Sharing Builders Workshop #8: TimeBanking and Cooperatives: Better Together?


year_of_cooperativeBuilders Workshop #8: TimeBanking and Cooperatives: Better Together? — this was a really interesting and somewhat different Builders Workshop. We decided to maintain a pretty internal focus. I didn’t send a press release or encourage far-flung participation (although it was available – our only taker asked at a time that day that I wasn’t able to accommodate, unfortunately). Instead we encouraged partners in the Allied Community Coop and other local timebank members and participants to come to further our discussion of the coop itself, along with a possible energy project we’re exploring (more on that elsewhere in this blog and at

John Conowall of MadWorC Madison Worker Cooperatives and Anne Reynolds of UW Center on Cooperatives assisted in creating and delivering this workshop. Thanks much to both!!

We began with this slide presentation to give an overview of the timebank, cooperatives, and how those plus a few other cooperative economic tools might fit together to create a much more powerful system, both on an economic and a community level. Anne spoke about coops in general, Anne and John discussed the cooperative principles, and John gave a few examples including the Worcester Roots youth-led cooperative. We wanted to present a wide range of models, from social cooperatives to business cooperatives, incubators and job creators, small and scrappy to large and well-funded. We ended with Edge Brussel’s video from the Philippi West Virginia Solar Energy Cooperative New Vision. This project incorporates timebanking into their solar coop in really exciting ways. We’d love to incorporate some of their ideas and build on them to create our own unique model. This will also give us an opportunity to test out some of our ideas about Deploying TimeBanking for Human-Scaled Economic Development and share the results and resources with the rest of the world through

After the presentation we began the discussion by going around the table, with about 20 participants including Michelle, Sina, Gloria, Barry and Susan from the Allied Community Coop, and identified the issues we wanted to discuss.

While planning the event Anne, John and I had guessed that we would break into discussion groups based on our geographic location and/or issue interest area (housing, energy, health care, education).

What we learned though, was that many of our participants were more interested in discussing healthy communication and work relationships, overcoming barriers and conflict, and providing avenues for harmonious and satisfying work situations. The group was about even in its desires to discuss these internal dynamics and, separately, to diagram what a timebanking-oriented cooperative might look like as applied to a particular need, in this case housing.

the topic flip charts as they came together: BWcoop2


So we ended up with two groups, one focused on internal working dynamics and one focused on how we apply this design model to housing.

Interestingly, the housing group also ended up spending a fair amount of its time discussing power dynamics in case management relations and elsewhere, the complications of joint ownership and in establishing a common vision (or commonly tolerable?) for shared space, the need for challenging zoning laws, a need to establish a precedent for building very small, and the need to divorce our concepts of income and employment and to create a society that doesn’t require constant paid employment. In addition we talked about how we can use timebanking to facilitate the kinds of activities that a lot of people are able to do, how we can use community saving and lending to pool our community resources, and how we can engage a cooperative structure to leverage larger concentrations of resources.

The group focused on internal dynamics had a much more robust discussion than I can represent here, having been in the other group and not having access to their notes. But one result of that discussion was an identification of Non-Violent Communication training and practice as a very valuable resource, although one that requires time, attention and practice. They also acknowledged that we (collectively, broadly speaking) have a tendency to be reluctant to devote meeting time to these communication-oriented activities, because we have so many agenda items we want to cover. It was acknowledged that it’s worth spending the time and effort on the internal dynamics.

We adjourned with a plan to meet on Allied Drive for a more comprehensive Allied Community Coop discussion, and an invitation to Builders Workshop #9: TimeBanking and Community Justice, January 17.

One more step on our endlessly fascinating learning, doing and sharing journey. I look forward to seeing what this will bring!

Thanks for reading,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *