Principles for timebanking software

Intro: Now is a crucial time.

Timebanking organisations worldwide are considering choices for the next generation of software. Recently, the Aotearoa (New Zealand) Timebank software working group published a report digging in to many aspects of timebank software and the needs of timebanks.

We, the global timebanking movement, have not made good software decisions to date. Timebanks have struggled with complex, hard to use software. Some have found themselves 'captured' by specific platforms that are not only hard to use, but - much worse - hard to improve (for both organisational and technical reasons).

As people deeply invested in timebanking or with experience in this type of software we feel it is vital that the timebanking community make better decisions. We have laid out these principles as our offering to help better inform these decisions going forward.

What software actually does and whether it is user friendly are important things to consider. But other considerations are also important.

In particular, software lives and grows (or stagnates and dies) on the organisational and governance structures that bring it to life and support it. For this reason, we also emphasize the importance of the organisational and governance structures that come into play in the relationships between timebanks and the software they rely on.

The seven principles

1. Timebanking software should be attractive and easy to use.

  • It can be hard to make something simple and easy, but research indicates that intimidating and complex websites are a key pain point for many users so this needs to be a key focus.

  • Timebank software should not get in the way of people. Timebanks primarily allow people to connect and share with other people. The software must support genuine relationships and a living community.

  • Involving end users (individuals and organizations) in the design process and paying attention to the importance of good design is essential to achieve this goal.

  • Timebanking software should meet W3C accessibility standards and be fully translatable, including for RTL(Right to Left) languages

  • The use of language and especially the transaction data have an important effect on users, and if not customisable, should at least be oriented away from finance and the market, towards the gift economy.

2. Timebank software should be affordable for small groups.

  • Especially when starting out, timebank software needs to be accessible and affordable - for it to even be an option.

  • This seems like a hard goal but the range of free or cheap-for-social-groups options demonstrate it is achievable.

  • Larger groups and coalitions should use their greater resources to make software affordable and accessible for small timebanks.

  • To properly finance software requires a proper understanding of what the real costs are. Costs can broken down into software development, software maintenance maintenance, technical support, and documentation / training. These costs should be considered as part of almost all grant applications.

  • Open development should be encouraged where possible, as that can allow volunteer contributions to reduce costs, and to increase the involvement of multiple developer experiences.

  • Larger project development efforts should open the door for maintenance work and further software contributions to be done by volunteers in future iterations.

  • There are too many software development efforts in this space which do not collaborate towards a shared development effort. There should be more coordination of efforts.

  • Complexity and change create technical debt, meaning that every new feature adds to the cost of future maintenance, and they should be costed accordingly.

  • Software projects have a lifetime. It seems to be necessary to re-imagine and rebuild timebank software every 10-15 years or so. Budgets should be managed appropriately.

3. Timebank software should be designed to support timebank admins and integrate well with other tools

  • Individual timebanks should be offered as much customisation/configuration as possible, ideally with training, materials and support.

  • Timebank organisations, coordinators, administrators and committee members play a crucial role in all timebanks. Their needs and goals should be understood and incorporated into the software development process.

  • Coordinators can often achieve their goals using off the shelf technology tools in creative ways - provided only that it is possible to integrate with those tools.

  • Timebanking software should have export and import tools, as well as other integration options, that allow for the extensive use of third party tools.

  • Integrations should use open protocols wherever possible so as to allow for unexpected new integration requirements.

  • Coordinators should have tools that provide good visibility into all aspects of activity within their timebank.

4. Timebanks should have sovereignty over their software and currency.

  • Timebanks must have the option to choose their software. Even if shared options are available each timebank should be given as much autonomy as possible in making their own choices.

  • Timebanks should have the option to control how and under what conditions their timebank hours are created and redeemed.

  • Each timebank should have control over their domain name, email addresses and mailboxes.

  • A timebank shouldn't choose a platform if they don't have the ability to move to a different platform later - they shouldn't choose to walk through any 'one way' doors. In particular they should ensure they have the ability to export all of their membership and related data, and take it to a different platform.

  • Timebanks should avoid becoming excessively dependent on any single developer or web shop.

  • If a timebank (or a coalition) pays for new software development they should always ensure they receive the intellectual property and documentation so that they can move to another developer.

  • Ideally, new software should be released into the commons (as open source) so that other timebanks can also benefit from and contribute to it.

5. Timebanks should have kaitiakitanga (guardianship) over their data.

  • Timebanks should have the authority to access all the data relating to their members, but also have the responsibility to act as good and responsible guardians of that data.

  • Members should have some control over which info is visible to other members, and their timebank should have the ability, on their behalf, to control what other organizations can access that data.

  • It should be possible to produce 'anonymised' data, to share with other timebanks or the public.

  • Software should allow all data to be exportable in standard, readable, formats, such as csv. These exports should be comprehensive and include member contact information as well as trade data, offers, requests and any other data relating directly to their timebank.

6. Timebanks should have the option to inter-trade with other timebanks.

  • There has been a longstanding desire for inter-trade transactions between timebanks, it is time that this was designed in from the beginning.

  • Open protocols such as Credit Commons demonstrate that inter-trading can be possible - as an option - without compromising the sovereignty and choice of individual timebanks.

  • Timebanking is a global movement but most of the software platforms are 'silos' that isolate different groups and members, favouring competition between instead of collaboration amongst sister timebanks.

  • Interoperability between timebanks would help strengthen the movement's identity. For travelling members, or those living between two or more timebanks, common forums and merged offers, requests, and skills directories would make a big difference.

7. Timebanks should be able to make use of their communities to innovate, build unique solutions and manage costs.

  • Software should be written in a language/framework which is well established, and probably with a culture around it that supports sharing of information and even volunteering.

  • Each timebank is different and unique. It should be possible for it to build connections and collaborations with other groups in its own community. When necessary the software should encourage and not hinder these collaborations.

  • Timebanking software should have a strong shared core but also be extensible so that different groups can modify it. As a timebank grows it should have the option to take on greater responsibility for hosting and configuring its own software with unique contributions.

  • A timebank should be able to utilize the unique skills of its own members to build unique solutions and reduce costs where that is possible.

  • When awarding contracts, consideration should be given to the possibility to support and encourage volunteers and developers within local timebanks who are more likely to go the extra mile for their own timebank.

  • Timebanks may well want to get together to share hosting, development, software support and maintenance costs but that should be a choice that they make collectively (in their national organisations) or individually as timebanks.

Who are we?

We the undersigned (so far) are people who have been working in this space many years, either in the timebanking organisations or in related software engineering roles. Except where otherwise stated, they put their names in a personal capacity only.

  • Matthew Slater, CTO Community Forge, Co-Author of the CreditCommons protocol, Developer for Timebanking New South Wales, Author of Community Weaver accounting module

  • Miles Thompson. member of Aotearoa NZ Timebanks Software Working Group, Fmr President Kāpiti Timebank, Co-founder of the Together Project

  • Dil Green, Co-Founder of Brixton LETS, and Mutual Credit Services, UK

  • Dean Harliwich, Timebanks of Canterbury project manager, Fmr Aotearoa Timebanks facilitator.

  • Tim Jenkin, creator of Community Exchange Systems (CES)

  • Stephanie Rearick fmr board of TBUSA, founder of Dane County TimeBank, Founder and Director of Humans United in Mutual Aid Networks

  • Phil Stevens, Living Economies advocate and local currency founder

  • Annelie Stephenson founder of Top Of The South COmmunity SHares

  • Sergi Alonso cofounder of association and TimeOverflow developer

  • Karel Boele project manager of Timebanking New South Wales

  • Jim Tate CEO (Emeritus) of (Los Angeles)

  • Alana Kane Wellington Timebank Coordinator and Aotearoa Timebanks facilitator.

  • Anna Dunford (Regional Coordinator) and Janine McVeagh (Hokianga Local Coordinator) on behalf of the full Tai Tokerau Timebank coordination team (Aotearoa)

  • Eric L. Bachman Technical Coordinator for TimeBanks.Org / Community Weaver 3 and on the team of coordinators for the Onion River Exchange timebank and the Time for All timebank.

  • Abby Greer founder, Kent Community Timebank and Crooked River Alliance of Timebanks.

  • Tony Budak founder, coach, and event host at Time Bank Mahoning Watershed and Raising the Value of Learning using time currency with shared activities.

  • Stephen V Beckett, John Saare, Terry Daniels founders of hOurworld.

  • **Steve Bosserman, founder of Care and Share Time Bank (Columbus, OH)

Add your name / get involved.

If you are involved in timebanking we'd like to have your support. We ask you to join us in supporting these principles.

Please drop an email to to express your thoughts. With your permission, we may then add your name above.

Please also forward this page to anyone else in the movement who might be interested.

We have a collaborative workspace and a more solutions focused shared document we are collaborating on. Please contact us at the above address and we can we invite you into the shared collaboration space.

We are, of course, open to any feedback or suggestions at the above address also.


It is our hope that by publishing these principles the timebanking movement will be better informed, and strengthened in its resolve to make powerful and principled choices about timebanking software.

Smart decisions and principled choices will serve us well now and in the long term. Timebanking will easier, better, and more accessible as a result.

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