Connecting Communities at Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Time Currencies in Cambridgeshire: Exchanging Time, Connecting Communities’ attracted an audience of over 60 people who were keen to learn more about how Time Credit and Timebank initiatives across Cambridgeshire are encouraging more people to give time to their community more often, sharing skills and passions to support change within their local community, and helping them to access a whole range of activities as recognition for the time they give.

Cambridgeshire Timebanks usually offer person to person exchanges of skill and time e.g. someone helps with another person’s gardening for two hours and “banks” two hours which they can later use when they need help with something. There are established Timebanks in Littleport, Cambourne, Somersham and St Neots.

Caline Easey, co-ordinator of Littleport Timebank said:

“We’ve been using Time Credits in Littleport for about two years. In Littleport, we give Timebank members the option to exchange Timebank hours they’ve earned for Time Credits. I wanted to give that choice: it can be really hard for Timebanks to engage young people, and Time Credits were a way to encourage our local young people to think differently about volunteering and to bridge the gap between young and older volunteers.”

Young volunteer Emma added:

“Initially I thought I didn’t have anything to offer – until meeting Caline who encouraged me to start giving time. I was impressed by how easy the Time Credits were to use and I spent mine at Peckover House in Wisbech with my boyfriend. It felt rewarding: I’d done a few simple things in my community, and now here I was enjoying a really pleasant afternoon in nice surroundings – sort of on my community’s behalf.”

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The event offered a fascinating insight into emerging findings from research into the public health outcomes of Time Credits conducted by the University of Cambridge that illustrates their impact on individuals, communities and local spend partners. Dr Gemma Burgess heads up the research team:

“Our discussions and the emerging evidence so far suggest that Time Credits can make a really positive difference to people’s lives, as well as bringing about change within organisations and the wider community. It is a great learning experience for us as a research team. We’re excited to share our findings at this year’s event.”

Partnerships Manager, Daryl Emes, with Time Credits spend partner Better Leisure adds:

“The direct health benefits to people exercising and taking part in activities is what we’re all about. We’ve seen huge positive benefits of people coming in to use our facilities for their own health and well-being, and the University of Cambridge research has shown that indirect impact with a reduction in loneliness and social exclusion through people spending the credits. We’ve seen Time Credits spend grow over the last year and we’re looking to progress this relationship more.”

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Time Credits encourage individuals to volunteer for the community, in return for which they receive a Time Credit for each hour they give. The credit can be “spent” on community, cultural and leisure activities in their area and across the national network of partners, for example at the Tower of London, Blackpool Tower or a whole range of Museums in Cambridgeshire. Since 2013, over 1200 people have given 20,000 hours back to their communities across the county. Mark Caffrey, Senior Project Manager with Spice said:

“This year’s Festival of Ideas was a great opportunity to bring together local volunteers, community groups and businesses to share how getting involved in their community has made such a big difference to people’s lives. We hope the event sparked new ideas, new interest and encourages more people to get involved.”

Initial audience feedback suggests this was the case:

“It was interesting beyond my expectations. It was very moving to hear how the various schemes had reduced people’s isolation, improved mental health and helped get people into employment, as well as getting them involved in their communities and enabled parents to take children (and sometimes children to take their parents) to entertainments, to visit interesting places and to take part in sports, such as swimming, that they would not have otherwise been able to afford.”

 

To learn more about Time Credits and our work in Cambridgeshire and the East of England, contact Mark on 07429 449 163 or email markcaffrey@justaddspice.org