Collective Responsibility

My previous post, Local Timebanking, introduced The Five Core Values of TimeBanking by Edgar Cahn. These organizing principles define the role timebanking plays, both as a platform and set of processes, to account for one’s time invested in “forms of work that money will not easily pay for, like building strong families, revitalizing neighborhoods, making democracy work, advancing social justice.”

In the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy, timebanking helps community members take collective responsibility to assure the basic needs of all members are met. Then, with basic needs in place for all, each member is better positioned to take individual responsibility for personal needs related to quality of life.

The rendition of Maslow’s Hierarchy below illustrates more specifically what community members take responsibility for, individually and collectively:

Key takeaway: the more a community provides all its members with their basic needs, the higher likelihood that individual members will enjoy a higher quality of life by whatever subjective factors each chooses.

In effect, communities that honor this commitment decrease the amount of time its members must dedicate to meeting their basic needs which results in them having more time available for quality of life endeavors.

The post, Time Beyond Basic Needs Builds Human Capital, makes the point that more time consumed above the line in the “quality of life” zone has the social benefit of increasing human capital. In other words, it turns Maslow’s Hierarchy upside down so that more time could be dedicated to pursuits beyond basic needs. The diagram below — a variation on “The Human Enigma” graphic in the post referenced above — highlights how the dynamics between the two hierarchies impact a community and its members:

The community takes collective responsibility to manage the accessibility, availability, and affordability of basic needs for all community members.  To be successful, communities develop strategies and underwrite projects along a localization — globalization continuum to assure needs can be met and minimize risk to member for failure to deliver.

In addition, the community applies advances in technology to the flows of basic needs in order to reduce costs, increase control, and relieve community members from onerous tasks. Effectively, this shifts what community members do with their time from activities below the line to those above the line — time for time — which increases their creativity and expands their horizons. The subsequent uptick in human capital benefits the community, internally, as well as individuals and organizations in regional and global interrelationships.

Key takeaways: Timebanking provides the opportunity for community members to account for the time they invest in projects related to management of basic needs and application of technology. It also enables members to exchange time credits they receive for participating in these projects so they can shift their attention from below the line to above the line endeavors. Furthermore, documentation of the cumulative time invested, exchanged, and consumed by community members establishes a demonstrated value of time and skills that incentivizes other individuals and organizations to become timebanking members and offers collateral in proposals to funding agencies.

In upcoming posts I will explore these in more detail with examples from local timebanks. Stay tuned…

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Local Timebanking

My previous post, Conjoined Economies, pointed out how despite the importance of parity between a time-based economy and a money-based economy for the health and well-being of community members, the money-based economy maintains a dominant presence within most social systems. Because of that imbalance, it is essential to bring time-based economy activities out of the shadows and acknowledge their value.

Timebanking provides opportunities for communities to make the time-based economy more explicit at a local level and a stronger partner with (or worthy opponent to) the predominant money-based economy, globally.

The diagram below illustrates how the two economies would relate to one another on more local (smaller circumference) and global scales.

While the organizing principles for a time-based economy are similar, those defining timebanking have several key characteristics, namely: “participation” becomes membership with an account in a timebank; “exchange” becomes use of a specific exchange platform; and “commons” relates to a cooperative or otherwise legal entity as a governance structure. In addition, the general concept of time as the driver for economic activity shifts to more specific notion of an hour of service for an hour of credit.

Timebanking Core Values

TimeBanks USA, founded by Edgar Cahn in 1995, offers a complete package of operating philosophy, materials, software, and support for communities to get involved in timebanking. As an example, below are The Five Core Values of TimeBanking initially stated by Cahn: 1

  1. Asset: Every one of us has something of value to share with someone else.
  2. Redefining Work: There are some forms of work that money will not easily pay for, like building strong families, revitalizing neighborhoods, making democracy work, advancing social justice. Time credits were designed to reward, recognize and honor that work.
  3. Reciprocity: Helping that works as a two-way street empowers everyone involved – the receiver as well as the giver.
    The question: “How can I help you?” needs to change so we ask: “Will you help someone too?” Paying it forward ensures that, together, we help each other build the world we all will live in.
  4. Social Networks: Helping each other, we reweave communities of support, strength & trust. Community is built by sinking roots, building trust, creating networks. By using timebanking, we can strengthen and support these activities.
  5. Respect: Respect underlies freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and everything we value. Respect supplies the heart and soul of democracy. We strive to respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point.

Note the similarity of the five Core Values to Jay Walljasper’s interpretation of the eight design principles Elinor Ostrom defined for effective governance of the commons quoted in Organizing Principles for a Time-Based Economy.

Timebanking – The Realized Value of Unpaid Time

In accordance with these Core Values, the timebank becomes a venue in which any member has the opportunity to take greater responsibility for unpaid time by doing the following:

  • Document unpaid time in a personal member account
  • Convert unpaid time into a currency according to a rate shared by all members
  • Exchange unpaid time in account for access and usage of resources offered by other members

Timebanking – Benefits

Of course, realizing the value of unpaid time is more about building relationships within local communities than conducting transactions. hOurworld, a self-described “…international network of neighbors helping neighbors,” defines the timebank venue as a place where

Members share their talents and services, record their hours, then ‘spend’ them later on services they want. Everyone’s hours are equal. There is no barter. These are friendly, neighborly favors. Together we are restoring local community currency based on relationships.”

The Hour Exchange Portland lists the benefits of an exchange as follows:

  • Trusting relationships – (trust, reciprocity and civic engagement)
  • Greater access to goods and services
  • Employment references
  • Stronger informal support systems
  • Safety in neighborhoods
  • Increased self-esteem / confidence
  • Greater participation in community events
  • Diminished loneliness
  • Accept help with dignity – knowing you’ll help others in return
  • Building social capital in neighborhoods — Robert Putnam 2

These descriptions of timebanking core values and benefits of an exchange certainly speak to how timebanking can help us progress toward the goals:

  1. Legitimize time-based economy behaviors
  2. Expand symbiotic / synergistic coverage by both the time-based and money-based economies

But there is so much more that timebanking offers as well as numerous platforms, processes, currencies, etc. at work to bring the time-based economy into its rightful position of parity with the money-based economy. Look to future posts that take deeper dives into timebanking and explore the topical landscape of complementary currencies, peer-to-peer relationships, systems change theory in practice, etc. more broadly.

  1. The Five Core Values of TimeBankingEdgar Cahn is the founder of modern timebanking. He noticed that successful timebanks almost always work with some specific core values in place. In his book No More Throw-Away People, he listed four values. Later, he added a fifth. These have come to be widely shared as the five core values of timebanking – and most timebanks strive to follow them. They are a strong starting point for successful timebanking.
  2. Smith, M. K. (2001, 2007) ‘Robert Putnam’, the encyclopaedia of informal education, www.infed.org/thinkers/putnam.htm. Last update: May 29, 2012.
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Conjoined Economies

In my previous posting, Organizing Principles for a Time-Based Economy, I describe a money-based economy and a time-based economy, each based on very different organizing principles, yet functioning concurrently within the same social system. On the surface their unique principles and purposes may appear to render them mutually exclusive. However, the behaviors each elicits from members can form a healthy dialectic that benefits the shared social system. The resulting symbiosis (perhaps agonism) acts as a mitigating force to keep the social system between gross economic disparity on the one hand and profound personal discontent on the other.

The diagram below builds on diametrically opposed views of Maslow’s Hierarchy introduced in the post, Time Beyond Basic Needs Builds Human Capital, and adds the organizing principles for both economies:

In more evolved forms, each of the conjoined economies would wield comparable power within the same society, hence, same-sized circles of organizing principles on oppositional figures of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Despite the importance of each economy and the necessity of robust interactions between them, those activities in the time-based economy (pale colored organizing principles), are not as explicit nor recognized for their value like those in the money-based economy (dark-colored organizing principles). Furthermore, the sphere of operation for both has room to expand well-beyond the perimeter of the gray oval representing current reality.

These dynamics set in place twin goals moving forward:

  1. Legitimize time-based economy behaviors
  2. Expand symbiotic / synergistic coverage by both the time-based and money-based economies.

And it opens the door for localized, community-based structures to emerge that advance these goals.

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Organizing Principles for a Time-Based Economy

My previous post, Time Beyond Basic Needs Builds Human Capital, proposes that advances in technology, e.g., Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, genetics, networks, etc., redefine human capital and how we build it. This trend will impact how we use the limited time we have as living, physical beings on the planet.

Regardless of how long that is for each of us, the minutes we have will be distributed into the five levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. 1  For many, the bulk of their time will fall into the bottom levels where they struggle to meet basic needs and survive. However, if society partners with technology rather than contends with it, the majority of our time could play in the upper levels of the pyramid where human creativity, inventiveness, and innovation thrive.   Our time and where on Maslow’s Hierarchy we consume it become major metrics by which we measure the effectiveness and efficiency of economic systems in their capability to build and sustain human capital at its most optimal.

The diagram below from Time Beyond Basic Needs Builds Human Capital, superimposes the base-down orientation of Maslow’s Hierarchy onto a top-down version.

These can be expressed as two economies that play out along a continuum. On one end a money-based economy of dystopian design keeps the majority occupied in the lower levels of a base-down Maslow’s Hierarchy. On the other end a time-based economy of utopian design shifts participation by the majority to the upper levels of a point-down Maslow’s Hierarchy.  Regardless, the two economies not only coexist, they have a clear symbiotic relationship between them.

Despite the interrelationships between a money-based economy and a time-based economy,  the organizing principles that define them as well as the behaviors each produces are quite different.  The diagram below illustrates key defining elements in a money-based economy, 2  3 namely, the central role of money and debt with ties to the organizing principles of ownership, consumption, and pacification. This configuration drives most participants to spend the majority of their time, day by day, in the bottom reaches of Maslow’s Hierarchy in a base-down orientation, which sets rather dystopian limits to upward mobility.

Time4Time Presentation.001

Conversely, the diagram below shows organizing principles for a time-based economy 4 in which time occupies the center with links to participation rather than pacification, exchange in lieu of consumption, and commons instead of ownership. This configuration shifts behavior toward the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy in its point-down orientation, which offers a greater degree of freedom for the majority to pursue more utopian ideals.

Time4Time Presentation.002

When these two economies operate in concert with one another, they set the stage for the emergence of a

…commons-oriented mutual-coordination economy where the concepts of ownership and “legal” do not exist. And anything like “money” is not required. But still, common resources require some people or organizational forms (often a committee) to be responsible for them.

Comment by Bob Haugen in Value Flows-Issue #270 on GitHub

Haugen goes on to recommend reading Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Principles for Managing A Commons by Jay Walljasper in On the Commons, October 2, 2011:

  1. Define clear group boundaries.
  2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.
  3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.
  4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.
  5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.
  6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.
  7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
  8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.

Clearly, Ostrom emphasizes the need for defining who’s in and who’s not, how the rules for use of “common goods” are made, monitored, enforced, etc. This includes “build responsibility for governing the common resource (or “common resource in nested tiers…up to the entire interconnected system”)…” which speaks to the preference for terminology like “responsibility flow” in lieu of “legal flow.”

And that brings us back to the symbiotic nature of money-based and time-based economies within a healthy, adaptive society. Our challenge is not to save one and kill the other, but assure the legitimacy of each for whatever time it takes whereby the basic needs of all are met with enough time left over to enjoy a reasonable quality of life.

Possible steps in how to bring this about will be the topic of upcoming posts.

  1. Lifetime Hours Revisited
  2. Money and Society video
  3. Money and Society MOOC
  4. Time-Based Economics: A Community-Building Dynamic by A. Allen Butcher
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Time Beyond Basic Needs Builds Human Capital

The Importance of Time Beyond Basic Needs

As indicated in my previous posting, The Realized Value of Unpaid Time, our time on the planet can be divided into paid or unpaid in a monetary sense. Society tends to value paid time and discount or ignore the value of unpaid time even though we acknowledge it to be significant. As a consequence, the majority consume much of their daily routine in a continuing struggle to earn enough from their paid time to meet their basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Nonetheless, there is a substantial overlay of unpaid time people consume interacting with technology in parallel to paid time to accomplish important activities at higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Among these activities are:

  1. Provide more services to their fellow members
  2. Develop professional skills
  3. Expand personal interests
  4. Engage in co-learning partnerships with technology

The value of “time beyond basic needs,” when realized, can deliver substantial benefit to themselves and their communities. And those communities that invest in the technologies and adaptive social structures that promote this inversion of Maslow’s Hierarchy among the majority will enjoy a notable increase in Human Capital:

Human capital is a collection of traits – all the knowledge, talents, skills, abilities, experience, intelligence, training, judgment, and wisdom possessed individually and collectively by individuals in a population. These resources are the total capacity of the people that represents a form of wealth which can be directed to accomplish the goals of the nation or state or a portion thereof.

What If We Don’t Invest?

What if the rules of the prevailing socioeconomic systems favor meritocracy and competition? What if advanced technology threatens to eliminate the need for human labor and the opportunities for paid work along with it?

For many there are limited paid time slots spaces available for community members to have “time beyond basic needs” and the system does not adequately realize the value of unpaid time. Consequentially, the system not only pits its members against one another, but members against technology as well, in an effort to secure desireable, but scarce, paid time positions. As a result, the potential to increase human capital among the majority is compromised. Instead, we consume our time either fighting the fear of sliding into a dark hole of economic obscurity and unmet basic needs or fueling the greed of beating nature, fellow community members, and technology to land an exalted position near the top of the social pecking order.

The Human Enigma

On the one hand we have strong potential to expand human capital and tap its creative energy for the betterment of all. On the other, we have a millennia-old tradition that uses the carrot (greed) and stick (fear) approach to raise human capital for some at the expense of others which benefits only a select subset.

The diagram below portrays this dichotomy. A point-down triangle showing most of our time playing out in the upper levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy overlays a base-down triangle representing a majority of our time spent at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

We can envision a world – a Utopia – that could exist if we functioned at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy. But we can anticipate dire consequences – a Dystopia – if we indulged our baser instincts in the first level of the Hierarchy. Our Current Reality covers a full complement of behavioral choices that stretch between Utopia and Dystopia. Therein lies our enigmatic nature as humans.

What If We Do Invest?

What if we partnered with technology? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?

Artificial Intelligence – Utopian, Dystopian or Heterotopian?

Are there new principles of design that are likely to emerge for technologies such as AI that are designed to not just manipulate data but actually learn from users? It is clear that designers and data scientists have to learn to work together, given the critical role both will play in the machine learning and data heavy future.

Fabien Girardin says, in his paper, ‘When User Experience Designers Partner with Data Scientists’, ‘In particular, we are witnessing a new practice that requires a tight partnership between designers and data scientists, as systems with feedback loops can only be imagined, built, and improved with a holistic view of the how users’ experiences are affected by interactions between data, algorithms, and interfaces.’

He also lists an interesting set of objectives for user experience design when working with these new technologies, such as –design for uncertainty, design for peace of mind, design for time well spent, design for fairness, design for conversation, etc.

What if we could share the abundance of no unpaid time? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?

Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) – Lecture 3: The Robotic Future

A fully robot economy means that the owners of the means of production (robots) would have a super-abundant economy of things and services at zero cost (robots making robots making robots). The owners can then just consume. They don’t need to make ‘profit’, just as the aristocrat slave owners in Rome just consumed and did not run businesses to sell commodities to make a profit. So a robotic economy could mean a super-abundant world for all or it could mean a new form of slave-type society with extreme inequality of wealth and income. It’s a social ‘choice’ or more accurately, it depends of the outcome of the class struggle under capitalism.

What if we regarded the partnership with technology as the principle means by which we expanded human capital? Where would that put us on the Utopia – Dystopia scale?

Robots must work for the good of humanity, the Pope tells Davos

In a prepared speech read at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos 2018, the pontiff urged:

“Artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary.”

Echoing the theme of the Meeting, Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World, the Pope said:

“It is vital to safeguard the dignity of the human person, in particular by offering to all people real opportunities for integral human development and by implementing economic policies that favour the family.”

More topics to unpack in future posts…

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The Realized Value of Unpaid Time

Time matters for each of us whether unpaid or not. Reducing our individual time on the planet to a binary expression between paid and unpaid shortchanges the value we bring to our common humanity during our lifetimes. This raises a couple of questions for consideration in this post:

  1. How to measure the value of unpaid time?
  2. How to pay the provider for this value rendered?

In my previous post, Unpaid Time Distribution, I noted that unpaid time can be voluntary or involuntary. Examples of the former include a leave of absence from paid work, participation as a volunteer or intern within the public or private sector, or a lifestyle decision to live “off the grid.” As the wording suggests, involuntary unpaid time is not necessarily an outcome of choice, but the result of unemployment and unavailability of paid time due to termination, reduction in force, early retirement, sour reputation, etc.

Regardless of being voluntary or involuntary, unpaid time remains unaccounted for in contrast to paid time where value can be measured by productivity and profit. If unpaid time has value how does one generate and measure it? The diagram below, “Value of Unpaid Time,” gives us a way to look at it:

The left side of the diagram below lists items we use to spend our unpaid time: cell phones, computers, devices (includes Internet of Things), games, apps, and GPS to name the more obvious ones. The right side lists the data we generate by using the aforementioned items: identity, location, behaviors, connections, content, and access and myriad variations on each. Organizations in the public and private sectors use these streams of data to increase profits, pacify populations, and concentrate wealth. In other words, they capture, measure, and realize the value generated by us during our unpaid time activities.

So important is the data we generate that organizations in both the public and private sectors vie tirelessly for our attention.  The diagram below, “Public and Private Sectors,” illustrates some of the resulting dynamics:

These entities combine investment in the development of information and knowledge technologies (section 1) with sophisticated interface designs and structures to incentivize our participation (section 2) so that the resulting data streams are plentiful, wide and deep. In effect, we humans become living sensors who generate data through social networks, machine learning, exchange platforms, cooperatives, and machine ethics that can be put to use by automation, algorithms, artificial intelligence, robotics, and genetics.

Ideally, all of us would be plugged in 24/7 – a kind of universal basic participation that generates a lifelong stream of data about us and for us. The incentives would go beyond gamification and dopamine rushes to payment in the currency of basic needs. In other words, we would allow data about us to be captured by the machine on a continuous basis in exchange for our universal basic needs of food, water, clothing, housing, energy, safety, security, healthcare, education, socialization, etc. (section 3).

The issue isn’t that the value of unpaid time can’t be measured, it’s that it’s not paid.

And if it is paid?

The diagram above summarizes what “everyone wins” could mean:

  • Organizations win because costs are reduced (Maslow’s Hierarchy upright)
  • Individuals win because each can be creative within the boundaries imposed by nature, not man / machine (Maslow’s Hierarchy upside down)
  • Humanity and the machine both win because they learn from one another, adapt to each other and the world that encompasses them both (Maslow’s Hierarchies – upright and upside down)

No doubt these are topics for many future posts…

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Unpaid Time Distribution

The flip side of paid time is unpaid time. Of course, sleep makes up a significant block of unpaid time. When we are not asleep, we often resort to describing unpaid time in terms of paid time. For instance, we may extend a vacation a week, or so, add days to sick leave or months to maternity leave, embark on a year-long sabbatical, etc. as a formal leave of absence. In other words, unpaid time is taken away from a job or formal tasks in accordance with the terms of an employment / work contract. This can be where there is an agreed upon time to return to paid work or it can be the result of termination or retirement where there is no intent to return. Regardless, unpaid work, in the eyes of many, is the absence of paid work.

Unpaid time beyond sleep covers a wide range of activities. Most often these activities are associated with public and private sector organizations that provide recognition for services rendered by volunteers or documentation on resumes for hands-on business and academic experiences gained by interns.

The diagram below illustrates how these widely endorsed categories of volunteerism and internships might be distributed across Maslow’s Hierarchy:

While volunteerism and internships cover an explicit set of unpaid time activities, more often than not we spend our unpaid time in undocumented behavior. This manner may be important to us, but frequently we consider it trivial or inappropriate for others outside of select family members, friends, and acquaintances to know about. As a result, we choose to keep other people “in the dark,” so to speak, which features in the title of the diagram below:

The “dark side” may sound sinister, but the reality is that most of us have occasions when we don’t want others to know where we are and when we are there, what we are doing, and who we are with. With the rise of social media, sophisticated communication systems, and all manner of invasive technologies, it has become extremely difficult to go dark so that one cannot be found. One way for those committed to this degree of anonymity can do so is by going off the grid.

More commonly, though, opportunities for paid time simply dry-up or our personal situations are such that we cannot take advantage of them and we become unemployed – perhaps chronically so 1. This condition is similar to the unpaid time engaged in volunteerism and internships except it is not a position one necessarily chooses to be in – it just happens due to life circumstances. Even though we may be spending unpaid time providing several basic needs for ourselves as well as our children, elders, or family and community members with health issues, that time is not reflected in conventional economic indicators nor does it allow us to qualify for supplementary income through a social contract. We are uncounted, invisible, and marginalized. And that is a dark place, indeed.

  1. Long-Term Unemployment: The Economy’s ‘Secret Cancer’
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