I did not know, or at least, I did not spend too much time figuring out an elaborated definition of ‘community’, until recently. It can be as simple as “a social group sharing common interests or characteristics and perceiving themselves as distinct in some respect to the larger society”.
Fair enough! But I guess for every member the real meaning might be rather personal and not that well defined. Especially when a community appears to be very diversified as it happens in Timebanking systems, such as Timerepublik.
I am observing that day by day, building up experience and seeing that each of us decides to be part of a community, either online, on the ground, or both, for different reasons.
Practically I am learning a lot by talking to people and trying to understand their values, needs and motivations because of their age, culture and background. As people living in Eindhoven already know, there is a vibrant multicultural environment in the city. I am witnessing amazing things happening within the timebanking system and experiencing the excitement of creating a community together. But this is not easy and a lot of care is needed.
At the moment, in order to communicate with the online community here in the Netherlands, we are also using the Facebook page Timerepublik Netherlands, to engage people on a certain set of talents every week. Last week, for example, we have done a first experiment about languages exchange, teaching and translations. People can inbox us their request or offers and we help them finding someone who can help them or benefit from their offer. The aim is to let people learn, get things done without spending money, meet members of the community and engage others.
Next week will be about art in a broad sense, so if you consider yourself an artist just get in contact with us! Of course we are open to suggestions, so everybody is welcome to share their thoughts. And I am using "we" now, because we are the Timerepublik Netherlands community.
There are of course books about communities and about how to manage them, nurture and create shared values. One of them is "The art of Community" by Jono Bacon. According to the author, the first step and the first goal in the journey, is belonging "In the same way that we judge a strong financial economy by prosperity, wealth, and a quality of standard of living, belonging is the reward of a strong social economy. An economy is a set of shared concepts and processes that grow and change in an effort to generate a form of capital. In a financial economy, participants put goods and services on the market to generate financial capital. The processes and techniques they use include measuring sales, strategic marketing and so forth. A social economy is the same thing- but we are the product, and the capital is respect and trust. The process and techniques here are different, but the basic principles are the same".
One could argue that the values behind a social economy are strictly related, if not overlapping, with the values of the so called "sharing economy", which was briefly discussed in last week’s piece. But we have to be careful to generalize terminologies and put different systems under the same umbrella. According to some, for many of the most famous systems normally labelled as "sharing economies," it would be more appropriate to talk about the "renting economy". In some cases it is not easy to separate the social economy part from the financial one and to talk about communities where the generated capital is only respect and trust. Link to article.
No doubt that the community of Timebankers shares the most genuine meaning of the "sharing economy" and it is legit to talk about it in terms of social economy as well, where the importance of belonging is at the core of its principles.
"Timebanking in fact, recognizes that there is a value outside the monetary system, and that the monetary system is simply a human construct design to account for and exchange our resources based upon agreement of what is valuable. Being a man-made system, it has certain limitations. A person being part of a community of timebankers understands the fact that each one of us has 24 hours in each day, although, this should be clear to pretty each everyone. I recognize the fact that my 24 hours are as valuables to me as yours are to you. And in order to both of us feel adequately valued, you should have the opportunity to participate in activities you feel inclined to do, and so should I. And because we live in a community, chances are great that what we want to do is going to be of benefit to someone else, if not for a lot of people"(Steve McAllister, 2012).
Next week I will share some interesting stories, about direct experiences and the role of timebanking in developing countries.