Healthy Community Economy

or... The Birth of Mutual Aid Networks (MANs)

Since 2011, the Dane County TimeBank – joining forces with Madison Hours – has been evaluating how we can better apply cooperative economic tools to strengthen our local communities. We are currently working on ways to connect timebanking and mutual credit with other types of cooperative resource management to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of these systems, while building economic and social benefits for the community.

In the course of this exploration Madison Hours disbanded Dec. 31, 2013 and we are currently designing a cooperative super-structure designed to steward timebanking, other forms of sharing and mutual credit, and cooperative saving/community investment pools in the service of supporting good work. This framework is called Mutual Aid Networks. Details and updates can be found at

Madison Hours is a paper currency and an electronic mutual credit system. Madison Hours paper currency began in 1995 and the price-based electronic mutual credit system was created in 2009. Madison Hours are tallied both in hour units and dollar units. One Madison Hour is worth $10. Madison Hours are able to be used in business settings and are taxable just like cash transactions, and transactions are completely negotiable (i.e. a member can charge several Madison Hours per hour of work or can charge any combination of cash and Madison Hours.) Madison Hours paper currency can be traded anonymously and available for use by members and non-members alike.

Dane County TimeBank is also an electronic mutual credit system. It differs from the Madison Hours electronic system because it operates by standard timebank rules:

  • TimeBank hours cannot be exchanged, bought or sold for dollars. Every hour of service is worth one TimeBank Hour, no matter what the service is or who is providing it.
  • The exchange rate is non-negotiable - one hour=one hour
  • Only TimeBank members can conduct TimeBank exchanges.

The boards of Madison Hours and Dane County TimeBank are beginning to explore the possibility of housing all of these systems cooperatively and potentially adding additional tools to increase our collective sustainability and effectiveness.

  • Housing all offers and requests in one system will increase the resources available to participants in both systems
  • Housing the systems together will help alleviate confusion among community members about the different systems, their functions, and purposes
  • Housing the systems together will increase organizational resources available to both systems.
  • Housing the systems together will enable us to experiment with how varying forms of complementary currencies can work together to increase the potential economic and social benefits to the community

·These lessons can be applied to global work in understanding how to improve the effectiveness of complementary currencies

This project has yielded an experiment in developing and implementing a new type of networked cooperative, Mutual Aid Networks, designed to ‘create means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community.’ A pilot is forming here in Madison Wisconsin with the Dane County TimeBank as one of its founding members. Learn more at  Learn about its development at the  Mutual Aid Network Blog, going back to the project’s inception as a DCTB project in 2010.