A Time Bank for Compassion: Giving Compassion a Value

China Development Brief, No. 52 (Winter 2011)

中文 English

As it, it is not the same for all. In the free market, the meaning and value of time may vary according to one’s identity and status. With this in mind, the American businessman Edgar Khan established a “time bank,” with the hope that it would bring economic benefits and encouragement for social change.  According to this model, there is no differentiation between types of work; whether building a house or looking after children, every person’s working hours have equal value.

Usually we say that compassion is priceless, but compassion is similar to work: when we exercise compassion, not only do we devote our energy and physical strength; we also devote our time.  Perhaps it can even be said that when people do volunteer work, the most valuable thing they contribute is their time. This is precisely how Hong Fang became inspired with the concept of a “time bank for compassion.”

As the founder of the Henan Enlai Charity and the China Time Bank for Compassion, Hong Fang has always had the understanding that “leadership takes the blame.”  Beginning in 1993, when he established small-scale projects such as the Learning from Lei Feng Group, the Close Friends Mailbox, and the Love Counseling Hotline to his more recent founding of the Henan Enlai Charity and the China Time Bank, Fang has acquired 18 years of experience in volunteer work. With so many years of experience, Fang noted that almost every year volunteers tended to leave because they lacked material support or encouragement, and further because they suffered three major types of losses– time, energy, and money. Fang found this very frustrating, and wanted to find a way to give volunteers some support in return for their efforts.

Inspired by the idea of a “time bank for compassion,” he began to gather relevant information, researching European and American methods of time banking.  He also contacted the Secretary-General of the Taiwan Time Bank, Wenxiang Ge, to seek professional guidance.  Finally, at the beginning of 2010, the “China Time Bank for Compassion” was born in Henan.

The time bank provides a mechanism to establish and implement mutual assistance and aid within the community. People can use their own labor, expertise, or interests to help others. Their volunteer hours are then recorded and “stored” in the time bank, to be saved until they have problems of their own and require assistance.  This mutual assistance method of exchanging services allows time to generate an exchange value.

With the emergence of time banking, the concept of “time currency” consequently emerged. Time banking in the United States slowly adopted the “time invoice” as a transaction certificate.  Japan uses a system of “care vouchers.” In Hong Kong, they primarily use “time coupons” to promote the exchange of community residents services and goods. For example, Oxfam Hong Kong, sponsored the publication of time coupons in amounts of one hour, a half hour, a quarter hour, and five minutes.

Unlike the United States’ “time checks,” the China Time Bank for Compassion uses a “passbook” as a way to record volunteer service hours, a method closer to Chinese people’s financial habits.  But Fang also wanted the passbook to have a “creative” aspect, so while the front pages are used to record volunteer service hours and use of care time, the back pages are filled with discounts.  The first is a hotel discount, with which volunteers with a passbook can enjoy a special rate of RMB 50. The next discount is from a technology company, which provides free computer repair for volunteers every Saturday afternoon. There are also a number of jewelry and clothing shops offering VIP privileges.  Fang said, “We want to draw in some sympathetic companies and establish a coalition of like-minded businesses. The time banking passbook is a multi-pass: to store volunteer time, show consumed volunteer hours, and to give volunteers discounts and material rewards.”

In addition to the passbook, the time bank also utilizes an online facility, the Volunteer Network Management System, to manage “compassion time.” In addition to using their passbooks, volunteers can also upload their information to the online time bank service.  This way, it is possible to check a volunteer’s accumulated service hours at any place or time.

The Time Bank for Compassion has been established for over a year now and has seen relatively slow growth.  “Because this model is not very clearly defined, we need to explore it slowly,” Hong said: “We printed 70,000 copies of the passbook, but currently only have 10,000 books in circulation.  In May this year, we set up networks in Henan province’s five cities, and in May next year we will start focusing on other cities nationwide.  Although we already have connections in Shaanxi, Beijing, Zhejiang and other places who wish to cooperate with us, we hope to progress slowly; we don’t want to advance too quickly only to find out that we have used up all of our resources.”

Contact: Fang Hong
Phone: 13523019005

时间,或许是人人都拥有,却可能人人都不同的东西。 在资本市场,因为时间拥有者的身份、地位的不同,其时间具有的意义和价值也会发生变化。 因而美国人埃德加·卡恩创立了时间银行这种模式,他希望这种模式能为社会变革带来一些经济和精神效益。 根据这种模式,劳动不分贵贱,不管是盖房子,还是照顾小孩,每个人的工作时间都是平等的。
通常我们都说爱心是无价的,可是如同工作一样,当我们献爱心的时候,除了付出的精力、体能等,还需要付出时间。 甚至可以说,在某种程度上人们在献爱心、做志愿服务时付出的最大代价就是自己的时间。 正是如此,《温暖的“时间银行”》一文启发了方红。
作为河南恩来公益和中国爱心时间银行发起人,方红一直有一种深深的“领袖负罪感”。 从1993年创办“学雷锋小组”、“知心朋友信箱”、“真爱心理咨询热线”等小打小闹到成立河南恩来公益、爱心时间银行,方红已经有18年的志愿者工龄。 这么多年的志愿者经历,几乎每年都有志愿者因为在缺乏物质和精神支持的公益事业当中并未获得相应回报,不再能“三赔”而离开——赔时间、赔精力、赔金钱。 这让方红很痛苦,他想找到一个途径,给志愿者在精神和物质上都有所支持。
在《温暖的“时间银行”》的启发下,他开始搜集相关信息,研究欧美国家关于时间银行的做法,并联系到台湾时间银行秘书长葛文祥,获得专业性的指导。 2010年年初,“中国爱心时间银行”在河南诞生了。
时间银行提供了一种建立、实施社区互助合作的机制。 每一个人都可以用自己劳动、专长或者兴趣来帮助他人。 当人们提供志愿服务后,可以将服务时间记录存储下来;而后,当其生活中遭遇困境、产生问题需要他们帮助时,就可以将储存的服务时间提取出来,接受其他人的帮助、服务。 这是一种交换服务的社群互助合作方式,让时间产生了交换价值。
相应地,在时间银行概念出现后,“时间货币”也应运而生。 在时间银行的起源地美国,一些时间组织采用的撕“时间发票”做为交易凭证。 日本使用的是“照护券”(tickets for caring relationship)系统。 在香港,主要是透过“时分券”,促进社区内居民服务及货品的交换;例如,香港乐施会赞助发行的时分券共分为1小时、1/2小时、1/6小时、1/12小时四种面额。
不同于美国的“时间支票”,中国爱心时间银行采用了“时间存折”方式记录志愿服务时间,从而更加贴近中国老百姓的金融习惯。 与此同时,方红还在这本存折上做了“创意”,存折正面用来记录志愿者的服务时间、储存和消费爱心时间。 存折的背面则有折扣优惠。 存折第一页是酒店,志愿者凭存折可以享受50元义工价;倒数第二个是一家电子科技公司,每周六下午免费为志愿者修电脑;还有一些饰品店、服装店的VIP功能。 方红说,“我们想拉进一些爱心企业,建立爱心商家联盟,将爱心存折做成多功能通行证,第一是存储爱心时间,第二是消费爱心时间,第三是打折功能,给予志愿者一定的优惠折扣和部分物质奖励。”
除了纸质的爱心存折外,爱心银行还采用网上《志愿者网络管理系统》管理“爱心时间”。 当志愿者在爱心银行的合作机构服务后,相关机构不仅会在“爱心时间存折”上填写相关内容,还会将志愿者的服务内容和时间等信息上传到爱心时间银行网上。 这样,无论志愿者在何时何地,都可以通过身份证号查看个人累积的服务时间。
如今,爱心时间银行已经成立一年多了,爱心时间银行在低调缓慢的成长。 “因为这个模式还不是很清晰,需要慢慢的摸索。”方红说:“爱心存折我们印刷了7万,但目前只是投放了1万多本。同样的,我们今年5月份才联网了河南省的 5个城市,明年5月份开始面向全国部分城市。虽然已经有陕西,北京,浙江等地的组织联系我们,发出合作意愿,但我们希望走慢一些,不想突飞猛进,把资源耗费掉。”

Translated by Sophie Chadd

Reviewed by Jane Lukisch