that TimeBanking itself reduces carbon consumption: when people have a sense of civic engagement and belonging, they consume less.

TimeBank for Business

TimeBank Santa Cruz is opening a Business TimeBank branch so professionals can earn TimeCredits mentoring start-ups. “We want businesses to use the sharing economy to grow a stronger market economy,” Linden says. Membership for the first five businesses who join will be free.

The TImeBank contributes to local community life on many levels, including:

  • Installing eight greywater systems.
  • Piloting a Peer Navigator program with Women’s Health Center to match vulnerable patients with advocates.
  • Providing a Tool Library.
  • Working with the City of Capitola to establish an urban food forest.
  • Collaborating with Village Santa Cruz on aging-in-place strategies.

TimeBankers have served food at the Grey Bears Holiday Dinner, brought blankets to the Calvary Church Warming Center, taught at the Bike Church, the Aptos Community Garden, the Repair Café and the Reskilling Expo.

Coming soon: New web presence on open source Drupal plataform

The TimeBank is currently creating an Open Source TimeBanking platform using Drupal software. The new platform will be useful for profiling and connecting the members of any sizable organization. Local Drupal developer, Mary Edith Ingraham, has been key in this project.

Concurrent with that, TimeBank is in the process of creating a new web presence. UI/UX intern and Santa Cruz native, Sara Birns, recently joined the team and is using the Drupal theme Nexus to showcase the TimeBank’s programs.

TimeBank membership asks that you be available three hours per month. It’s a simple way to give back, pay it forward and connect. Interested? Apply here: For more information, contact Bonnie Linden:


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