Barter System for Volunteers
25 September 2014 at 11:10 am
A new approach to volunteering in New South Wales that is based on a barter system allowing volunteers to exchange ‘time credits’ for time they volunteer is gaining national support.
Director of NSW Volunteering Simon Watts said that in just under two years the initiative, called Timebanking, was already covering 64 communities across NSW, covering 80 per cent of the state’s population.
Watts said Timbanking was good for everyone involved.
“People who volunteer and claim credit for their contribution may ask another person for support with something they need,” he said.
“They make this request with dignity and confidence, knowing they’re making a contribution to someone else themselves.”
“It’s the cumulative effect of 4,800 members exchanging more than 14,000 hours of support.
“That adds up to a whole lot of new more positive outcomes for individuals, families and communities, and much of this contribution wouldn’t be provided without Timebanking.”
The initiative has already proved to be successful in the United Kingdom.
NSW Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello said he was excited to see Timebanking grow to its current size.
“Timebanking is a rapidly growing concept in Australia and enables members to bank these time credits and redeem them later if they require a service, such as help around the home or support with getting the shopping,” Dominello said.
“This system can also assist local NGOs recruit volunteers and help coordinate the vital services they provide to community. The more volunteers we have in our community, the stronger our community is as a result.
“Timebanking is a key initiative of the NSW Government’s Volunteering Strategy, it gives communities the capacity to provide innovative recognition and support for volunteers.”
Simon Watts said he saw Timebanking evolving into an Australia-wide program.
“We’re very hopeful – it makes sense for it to be available across state borders – families could accrue hours in one location and gift them, for instance, to an ageing parent in another place.. We’re certainly open to conversations from people who are interested in nurturing trials in their communities,” he said.
“Our evaluation demonstrated that a third of respondents were new to volunteering – we expect that is pretty typical across the Timebanking members. Not many organisations that recruit volunteers could say that a consistent one third of their volunteers were new to volunteering.”
With debate about the current definition of volunteering enveloping the sector, Watts said Timebanking participants could still be considered volunteers despite getting something in return.
“Modern scientific research is making it clear that substantial personal benefits shower down on volunteers: they live longer, they feel better, they have better well-being, greater trust, and greater social connection,” he said.
“A little internet coaching or learning how to use Coles online or a few English lessons are modest (but highly valued) additional benefits in the face of the multitude of benefits volunteers already enjoy. The reason 6.4 million Australians get up each day and volunteer must surely be associated with ‘it feels good’.
Watts said the team behind Timebanking were working on establishing it in 20 recently announced new communities, finding auspice organisations that might want volunteers to act as brokers between those offering services and those with needs.
More information on Timebanking can be found here.