International Journal of

Community Currency Research
Volume 15 (2011) Section A 13-22
Stefan Molnar*
Chairman Of The Time Banking Initiative TidsNätverket I Bergsjön
This stuuy focuses on the only existing time banking initiative in Sweuen - TiusNätveiket i
Beigsjon (TNB). It exploies the oiganization's: 1) !"#$$%&'%(, 2) #!")%*%+%&,( with iegaiu to
empoweiing its paiticipants anu cieating social capital, as well as S) if these can be attiibuteu to
TNB's use of time banking. The semi-stiuctuieu inteiviews anu stuuies of uocumentation that
weie caiiieu out in 2uu8 have been supplementeu with auuitional infoimation ueiiveu fiom the
authoi's peisonal expeiience of being a membei of TNB.
TNB has faceu pioblems conceining the way that the time cieuit system functions as well as
iegaiuing a lack of long teim paiticipants, time shoitages anu segiegation among some of those
who paitake. TNB has empoweieu its paiticipants anu has fosteieu an inciease in social capital,
something that can piobably paitially be explaineu by its use of time banking. The papei is con-
cluueu with some iecommenuations as well as some geneial thoughts on the futuie iole of time
banking within the Sweuish welfaie state.
* Email: stefanÇ
$' )*+, +-*. /0+*)1,2 Nolnai, S. (2u11) 'Time is of the Essence: The challenges anu achievements of a Sweu-
ish time banking initiative' -&,%.&#,)/&#$ 1/2.&#$ /3 4/++2&),5 42..%&!5 6%(%#.!" 1S (A) 1S-22
<> ISSN 1S2S-9S47
TiusNätveiket i Beigsjon
(heieaftei calleu TNB) is the fiist
anu thus fai the only attempt at time banking that has been
establisheu in Sweuen. Time banking can be uesciibeu as a
methou which lets inuiviuuals, gioups anu institutions ex-
change iesouices, most often seivices anu activities, with
each othei. The so-calleu "time cieuit" - a cuiiency that
gives value to a iesouice accoiuing to the time neeueu to
piouuce it - is useu as the meuium of exchange. Time bank-
ing usually cieates positive economic, political, social anu
enviionmental outcomes foi its paiticipants anu foi society
in geneial. This aiticle seeks to test this claim by inquiiing
whethei the activities of TNB have inueeu biought about
such positive outcomes
. Focus is placeu on thiee aieas of
ieseaich. The fiist aiea of ieseaich conceins the challenges
facing TNB since it began in 2uu7. The seconu set of issues
questions whethei the pioject has in any way incieaseu
empoweiment anu social capital among its paiticipants.
The thiiu line of inquiiy seeks to ueteimine whethei the
achievements of TNB in the aieas of empoweiment anu
social capital can be attiibuteu to any specific mechanisms
within the time banking appaiatus. The final question is
paiticulaily impoitant because time banking is often saiu
to cieate an inciease in empoweiment anu social capital;
this claim meiits fuithei stuuy because empoweiment anu
social capital aie ciucial foi a healthy society. With this
aiticle, I hope to builu on pievious ieseaich in these aieas.
If time banking inueeu leaus to incieaseu empoweiment
anu social capital in society, we cannot affoiu to ignoie it.
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The human-iights lawyei Eugai Cahn (2uu4) inventeu time
banking to piomote foui "coie values" that he ueemeu aie
missing in touay's society. These values aie 1) the iuea that
all people aie iesouices; 2) incieaseu iecipiocity; S) in-
cieaseu social capital; anu 4) a ie-evaluation of the uefini-
tion of "woik" (Cahn, 2uu4: 8S-86). Paiticipants in the time
banking-system commit themselves to helping othei pai-
ticipants oi to ueveloping theii local communities. Foi
eveiy houi of woik, the paiticipant ieceives one time
cieuit. The cieuits ieceiveu by any one paiticipant aie
placeu in his oi hei own account in a kinu of "bank," exem-
plifieu by a leugei book oi an IT-system. In some cases,
piinteu coupons aie useu. Time cieuits aie withuiawn fiom
the account when the paiticipant ieceives a seivice oi gets
to paiticipate in an activity aiiangeu by someone else. All
tiansactions aie monitoieu anu aiiangeu by a peison em-
ployeu as a "time-biokei" (Cahn, 2uu4: 1u). Although all
time banking systems opeiate accoiuing to these basic
piinciples, the tiansactions can be oiganizeu in many uif-
feient ways. In the peison-to-peison mouel, inuiviuuals
tiaue seivices with othei inuiviuuals within the local com-
munity. In the peison-to-agency mouel, which is baseu on
the piinciple of co-piouuction, the time-banking tool is set
up within an oiganization such as a hospital, a school oi an
association as a means of motivating people to help ieach
the oiganization's goals. In the agency-to-agency mouel,
time banking is useu as a way to facilitate exchange anu
coopeiation between oiganizations (Collom, E. 2uuS: 4-S;
NEF, 2uu8: 14).
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TNB was founueu in August, 2uu7. Theie exist no official
numbeis iegaiuing how many inuiviuuals that have pai-
ticipateu in its activities since then. But, uuiing the yeai
2uu9, appioximately 16u inuiviuuals paiticipateu in ai-
ianging activities, anu aiounu 16uu inuiviuuals paitici-
pateu in activities aiiangeu unuei the auspices of TNB. In
total, seventy-two activities weie aiiangeu uuiing the yeai
2uu9. The exchanges aie cooiuinateu by a time biokei em-
ployeu by TNB. TNB uses the peison-to-agency mouel of
time banking. uioups of inuiviuuals cieate activities in
which othei people can paitake. In exchange foi oiganizing
these activities, the inuiviuuals who belong to this gioup
can also paiticipate in activities aiiangeu by othei gioups
within TNB, by the time biokei oi by othei oiganizations
affiliateu with TNB. TNB uoes not use the peison-to-peison
mouel of time banking in which inuiviuuals exchange seiv-
ices with each othei because, in that case, Sweuish law
woulu iequiie the inuiviuuals to pay taxes as well as iisk
loosing theii income-ielateu benefits. Each houi of woik
that the paiticipants completeu woulu be calculateu against
the piice that this seivice woulu cost on the oiuinaiy laboi
maiket. Bowevei, if gioups insteau of inuiviuuals cieate
activities foi the local community, these pioblems can be
avoiueu. Paiticipation in TNB uoes not iequiie any foimal
membeiship. Insteau, people can come anu go as they wish.
Because of this, the ways in which people paiticipate aie
quite vaiieu. Some inuiviuuals paiticipate foi long peiious
of time, both aiianging anu paiticipating in many uiffeient
activities. 0theis might aiiange oi paiticipate in only one
shoit activity of a few houis uuiation.
To uate, seveial uiffeient ways of iegisteiing the paitici-
pants' houis' have been attempteu. Foi some inuiviuuals,
houis aie iegisteieu in a peisonalizeu leugei book oi in an
IT system, wheieas otheis ieceive piinteu coupons iecoiu-
ing theii engagements. Still othei inuiviuuals uo not have
theii houis iegisteieu at all; this point will be uiscusseu
The activities that have been aiiangeu have taken thiee
uiffeient basic foims. Fiist, the inteiest-gioup aiises when
a gioup of paiticipants meets on a iegulai basis to puisue a
common inteiest oi goal. Examples of such activities that
International Journal Of Community Currency Research 2011 Volume 15 (A) 13-22 Molnar
1 http:¡¡
2 Liteially tianslateu as "The Time-Netwoik in Beigsjon." Beigsjon is a subuib of uothenbuig, the seconu laigest city in Sweuen.
S This aiticle is baseu on an evaluation of TNB that I conuucteu uuiing the peiiou of Apiil-Nay, 2uu8. It was wiitten anu piesenteu in Sweuish
as a bacheloi's thesis in Sociology at the 0niveisity of uothenbuig, Sweuen in }une, 2uu8.
have been aiiangeu incluue a fielu-biology gioup foi chil-
uien, a welcome gioup to gieet inuiviuuals who have ie-
cently moveu to the neighboihoou anu a gioup of young
auults who teach oluei people how to use mobile phones.
Seconu, the pioject can be uefineu as a shoit-teim activity
in which anyone can paiticipate. Piojects aie usually uone
in coopeiation with othei oiganizations baseu in the uoth-
enbuig aiea. An ecological festival anu a film pioject in col-
laboiation with the police aie two examples of this type of
activity. Thiiu, a social activity is a shoit-teim activity
meant to biing the iegulai paiticipants closei togethei anu
to thank them foi theii paiticipation in TNB. A few exam-
ples of such activities incluue museum visits, baibecues,
iock-climbing excuisions anu canoeing.
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0ne puipose of this papei is to give an account of the gieat-
est challenges facing TNB since its founuation in 2uu7. An-
othei puipose is to uesciibe TNB's biggest achievements.
Because the stateu goal of TNB is to empowei its paitici-
pants anu to fostei an inciease in social capital amongst
them, I will focus specifically on these issues. The main
ieseaich questions aie as follows:
1. What challenges has TNB faceu since it began its activi-
ties in 2uu7.
2. What has TNB achieveu with iegaiu to empoweiing its
paiticipants anu cieating social capital.
S. Can TNB's achievements in teims of empoweiment anu
social capital be attiibuteu to any specific mechanisms of
time banking.
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Empoweiment as a theoietical concept has suigeu in popu-
laiity among uiffeient gioups aiounu the woilu; these in-
cluue politicians, non-goveinmental oiganizations anu aca-
uemics (Alsop et al., 2uu6: 1). Some people also see time
banking as a way of incieasing empoweiment (see, foi ex-
ample, Seyfang, 2uu4b: 9-11, Collom, 2uuS: 1-2, 11-1S,
Cahn, 2uu4: 4, Boyle, 2uuS: 2S6). But what exactly is em-
poweiment. The teim is most often useu to uesciibe con-
cepts such as "powei," "feelings of stiength," "autonomy,"
"self-contiol," "confiuence" anu "self-woith" (Askheim &
Staiiin, 2uu7: 9; Naiayan, 2uu6: S). Accoiuing to Alsop et
al. (2uu6: S), empoweiment can be uesciibeu as "|tjhe
piocess of enhancing an inuiviuual's oi gioup's capacity to
make puiposive choices anu to tiansfoim those choices
into uesiieu actions anu outcomes." Empoweiment is ue-
penuent on an asset-baseu agency, a state in which an inui-
viuual possesses the necessaiy assets - psychological, in-
foimational, oiganizational, mateiial, social, financial anu
human - to make the "puiposive choices" iefeienceu in the
uefinition above (Alsop et al: 2uu6: 11-1S). Empoweiment
also iequiies an institution-baseu oppoitunity stiuctuie.
This concept iefeis to the uegiee to which an institution
allows its membeis to conveit theii goals into the "uesiieu
actions anu outcomes" also mentioneu above (Alsop et al.,
2uu6: 1S). The uegiee of empoweiment of an inuiviuual oi
gioup, theiefoie, is uepenuent on the availability of assets
anu on the existence of a social stiuctuie allowing the ful-
fillment of uesiieu actions anu outcomes.
Beepa Naiayan (2uu6: S-4) uiscusses the impoitance of
empoweiment. She emphasizes the positive coiielations
between empoweiment anu economic giowth anu between
empoweiment anu efficient goveinmental, commeicial anu
civil¡societal oiganizations. Fuitheimoie, she posits an-
othei positive coiielation between empoweiment anu sub-
jective well-being (Bienei anu Biswas-Bienei, 2uu6: 126).
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The concept of social capital is ciitical in the contempoiaiy
uebate about time banking anu othei types of community
cuiiencies. Time banking is often saiu to be a way of fostei-
ing an inciease in social capital (see, foi example, Boyle,
2uu2; Cahn, 2uu4: 169; Collom, 2uu7: S8, Souei, 2uu8).
Bowevei, ieseaicheis who exploie the subject of social
capital have not ieacheu a consensus on the exact meaning
of the concept. Woolcock anu Naiayan (2uu2) uesciibe the
foui most common ways of uefining the concept. I auheie
to Robeit Putnam's (1996, 2uu8) uefinition, which, accoiu-
ing to Woolcock anu Naiayan (2uu2), belongs to the com-
munitaiian tiauition. Accoiuing to this uefinition, social
capital consists of noims of iecipiocity, tiust, anu social
netwoiks anu enables coopeiation among inuiviuuals. Ac-
coiuing to Woolcock anu Naiayan (2uu2), theie aie thiee
auuitional ways in which social capital can be vieweu. Al-
though this space uoes not peimit a full explanation of
these peispectives, they can be chaiacteiizeu biiefly as
follows: the institutional anu syneigic tiauitions focus on
the connection between social capital anu the macio level
of society. Because my stuuy focuses on the micio levels,
these tiauitions aie not applicable. The netwoik tiauition
views social capital as constituteu by social netwoiks. If
social capital facilitates coopeiation, howevei, the netwoik
tiauitions peispective is too naiiow. Coopeiation iequiies
not only social netwoiks, but tiust anu shaieu noims as
well. This obseivation justifies my selection of Robeit Put-
nam's uefinition ovei the otheis (1996, 2uu6).
Scholais have ciiticizeu Robeit Putnam (1996, 2uu6) foi
painting an oveily-positive pictuie of social capital,
wheieas in ieality it can sometimes piouuce negative ie-
sults, as in the cases of violent gangs anu mobs, foi exam-
ple. Putnam ieplieu to this ciitique by asseiting the exis-
tence of two types of social capital - bonuing anu biiuging
International Journal Of Community Currency Research 2011 Volume 15 (A) 13-22 Molnar
(Putnam, 2uu6). Bonuing social capital is baseu on iela-
tionships between inuiviuuals of similai backgiounus,
wheieas biiuging social capital is baseu on ielationships
between inuiviuuals of uiffeient backgiounus
. If bonuing
anu biiuging social capital aie combineu, Putnam (2uu6)
aigues, the negative effects uesciibeu above can be ie-
uuceu. Sociologist Naik uianovettei (197S) uses a similai
methou to solve this pioblem. Be points out that ties be-
tween inuiviuuals can be of uiffeient stiengths. Stiong ties
often exist between peisons who belong to the same family
anu between close fiienus. Ties of this kinu aie necessaiy
to make a peison feel safe anu to enable him oi hei to live a
happy, healthy life. Weak ties, on the othei hanu, exist be-
tween inuiviuuals who aie not close emotionally. Weak ties
hinuei the intioveision anu sectaiianism that often iesult
fiom stiong ties. Theiefoie, a functioning society neeus a
combination of stiong anu weak ties.
Theie aie at least two peispectives that suppoit the impoi-
tance of social capital. Fiist, Pieiie Bouiuieu anu }ames
Coleman (Beiieios, 2uu4: 6) view social capital as a tool
that an inuiviuual can use to satisfy his own wants anu
neeus. Seconu, Robeit Putnam (1996 & 2uu6), as well as
many othei intellectuals, iegaiu social capital as an instiu-
ment facilitating coopeiation between inuiviuuals. Accoiu-
ing to this view, social capital is a pieiequisite foi positive
attiibutes such as health anu happiness, economic giowth,
low ciime anu coiiuption, effective schools anu communi-
ties, anu othei social neeus (Balpein, 2uuS: Pait 1; Layaiu,
2uuS: 68-69; Putnam, 2uu6, Pait Iv).
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To investigate the concept of empoweiment, I useu an ap-
pioach inspiieu by Alsop et al. (2uu6). Accoiuing to these
authois, a stuuy of empoweiment shoulu ueal with two key
aieas of ieseaich (2uu6: SS-S7). The fiist conceins the
inuiiect inuicatois of empoweiment, namely assets anu
institutions. The seconu conceins the abilities of inuiviuu-
als anu gioups to make choices if they take auvantage of the
oppoitunities maue available to them anu consiueis
whethei these choices enable them to ieach theii uesiieu
outcomes. The lattei factois will be teimeu the uiiect inui-
catois of empoweiment. With iespect to uata collection
methous, a vaiiety of methous ianging fiom suivey stuuies
to ethnogiaphic woik can be useu (Alsop et al., 2uu6: SS-
The qualitative appioaches of Robeit Whitley (2uu6: 7S-
74) anu Foisbeig et al. (2uu2: 9-1u) inspiieu me to attempt
to map the social capital within TNB. In both Whitley's anu
Foisbeig's ieseaich piojects, uata was gatheieu thiough a
combination of qualitative ieseaich methous. These ie-
seaicheis claimeu that this methou of uata collection pio-
viueu infoimation about the "quality" anu "type" of social
capital piesent in the fielus they weie stuuying. Sociologist
Eu Collom (Publ., 2uu8), on the othei hanu, appioacheu the
topic in a uiffeient way. By tiacing tiansactions between
the paiticipants in a paiticulai time bank, he coulu extiapo-
late infoimation about the size, uensity anu amount of so-
cial capital ciiculating within a paiticulai institution.
Ny initial stuuy was baseu on a mix of qualitative methous.
Semi-stiuctuieu inteiviews (Beinaiu, 2uu6: 212) weie
conuucteu with six inuiviuuals that at that point in time
weie engageu in TNB. I also stuuieu inteinal TNB uocumen-
tation. Qualitative anu quantitative content analysis was
useu to analyze the uata (Rosengien & Aiviusson, 1992:
214-216). Last yeai, I was involveu in TNB as a membei of
the boaiu of uiiectois, an expeiience that has pioviueu me
with auuitional insight into the woikings of TNB. In this
aiticle, my peisonal expeiience will be useu as a comple-
ment to the uata obtaineu in the initial set of inteiviews
anu obseivations to allow uiscussion of the contempoiaiy
ielevance of my finuings in the initial stuuy.
An obvious uisauvantage of using less-stiuctuieu methous
of uata collection is that they uo not allow foi statistical
geneializations (Rosengien & Aiviusson, 1992: 7S). This
may compiomise the valiuity anu ieliability of my stuuy.
Robeit Whitley (2uu6) aigues that this pioblem is amelio-
iateu by the fact that less-stiuctuieu methous allow the
ieseaichei to auuiess his ieseaich questions fiom multiple
angles. I uiu this by asking uiiect questions about paitici-
pants' opinions anu feelings on the paiticulai topics unuei
stuuy, but I also paiu close attention to the inuiiect anu
implicit cues of my iesponuents. I focuseu on the expeii-
ences the iesponuents thought that othei paiticipants hau
hau uuiing theii time with TNB, anu I tiaceu the spieau of
social netwoiks within TNB. These methous alloweu me to
constiuct a bioau view of the pioject anu justifieu the accu-
iacy anu ieliability of the conclusions I uiaw fiom my stuuy.
A final pioblem I faceu in this stuuy is the pioblem of mem-
oiy. When asking people to uesciibe how they hau changeu
as a iesult of a paiticulai event, I coulu not be suie that the
paiticipant hau an accuiate memoiy of the event. In this
case, the only thing I coulu uo was to hope that the intei-
viewees' memoiies weie accuiate.
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In this section, I will auuiess the ieseaich questions poseu
at the outset of this papei. I begin by outlining the biggest
challenges that TNB has faceu since 2uu7. I then uiscuss
TNB's achievements in the aieas of empoweiing its paitici-
pants anu fosteiing an inciease in social capital. Finally, I
explain how the obseiveu achievements might ielate to
TNB as a time banking initiative.
Baseu on my inteiviews anu obseivations, I will outline the
biggest challenges facing TNB.
International Journal Of Community Currency Research 2011 Volume 15 (A) 13-22 Molnar
4 The book in which Putnam ueals with this ciitique is calleu Bowling Alone (2uuu). Woolcock anu Naiayan (2uuu) publisheu theii aiticle the
veiy same yeai that Putnam's book was ieleaseu. It is possible that they uiu not ieau Putnam's stuuy befoie wiiting theii aiticle anu, theieby,
faileu to consiuei his theoietical ievision of the concept of social capital baseu on the ciitique that he hau pieviously ieceiveu.
7)+% !.%8),(
Fiist anu foiemost, the inteiviews that I conuucteu ie-
vealeu a gieat ueal of confusion among the paiticipants
about exactly how the time cieuit system actually func-
tioneu. At that point in time, the time cieuits hau not been
utilizeu within all of the activities, anu theiefoie not by all
the paiticipants. Anu this is tiue even to this uay. The same
goes foi the fact that, uepenuing on what activity you take
pait in, uiffeient ways of iegisteiing the houis aie useu;
coupons, peisonal notebooks oi a computei uatabase. In
some of the activities that aie aiiangeu togethei with othei
oiganizations, exchanges aie maue without getting the time
cieuits involveu at all. Anu in some of these activities, the
paiticipants who aie affiliateu to TNB have to hanu in theii
time cieuits, while the paiticipants that aie affiliateu to
othei oiganizations use noimal cuiiency, oi can paiticipate
foi fiee. Theie aie some moie oi less logical ieasons foi
this being the case. But theie is not ieally an easy anu quick
answei to give to the hunuieus of paiticipants why this is
the case. Why uo only some paiticipants, anu not all, ie-
ceive time cieuits. Anu why uo only some paiticipants, anu
not all, iequiie time cieuits in oiuei to be able to paitake in
an activity. Why uo only some types of activities involve
time cieuits. Why uo some inuiviuuals ieceive coupons,
while othei inuiviuuals use a peisonal notebook. The lack
of an easy way to explain anu unueistanu how to use the
time cieuits cleaily spuiieu questions among the iespon-
uents that I inteivieweu; questions such as those above.
Anu, at least foi some of the iesponuents, this fact unuei-
mineu theii iespect foi the system, making them ask them-
selves what the use is of collecting time cieuits. 0ne ie-
sponuent saiu:
"Bonestly. Sometimes I feel that theie is no
use in collecting these houis |...j I can't ieally
see the value compaieu to noimal money"
The fact that a consistent time cieuit system has not been
establisheu within TNB, is ieally a pioblem. Anu we might
ask ouiselves, why has this not been the case. 0ne ieason
ielates to public policy. Even though the Sweuish National
Tax Boaiu has exempteu TNB's activities fiom taxation, a
few inuiviuuals within the local authoiities have ques-
tioneu whethei TNB's activities aie meiely yet anothei
foim of illegal laboi that shoulu be taxeu. This skepticism
has hinueieu the thoioughgoing application of time cieuits
in TNB's activities. A seconu ieason foi the incomplete ap-
plication of time banking ielates to the specific mouel useu
by TNB. Although coopeiation with othei associations is a
ciucial pait of TNB's activities, most othei associations uo
not use time banking as they woulu if the agency-to-agency
methou of time banking - in which oiganizations use time
banking as a way to facilitate exchange between one an-
othei - was useu (NEF, 2uu8; 14). That the collaboiation
among oiganizations is baseu on uiffeient systems of ie-
muneiation means that some of the inuiviuuals that pai-
ticipate in TNB's activities uo not give oi ieceive cieuits foi
theii paiticipation. This is because these inuiviuuals aie in
ieality membeis of the othei oiganizations anu theiefoie
uo not use time banking. This leaus to a thiiu challenge, anu
that is motivating the paitneiship-oiganizations to stait
using time banking. A fouith ieason foi the unueiutiliza-
tion of the time banking system is also connecteu to the
type of time banking that TNB uses. When using time bank-
ing foi exchanging activities on a gioup level insteau of
exchanging seivices on an inuiviuual level, the bounuaiy
between what might be consiueieu giving someone else a
bit of youi time anu ieceiving time fiom someone else, is
often bluiieu. Foi example, in a stuuy gioup, it is not always
cleai whethei the paiticipants aie giving something to one
anothei oi ieceiving something. In sum, the foui pioblems
mentioneu above seem to cieate confusion about how the
time banking system functions within TNB.
7)+% !/&(,.#)&,(
Anothei pioblem iuentifieu in the inteiviews is the issue of
time constiaints. Active paiticipation in TNB iequiies a lot
of time. This is especially pioblematic because many people
alieauy opeiate unuei a time shoitage in theii uaily lives,
which makes playing an active pait in TNB paiticulaily
uifficult. Fiom the stait, it has been cleai that some paitici-
pants take much gieatei iesponsibility in aiianging activi-
ties than uo otheis, an imbalance that causes a lot of stiess.
Although time-banking initiatives baseu on exchange of
seivices have the cleai auvantage of ielieving inuiviuuals of
some of the buiuens of quotiuian tasks, time-banking ini-
tiatives such as TNB seem to uepiive paiticipants of theii
time because aiianging anu paitaking in the activities ie-
quiies a substantial time commitment. This is anothei
pioblem inheient in the type of time banking useu by TNB.
9#!: /3 ;#.,)!);#&,(
Connecteu to the pioblem of time shoitage is the TNB's
uifficulty in attiacting new paiticipants. Although TNB eas-
ily attiacts shoit-teim paiticipants, the oiganization has
expeiienceu seveie uifficulties in extenuing the paiticipa-
tion of inuiviuuals to longei-teim piojects anu in convinc-
ing paiticipants to accept the iesponsibility of cieating new
activities. As a iesult, inteiviewees expiesseu concein ovei
the lack of activities in which they coulu paiticipate anu the
ueaith of oppoitunities available foi spenuing theii time
Finally, the inteiviewees iuentifieu as a pioblem the lack of
socialization between people of uiffeient backgiounus
within TNB. Although TNB uoes attiact people fiom uiveise
backgiounus, they tenu to foim gioups with inuiviuuals of
similai backgiounus. The pioblem of segiegation can be
attiibuteu to the type of time banking useu in TNB, which
piomotes the foimation of gioups baseu on the activities in
which inuiviuuals paiticipate, thus piomoting cohesion
among people of similai backgiounus anu inteiests. Foi
example, the "neighboihoou-gioup" consists mainly of
miuule-ageu women, wheieas the "uance-gioup" has
tenueu to attiact youngei giils. As a iesult, TNB has expeii-
enceu a foim of segiegation since its founuation, even
International Journal Of Community Currency Research 2011 Volume 15 (A) 13-22 Molnar
though theie aie also seveial activities with a "biiuging"
function, as uiscusseu below.
uiven that the goal of TNB is to empowei people anu to
fostei an inciease in social capital, its main achievements,
uealt with in the following sections, ievolve aiounu these
In this stuuy, the teim assets is useu as one of two inuiiect
inuicatois of empoweiment (Alsop et al., 2uu6). Fiom my
inteiviews, I concluue that gaining new assets plays an
impoitant pait in involvement in TNB. In paiticulai, the
iesponuents felt that theii paiticipation hau impioveu theii
confiuence anu socializing skills, as well as theii feelings of
self-woith, access to new knowleuge, anu othei infoima-
tional anu psychological assets. The iesponuents hau leaint
new things, anu gaineu new expeiiences thiough theii pai-
ticipation in the piogiam. As one iesponuent saiu:
"Pieviously, I was a pietty quiet peison. But
within TNB I feel that othei people listen to
me, anu this has hau a huge impact on the
way that I behave anu feel."
Befoie analyzing the seconu inuiiect inuicatoi of empow-
eiment, a shoit analysis of the uiiect inuicatois of empow-
eiment is waiianteu (Alsop et al, 2uu6: SS-S7). The uiiect
inuicatois measuie the availability of oppoitunities foi
making autonomous life choices, whethei inuiviuuals take
auvantage of these oppoitunities anu whethei theii choices
help them ieach theii uesiieu outcomes. At the time of the
inteiviews, the paiticipants felt that they hau oppoitunities
to paiticipate in planning activities anu that as a pait of this
planning they coulu expiess theii opinions fieely. But uiu
theii paiticipation actually influence the activities of TNB.
Ny inteiviews suggest mixeu iesults. Cleaily, some iespon-
uents have been able to affect the choice of activities within
TNB. Bowevei, the agency of othei iesponuents was less
Regaiuing the thiiu inuicatoi of empoweiment, the ie-
sponuents stateu that they weie encouiageu to plan anu
oiganize activities, a cleai inuicatoi that TNB as an institu-
tion fosteis empoweiment among its membeis.
Although much of the content uiscusseu uuiing inteiviews
emphasizeu TNB's empoweiing effect on its paiticipants, at
least one obseivation, the fact that the pioject managei
playeu a veiy laige iole in aiianging many of the activities,
points in the opposite uiiection. The paiticipants seemeu to
be veiy uepenuent upon the pioject managei anu some of
them uoubteu theii ability to manage new activities with-
out hei. As one of the paiticipants ieplieu to a question
iegaiuing the possibilities of aiianging activities without
the help of the pioject managei:
"Without XXXX |the name of the pioject
manageij!. I uoubt it. She suppoits us. I feel
a lot bettei when she's aiounu"
Because the goal of TNB is to encouiage the paiticipants to
cieate activities, this uepenuency of the pioject managei
has a paiticulaily negative effect on empoweiment.
</!)#$ !#;),#$
What effect has TNB hau on social capital foimation among
inuiviuuals who have paiticipateu in its activities.
We shall begin with noims of iecipiocity. The iesponuents
cleaily uesciibeu iecipiocity as an impoitant pait of TNB.
They acknowleugeu that paiticipants shoulu commit them-
selves to the piojects, help othei paiticipants, anu iepay
favois otheis have uone foi them. The iesponuents also
iecognizeu that TNB is giounueu in ceitain piinciples, such
as those of giving anu ieceiving. This is in itself anothei
inuicatoi of iecipiocity. As one iesponuent saiu:
"I uo someone a favoui, anu someone uoes
me a favoui back. That's the way that the
time cieuit system functions"
By mapping the exchange of activities within TNB, I was
able to unueistanu how noims of iecipiocity weie tians-
foimeu into mutual ielationships between the paiticipants.
These mutual ielationships most often involveu "geneial-
izeu iecipiocity" (Putnam, 1996: 2u7), which implies long-
teim, inuiiect exchanges within a netwoik of people iathei
than the shoit-teim, uiiect exchanges between two oi moie
inuiviuuals that aie chaiacteiistic of "uiiect iecipiocity."
A lack of iecipiocity within TNB uoes, howevei, manifest
itself in a few cases. Fiist, theie aie quite a few examples of
inuiviuuals who cieateu activities without paiticipating in
any activities aiiangeu by otheis. Examples of the opposite,
that is, peisons who enjoyeu taking pait in activities with-
out cieating any in ietuin, also exist. Seconu, much of the
coopeiation that occuiieu within TNB took place within
gioups of people of similai backgiounus, implying a lack of
iecipiocity between people of uissimilai backgiounus.
Can TNB be uesciibeu as a tiusting enviionment. The in-
teiviewees expeiienceu uifficulty conceptualizing tiust anu
its iole within TNB. This is piobably uue to the ambiguity of
the concept of tiust anu was peihaps exaceibateu by the
limiteu Sweuish language skills of ceitain paiticipants,
which inhibiteu cleai uiscussion of a complex topic. A
wealth of statements pointeu to the peiception of TNB as a
tiusting enviionment, buttiesseu by the neai-absence of
statements pointing in the opposite uiiection. An oiganiza-
tion that, like TNB, is built aiounu coopeiation anu mutual
giving anu ieceiving iequiies a high uegiee of tiust to func-
tion piopeily.
Bas the existence of TNB iesulteu in the cieation of new
social netwoiks. Inteiaction with othei people constitutes
a significant pait of the activities within TNB. Nost of the
issues iuentifieu by the inteiviewees conceineu meeting
International Journal Of Community Currency Research 2011 Volume 15 (A) 13-22 Molnar
new acquaintances, stiengthening bonus with olu acquain-
tances anu coopeiating with othei people. Comments such
as: "I have gaineu new fiienus anu I want even moie people
to paiticipate in the activities of TNB" weie plentiful in the
inteiviews that I conuucteu. Buiing the yeai 2uu9 16u in-
uiviuuals have aiiangeu activities, anu 16uu people have
paiticipateu in TNB's activities, inuicating a uefinite emei-
gence of new social netwoiks. These numbeis also hint at
the significant size anu extent of these netwoiks. Quite a
few inuiviuuals, howevei, weie not iegulaily engageu in
TNB but took pait in activities on a shoit-teim basis oi
inteimittently. The limiteu paiticipation of these inuiviuu-
als piobably hinueieu the uevelopment of social netwoiks,
especially those with stiong ties (uianovettei, 197S). Nany
of the activities aie aiiangeu by inuiviuuals who shaie the
same backgiounu, inuicating the salience of bonuing net-
woiks ovei biiuging netwoiks within TNB. Accoiuingly, an
impoitant theme in the inteiviews was a concein ovei the
activities anu events within an inuiviuual's own community.
This was accompanieu by a ielative lack of awaieness
about what was taking place in the othei gioups. Bespite
the pieuominance of bonuing social netwoiks, TNB also
contains examples of biiuging social netwoiks. These aiise
especially uuiing the so-calleu "social activities," wheie
people of uiffeient backgiounus come togethei to enjoy
themselves anu celebiate.
To sum up, theie exists a wealth of inuicatois that the
Sweuish time banking system has fosteieu an inciease in
social capital among its paiticipants. Fuitheimoie, the fact
that some of the iesponuents weie not engageu in associa-
tional life befoie joining TNB piobably means that some of
the social capital possesseu by these iesponuents woulu
not have been geneiateu without the inteivention of TNB.
The talk of fellowship was plentiful:
"I, foi one, think that 'fellowship' is a woiu
that pietty well uesciibes what TNB is all
about. Fellowship is something that all the
paiticipants have in common".
Bo these conclusions still apply two yeais aftei the initial
inteiviews weie conuucteu. Buiing the last two yeais,
theie have been no majoi changes in the way in which TNB
functions, which inuicates that the conclusions shoulu
laigely holu tiue touay. Baving followeu TNB closely in the
afteimath of the inteiviews, my obseivations confiim the
continueu applicability of my conclusions, iegisteiing no
signs to suggest otheiwise. Since its conception, TNB has
witnesseu some majoi successes, but it has also stumbleu
upon some pioblems. The next section seeks to auuiess the
extent to which these pioblems can be attiibuteu to the
specific system utilizeu by TNB.
9OF1/*H*HM +-, 0*., 'P ,EF'G,0E,H+ /HJ .')*/1 )/F*+/1
In the following section, I point out a few possible mecha-
nisms of the time banking methou that might explain the
obseiveu inciease in empoweiment anu social capital
within TNB.
Fiist, time-banking initiatives aie baseu on an exchange of
iesouices between inuiviuuals iathei than on the usual
one-way giving oi ieceiving piacticeu in tiauitional volun-
taiy oiganizations. This has veiy likely shapeu TNB's po-
tential to empowei people. The iuea behinu time banking is
that all people have something to give to otheis. When an
inuiviuual cieates his own activities oi seivices, he must
leain new things anu uevelop new skills anu theieby in-
cieases his self-confiuence. In a time-banking system, time
cieuits play a special iole by letting the inuiviuual know
that his commitment is valueu within the system. They also
function as a way of motivating inuiviuuals to become in-
volveu because time cieuits function as iewaius foi this
paiticipation. Bowevei, because time cieuits have playeu a
limiteu iole in TNB so fai, the tenuency of inuiviuual mem-
beis to cieate theii own activities can moie ieauily explain
the obseiveu inciease in empoweiment than can the sys-
tem of time cieuits.
Seconu, time-banking initiatives such as TNB compiise a
wiue iange of uiffeient activities. This makes it easiei foi a
paiticipant to finu an activity to which he can contiibute his
own skills, thus ueveloping gieatei feelings of self-woith
among paiticipants. The wiue iange of activities in which
the paiticipants paitake is also a way foi them to acquiie a
bioauei skill set, a pieiequisite foi empoweiment.
The special mannei in which time-banking initiatives func-
tion affects social capital foimation. Time banking is a goou
way to cieate social capital because the wiue iange of seiv-
ices anu activities available incieases oppoitunities foi
people of uiveise backgiounus to meet anu establish bonus
with one anothei. Time-banking initiatives such as TNB
attiact paiticipants of a wiue vaiiety of inteiests anu back-
giounus, which is not as often the case with tiauitional
associations. This means that paiticipants come fiom a
bioauei section of society than uo membeis of tiauitional
associations. TNB, foi example, attiacts inuiviuuals intei-
esteu in going to museums anu those who enjoy uancing oi
tiaveling, insteau of taigeting only one of these gioups. In
this iespect, howevei, TNB might have a uisauvantage ovei
inuiviuual to inuiviuual-baseu time banking initiatives be-
cause the inteiest gioups anu piojects foimeu within TNB
allow foi coopeiation among people of similai backgiounus
iathei than foi people of uissimilai backgiounus. This leaus
to the pieuominance of bonuing ovei biiuging social capi-
TNB has to a gieatei extent influenceu the iise of social
netwoiks with weak ties iathei than those with stiong ties.
This can be explaineu by the fact that many of the TNB ac-
tivities take place ovei shoit peiious of time. This can be
compaieu to the moie common types of civic oiganizations
such as spoits clubs oi inteiest gioups that aie built aiounu
single, long-teim activities, theieby giving paiticipants a
bettei chance to get to know each othei anu builu stiong
Finally, the existence of the geneializeu anu mutual ex-
change of seivices anu activities between the paiticipants
International Journal Of Community Currency Research 2011 Volume 15 (A) 13-22 Molnar
in time banking associations fosteis the giowth of noims of
iecipiocity anu tiust.
To summaiize, the giowth of empoweiment anu social
capital within TNB can at least paitially be attiibuteu to the
fact that TNB is a time-banking initiative. Neveitheless, the
mutual exchange of activities iathei than the use of a time-
baseu cuiiency most likely accounts foi the laigest pait of
this giowth. Still, whethei oi not the exchange of activities
is meuiateu by an actual cuiiency, TNB functions in the
same way as all time banking initiatives: the paiticipants
shaie theii time with othei people by cieating activities foi
each othei. Time is seen as a iesouice - a foim of capital - to
which all people have access. Within TNB anu similai initia-
tives, a foim of "time capital" is exchangeu between inui-
viuuals, anu as a iesult of this, it is tiansfoimeu into othei
foims of capital, in this case into a "capital of powei" (em-
poweiment) anu into "social capital."
This papei has investigateu the majoi challenges facing
TNB since its initiation in August, 2uu7. The papei has also
focuseu on what TNB has achieveu uuiing this peiiou, with
special attention to empoweiment anu social capital.
Since its stait, TNB has faceu foui majoi challenges, which
continue to piesent themselves touay. These challenges can
be summaiizeu as follows. Fiist, the time cieuit-system has
not yet been applieu successfully. The inteiviews ievealeu a
gieat confusion among the paiticipants conceining how the
time cieuits woik; this confusion uiminishes the iespon-
uents' iespect foi the time-cieuit system, theieby unuei-
mining many of its potential auvantages. Seconu, being an
active paiticipant in TNB iequiies a significant time com-
mitment, in contiast to time-banking initiatives baseu on
an exchange of seivices, which ieuuce paiticipants' time
constiaints. This leaus us to the thiiu challenge facing TNB,
namely, the uifficulties in attiacting paiticipants piepaieu
to embiace the iesponsibility of cieating activities. Last but
not least, although TNB is maue up of inuiviuuals fiom uif-
feient backgiounus, theie is a lack of socialization between
these inuiviuuals.
What has TNB achieveu in teims of empoweiment anu
social capital. As a iesult of theii engagement with the oi-
ganization, paiticipants have gaineu new iesouices, aie
consiueieu as assets by the oiganization, anu have, at least
in some cases, shapeu the activities of TNB. This allows us
to concluue that TNB has empoweieu its paiticipants. At
the same time, theie is at least one mattei that hinueis
fuithei empoweiment, namely that TNB is oveily uepenu-
ent on the pioject managei. Finally, as this stuuy has shown,
TNB has inueeu leu to an inciease in social capital among
the paiticipants engageu in its activities. This social capital
is mostly baseu on weak ties, wheieas stiong ties seem to
be less common. Both biiuging anu bonuing social capital
exist within TNB, but the lattei is moie pievalent. TNB is
peimeateu by noims of iecipiocity anu tiust.
The mutual giving anu ieceiving that chaiacteiize time
banking initiatives allow the paiticipants to leain new
skills, which incieases theii self-confiuence anu leaus to the
foimation of new social netwoiks, often between people of
uiffeient backgiounus. It is theiefoie piobable that TNB, as
a time-banking initiative, has hau a positive effect on the
empoweiment anu social capital of its paiticipants.
Fiom my analysis, some iecommenuations foi TNB's futuie
anu foi othei time banking initiatives incluue:
- TNB has not yet successfully implementeu the use of
time cieuits. If the potential benefits of the cieuits aie
to be ieapeu, the paiticipants must be able to tiust
that they will obtain cieuits foi the activities they
oiganize anu must pay cieuits foi the activities in
which they paiticipate. Theiefoie, TNB shoulu ue-
velop concise anu thoiough iules foi how anu when
time cieuits aie to be useu, while ensuiing that these
iules aie actually followeu.
- Paiticipants have uifficulty unueistanuing how the
time cieuit system woiks. TNB must bettei commu-
nicate the iole of the cieuits, not only to paiticipants,
but also to non-TNB membeis.
- Some TNB paiticipants have pieviously belongeu to
othei civic oiganizations. Theiefoie, to fostei the
cieation of biiuging social capital, TNB must attiact
inuiviuuals who aie not membeis of such oiganiza-
tions. These inuiviuuals often have low levels of em-
poweiment anu social capital, incieasing theii value
foi meeting the objectives of TNB.
- TNB's emphasis on attiacting people living in the
neaiby aiea is misguiueu. Attempts shoulu also be
uiiecteu at attiacting people fiom wealthiei neigh-
boihoous because this woulu facilitate the cieation of
not only bonuing anu biiuging, but also linking social
capital, that is, a foim of social capital baseu on iela-
tionships between inuiviuuals of uiffeient wealth anu
social status.
- TNB has been moie successful at cieating bonuing
social capital than it has been at cieating biiuging
social capital, paitly because people of similai back-
giounus tenu to engage in similai activities. By cieat-
ing even moie activities that engage people fiom uif-
feient backgiounus, the amount of biiuging social
capital piouuceu by TNB coulu be incieaseu.
- The pioblem that TNB anu its paiticipants aie highly
uepenuent upon the pioject managei must be ieme-
uieu. All paiticipants shoulu be alloweu to take ie-
sponsibility foi aiianging activities. 0ne way of uoing
this woulu be to appoint paiticipants to ioles with
specific iesponsibilities assigneu to each.
International Journal Of Community Currency Research 2011 Volume 15 (A) 13-22 Molnar
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This papei has uealt with the achievements anu challenges
of a specific time banking initiative - namely TiusNätveiket
i Beigsjon (TNB). TNB is the fiist, anu so fai only, time
banking initiative in Sweuen. Bowevei, what aie the futuie
possibilities foi getting a biggei time banking community in
Sweuen. Is theie ioom foi time banking within the Sweuish
welfaie society. This is suiely a topic foi a papei on its
own. Bowevei, I will heie point towaius some contempo-
iaiy tienus in Sweuen that might be able to offei a few
clues to the question.
0n the one hanu, ceitain people in Sweuen might see time
banking as a thieat towaius some of the majoi featuies of
the welfaie state, namely jobs anu salaiies in the public anu
piivate sectois. Similaily, some might view time banking as
an intiuuei on a teiiitoiy that by tiauitional stanuaius
shoulu be occupieu by the public sectoi, namely healthcaie
anu social suppoit. These factois coulu pievent the futuie
giowth of time banking in Sweuen. 0ne moie such factoi is
the moie oi less total lack of awaieness of the existence of
time banking among the Sweuish population. Without a
public uiscussion about the pios anu cons of time banking
anu othei community cuiiencies, we can nevei hope foi
getting a flouiishing time banking community in Sweuen.
Similaily, time banking of the seivice-baseu kinu simply
won't be able to flouiish in Sweuen, if inuiviuuals aie taxeu
foi the seivices that they ieceive, which is something that
has been noteu pieviously in this papei.
0n the othei hanu, as in othei countiies, Sweuen has seen
the iise of a new foim of goveinance uuiing iecent yeais -
something that has been calleu New Public Nanagement
(NPN) (Nilsson, 2uuS: 464). Theie is much to be saiu about
this tienu in itself. But one thing is tiue. With its auvocacy
of multi-centieu goveinance anu uecentialisation, NPN
might ienuei possible new, innovative welfaie solutions,
such as time banking. 0ne thing that hints towaius such a
uevelopment is the fact that SKL (the Sweuish Association
of Local Authoiities anu Regions) - an impoitant actoi
within the Sweuish political lanuscape - see co-piouuction
as one of theii futuie commitments (Beigstianu, 2u1u).
The same goes foi the fact that the social economy has
come to play a gieatei iole in the countiy in iecent yeais,
employing moie people anu iaising laigei sums of money
than befoie (Rothstein, 2uuS). The Sweuish goveinment
also expects the social economy to become moie heteioge-
neous anu focuseu on innovation anu entiepieneuiship in
the futuie, as well as to become a moie accomplisheu pai-
ticipant in the ueliveiy of welfaie solutions to the citizens
of the countiy (Piop 2uu9¡1u:SS: 98). This new cultuie of
civic engagement fits time banking veiy well. Last but not
least, theie exist politicians at the national level who woik
towaius iefoiming the tax-system in a way that woulu
benefit time banking (Nutt, 2u1u).
To sum up, as long as the juiisuictional anu political climate
looks the way it uoes, I uon't see any biggei oppoitunities
foi time banking in Sweuen othei than when it comes to the
mouel that is useu within TNB. But, with piesent tienus
anu some futuie policy changes, time banking can come to
play an impoitant iole in guiuing the Sweuish welfaie soci-
ety into the futuie.
Alsop, R et al, (2uu6) Empoweiment in piactice: fiom analyses to
implementation, (The Inteinational Bank foi Reconstiuction anu
Bevelopment¡ TBE W0RLB BANK, Washington, BC)
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poweiment i teoii och piaktik, Askheim, 0. et al (2uu7) (uleeiups
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Beinaiu, R. B. (2uu6) Reseaich methous in anthiopology. Qualita-
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(S), 24-S8
Boyle, B. (2uuS) The New Nutualism anu the Neaning of Time
Banks. In Local Economy. August 2uuS, vol. 18, No. S, 2SS-27u.
Cahn, E. S. 2uu4. "No Noie Thiow-Away People: The Co-Piouuction
Impeiative". (Essential Books, Washington BC)
Collom, E. (Publ. 2uu8) "Engagement of the Elueily in Time Bank-
ing: The Potential foi Social Capital ueneiation in an Aging Soci-
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