Time Bank

The Creative Currencies Program aims to encourage creative experimentation with alter-economic thinking and practice. Our first foray into this interdisciplinary field of design and economics involved ample research into timebanking and the production of prototypes to stimulate discussion and draw the interest of potential collaborators. VC aspires to use creative currencies as an intervention that can both tangibly benefit people and expose them to different ways of thinking about money and economy.

Creative currencies

Creative currencies (also known as complementary currencies) are currencies that have been thoughtfully designed to track flows of value, incentivize certain activities, and coordinate action without money. Money is just one possible currency design among many; the word currency refers simply to the condition of flowing. Currencies measure, share, and enable all kinds of currents (such as goods, services, resources, knowledge, or participation). They are used not only as a medium of exchange, but also as a unit of account, a store of value, or a token of status and worth. They signal approval or disapproval and coordinate action along those lines. Many of them also serve as records of a moment where an exchange of value took place.


Timebanking uses time as a currency to mediate the exchange of services between its members. These members earn credits by providing services (ranging from professional services to simple neighbourly favours), and spend credits by receiving them. Trades are facilitated by a platform that lets members publicise their skills, post and answer requests, and keep a tally of their earnings. Time banks can also be set up in partnership with institutions, so that volunteer hours at local charities can be traded for gym passes or leisure activities, for example.

We are interested in timebanking as a recession-proof form of exchange that can bolster the ‘core economy’: the fundamental, non-materialistic exchanges upon which healthy social and economic functioning depend. One insight gathered from an interview with Alice Bagley, Director of Operations for the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks, is that time banks are most successful when members are familiar with another, making community-building efforts all the more important for their success.

Speculative experiments

In February, VCDC created a fictional currency called Co-values. Co-values count time spent on ‘collectively-valued endeavours’, and would be defined, earned and traded by people residing in definancialized housing stock (such as housing cooperatives, social housing or land trusts). The concept was shared through a proposal document complete with a printable bill and a fictional news article in which co-values set off a chain of events leading to a utopian future scenario. It served as a talking piece in meetings with new contacts, and inspired VCDC to delve deeper into timebanking.

A second prototype, the VC Time Bank, was designed in April, in conjunction with our Open Houses. As a physical installation present in our space 24/7, this prototype proved to have more reach. Every Friday for two months, anyone interested could drop by and a member of VCDC would introduce them to timebanking and invite them to join. A simulation game was also created to further engage visitors in the idea. These designs led to discussions on economics and ignited demand for a digital time bank that would allow members to organise trades from the comfort of their own home.

FEATURED: The VC Time Bank 
The VC Time Bank was an analogue time bank installed in the Novitiate Room at CdH. Throughout spring 2022, members of the public were invited to become members by creating a profile and placing it in the accompanying directory. A classifieds board also allowed people to post and answer requests. The VC Time Bank amassed 16 members, each of which was given a jar of objects as a bank account. 

Going forward

The next phase of this program would benefit from more research. Creative currencies are manifold in different forms all over the world, usually operating at small scales or with very specific functions. By studying existing models, we can incorporate learnings into future designs. Most creative currencies find success through integration with local needs and resources, so the particularities of relevant communities would also need to be considered, and partnering institutions consulted.