2. In a complementary currency ecosystem

2.2. Typologies

2.2.2. Service credit systems

Service credit systems or time banks are the most prominent of the complementary currency systems, accounting for 50.2% of initiatives worldwide.

The fundamental monetary unit is time. Participants obtain a time credit for every hour they spend helping someone, irrespective of the service they provide. These credits can be stored for future use, transferred to another person, or used to buy services from other participants. Service credit systems represent a radical rejection of market valuations of labour, since everybody’s time is worth the same amount of credit.

Service credit systems encourage the building of social capital, inclusion and cohesion by rewarding support among neighbours, social care and community-based activities, and work on reciprocal volunteer programmes.

Early examples of the “Fureai Kippu” type of service credit systems were found in Japan as long ago as 1973, but these cannot be considered the prime instigator of this type of system. It was Edgar Cahn who really developed the idea of time banks in America in 1986, aiming to utilize untapped skills and resources in deprived neighbourhoods to rebuild communities and restore dignity to the socially excluded. The model spread quickly across the United States, and from there to the UK in 1997 through the efforts of David Boyle and the New Economics Foundation (NEF). Since then, strong, important UK and USA networks have developed new methodologies, improved best practices and supported new projects in other countries, including Italy, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Finland, Canada and Japan.