I’ve been speaking about community growth and resilience since I finished my Masters mid 2014. Everytime I talk about how I’ve grown community for Bo and I people ask me the same question, ‘but how do I find community?’ People often tell me stories of communities that are full of cliques or don’t seem very welcoming, I hear tales of stories from people who have moved to a new town and who still years later are struggling to find an in with the local community. People often talk about community as if it’s some magical club with a secret password to get in… as if some people are welcome and others are not.
I don’t believe it.
Community is everywhere you look. It’s inside each and every one of us. Belonging to a community is one of our most human needs, it’s part of our history, it’s in us and it’s undeniable.
You cannot make a community accept you. You cannot build a community when your impulse is self serving. You cannot create community for yourself.
But what you can do is very powerful. You can allow yourself to be vulnerable. You can offer a hand to someone you don’t know. You can engage and involve other people in you community on projects and you can do things for your neighbours with no expectation of reciprocity. You can connect with other human beings for no other reason than for the sake of connection. When you do this… something magical happens. Communities reveal themselves.
If you do this you will find that you are apart of a community that you didn’t even know existed. Generosity breeds generosity. Kindness breeds kindness. It’s not about charity, but about people coming together, for the benefit of eachother. When we do this, suddenly things that were not possible become possible again. When we trust in other people we encourage the trustworthiness that already exists within them.
We have a choice. We can choose to race and fight to the elusive top and then we can stand there alone. Or we can choose to stop. We can choose to push back against what our modern structure tells us to do and instead work together, welcome eachother and stand together as the equals that we are.
I know what I choose. Do you? About eight months ago I sat in a cold hall in Fremantle and listened to some world leaders in economics and sustainability talk about growing resilient communities. For the first time I heard the term ‘Timebanking’ – a system where community members trade in time, every hour of time they spend doing something for someone else earns them 1 time credit and in turn, they can spend that credit on getting someone else to do something for them. INstead of creating direct trades, you open up the system to a diverse community where everyone is an asset. Where everyone has something to offer. Where every skill is valuable. I was amazed by the idea. I was inspired by it.
The next day I sat with a friend of mine and I explained the concept. I told her I wanted to set one up here and I wanted to do it with her. So we worked, we created a strong working group of six local community minded people and over six months we drank a lot of coffee, had a lot of healthy debates, had meetings and conversations and developed guidelines and agreements and developed a program that would work where we live. It’s not a new idea. Timebanks work in cities and towns all over the world… but they didn’t here, in this little pocket of the South West.
On Saturday we launched our time bank with a wonderfully passionate and engaged trial group and in a few months time we will open it up to the local public of the Bunbury Region.
I remember when I first arrived in this town just over two years ago. I was a lonely, isolated single mother. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have any connections. I didn’t have a security net of any kind. I wish I could go back to that scared and broken person I was two years ago, give myself a great big hug and tell myself, ‘mate, you’ve got this. Everything is going to be OK.’ Because now I look around at these people who have worked so hard to make a little dream of mine (whcih then became a dream of each and every one of us) come to life, and I’m so proud of everything we’ve all done to make this place such a wonderful place to live.
Now let the trades begin!
If you’d like to read a bit more about Timebanking: here is a good start.
If you’d like to read about our project: you can find it here.
If you’d like to follow our progress: you can do that here.
If you’d like to start your own Timebank (it’s totally possible) let us know, we are more than happy to share our documents, processes, information, decisions etc. with you. Get your working group together and then get in touch. It’s a share economy after all… we are stronger together.