ATEN from a New Member’s Perspective

** (Next new member gathering:  Sunday, March 11th  – 4pm @ Soma Vida – 1210 Rosewood Ave.)**

Bridging the Gap
by Bill Crumley

When I was a youngster with a dollar bill I could get a school lunch, a haircut, a bus ride, and a candy bar. And I still had twenty cents left. Several persons have told me: “We were poor then but we didn’t know it. In terms of the amount of money they had, they were poor. In terms of their ability to obtain necessary goods and services they were not poor. That is the truth that “time banks” recognize. One of these “time banks” is the Austin Time Exchange Network (ATEN) in Austin, Texas. The stated goal of ATEN is “to serve as a bridge between people from different economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds by providing the opportunity for interaction through the exchanging of services. All of this aims to encourage systemic social change, economic equality, and community empowerment in Austin.”

The goal of ATEN is not to increase the money supply. The goal is to serve as a BRIDGE between people from different economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. The reason for building the bridge is not simply exchanging services. The Network is founded to help bring about social change. This change is to help create economic equality. The basic unit of exchange is a not a dollar which is a debt. The basic unit is an hour of service which is an asset, not a liability. Rather than a dollar which is created by a central bank, the hour of service is created in the local community by the members of the community. The members create their own currency. This greatly empowers the community.

ATEN and other “time banks” are possible because of rising costs and lower income. In addition to these obvious difficulties people were also aware that they were taking less care of one another. There was a breakdown of families and of neighborhoods. There was less personal contact. Truly they are more than barter networks. They are “time banks”. The time we invest in bettering ourselves and our community is the real wealth of any community.

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