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Time credits scheme reenergises volunteering

Oct 27th 2014
The back of a time credit note. Photo: Spice Innovations
The back of a time credit note. Photo: Spice Innovations

Volunteers are swapping skills for thrills with a scheme that earns them time credits to spend at a range of social outlets. The Spice Innovations scheme aims to galvanise volunteering across the UK and is now turning its attention to corporate world. Emily Wight spoke to CEO Becky Booth about their work.

Becky Booth, CEO at social enterprise Spice, has the City in her sights.

Booth wants to grow the number of City businesses engaging with a new concept in volunteering; a time credits scheme that turns an hour’s volunteering into an hour at a local gym, community centre-run film night or entry to the Tower of London.

“We’re looking at how individual companies could partner with Spice to open up their services for Time Credits, support their employees to be involved in their local communities and sponsor community activities,” she said.

Spice - so called because the organisation sees itself as an “extra ingredient” - is an initiative that grew out of an institute at the University of Wales. In 2009, it had a team of just two people; now, it comprises 35 people and runs 27 projects across the UK. In London Spice are being supported by the City Bridge Trust and Nesta to grow to the next level.

Time Credits value everybody in a way that money doesn’t. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting on the board of a housing association or planting bulbs as part of an environmental project: your time is worth the same”, said Booth.

Spice currently has over 300 places that accept Time Credits for their services. These venues are a diverse mix of corporate, public sector and community venues. You can spend your credits at theatres, sports venues, cultural activities and training course across the UK.  The programme is providing businesses with tangible opportunities to support local communities and support their own businesses by growing their customer base, increasing secondary take and diversifying their audiences.

An external evaluation of the impact of its programmes and has found them to be positive for individuals, communities and organisations: “We are addressing clearly identified challenges in society. Local authorities, schools, housing associations and community organisations see credits as a high impact tool for increasing the number and types of volunteer and creating a new way to value the contribution of people in communities. For individuals there are huge effects to getting involved in this way, 65% of our participants say that their quality of life has improved and 45% feel healthier.”

One of Spice’s partners, the City of London Corporation, is supported by Spice to run a Time Credit system that increases the involvement of its residents. The Corporation already supports over 500 people, 30 local groups and services to get involved with time credits, including 11 housing estates across five London boroughs, in which housing officers work with the community to shape and deliver services to suit their needs. 

Booth said: “There are many groups and community projects that run on these estates. For example, gardening and wildlife groups, befriending, good neighbours and women’s groups, as well as groups who meet to organise events and activities.” The Time Credit system is successfully attracting people who have never been involved in their communities before.

“These schemes have the potential to create a London-wide currency that bring London’s communities, public services and businesses together to create a thriving community underwritten by a social currency that values the many not just the few,” she added.

HOW SPICE TIME CREDITS WORK

Time credits operate as a complementary social currency, with each note worth one hour of time. If someone donates an hour of their time to a partner project - whether a council-run service, a housing association or a local school - they will ‘earn’ an hour to ‘spend’ at a participating outlet or to buy somebody else’s time. So you could swap it for an hour’s babysitting, a gym session, or save up a few credits to spend on a family film night.

Schemes across the UK work with local private partners. The City Scheme partners with institutions such as the Barbican, the Tower of London and St Paul’s which all accept time credits.

Spice currently works with 16,000 people, over 700 public services and community organisations and over 300 venues that accept time credits.

To find out how you can get involved as a corporate partner from the City, contact admin@justaddspice.org

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