Residents of Dubai will now be able to tap into a pool of services ranging from childcare and household chores to education and business services based entirely on how much time they spend offering their skills to others.
By doing away with the exchange of any money for services rendered or sought, three Dubai-based social entrepreneurs have launched Time Dirham – a time banking community that will quite simply swap services. It banks the hours one spends helping others and offers an equal amount of hours in lieu from any other community member/s for services required.
This initiative, pioneered by Dr Edgar Cahn in the US in the 1980s, and brought to the UAE by Shymaa Binbrek, Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh and Vasileios Klianis is a first for the region.
Hoping to grow social capital in the UAE and bring a fragmented society together, 25-year-old Bozorgzadeh told Emirates Business the idea to bring time banking to the country stemmed from his educational pursuits in regenerative culture.
"I'm involved in a few circles outside the UAE, in sustainable culture circles about how to get back community intelligence, social intelligence and social capital, which is intangible measure of what the quality of social life is in any city. With recession people tend to focus on parts and quality of life that don't necessarily depend on traditional monetary systems. This is a great platform, which allows people to participate with one another without involving money," said the Canadian-Iranian.
The time dirham allows members of the community to exchange skills and services without the necessity of direct cost or barter, so every hour is valuable independent of who the hour is from. Any one hour of service to the time bank community earns them a time dirham, which they can use to receive an hour of service in return. It is what is referred to as a complementary currency.
The launch of Timedirham.ae is what the trio dubbed their "grassroots, first phase" launch.
"We hope to grow the community through social networking, word-of-mouth and similar mediums. People just have to visit our site and join as members who are willing to use their skill sets to assist others. They can then use anyone else's skills for their own needs," explained
Twenty-five-year-old Emirati co-founder Shymaa Binbrek added that people from all walks of life now have the opportunity to become part of a "valuable force and [this allows] them to convert their free time into time dirhams by serving other members of the community".
This non-profit initiative comes with no charges whatsoever and will look at a second phase of sponsorship and alliances government and, or non-government organisations to support its minimal running costs. It will also look to draw in professionals as patrons.
Launched for just Dh3,000 after local group Socialize.ae developed the website for 10 'Time Dirhams' or quite literally 10 man hours, Timedirhams.ae hopes to attract between 500 and 700 members by winter, which is when it intends to seek basic funding.
"Our membership targets may be ambitious or not, we do not know. There is no concept of time bank in the region and Dubai is unique. So it's an experiment in seeing how the population relates to it," said Bozorgzadeh. A quick check revealed the trio spent a total of 160 Time Dirhams so far in launching this initiative.
To learn more about the Time Dirham or join the community, visit their website www.timedirham.ae or email firstname.lastname@example.org.