Builders Workshop #16 – Building a MAN: How Mutual Aid Networks can redesign work and build a regenerative economy


On Wednesday June 25, 4-6pm we held Builders Workshop #16 on how Mutual Aid Networks can redesign work and build a regenerative economy. I had the pleasure of co-presenting with new Time For the World/Mutual Aid Networks Co-Coordinator Chris Petit, who wrote these notes:

Our June builder’s workshop was focused on Mutual Aid Networks and how mutual aid networks can redesign work and build a regenerative economy.

We had an excellent mixture of people in attendance in-person from Madison and via teleconference from across the country. Stephanie and I presented about the concept and the tools and processes within Mutual Aid Networks. While Timebanking is great at building our core economy of caregiving, creativity, civic engagement and community building, we engaged in the exploration of other tools of mutual aid – cooperative saving and investment pools, price-based mutual credit, and shared resources – synergistically working together under a cooperative ownership umbrella.

We discussed the possibility of using member dues and patronage rebates to fund projects and work for the betterment of our communities. We explained how patronage points based on local project outcomes could be utilized to distribute funds from the community savings and lending pool. We learned about this concept from Janelle Orsi from the Sustainable Economies Law Center at the CommonBound Conference in Boston.

The presentation can be viewed here.

The handouts can be viewed here.

After the presentation, we discussed different ways that the Mutual Aid Network structure could be utilized in our different communities. In Madison, there was interest in creating a healing center using the MAN framework. We also discussed possibilities for providing support for co-housing, students, renewable energy production, and health care.

Below you can see the different ideas that arose during our discussion.

photo 1-2

We are continuing to move forward with pilot site selection and the momentum and enthusiasm for redesigning our work lives to serve our communities is ever increasing.

–Chris Petit, Co-Coordinator, Time For the World/Mutual Aid Networks

We did record this meeting, and connect with some far-flung people online for it, but the video file is enormous. I’ll shrink it and find a way to share a smaller version on request.

As always, thanks for reading. Stay tuned, there’s a lot happening!

Take care,




Builders Workshop #15: Creating a Transportation Network

transpo_slideOur April Builders Workshop centered on how to use timebanking to better meet our transportation needs.

We had about a dozen people in attendance.

Kristin Sage began with this slide presentation about how transportation exchanges currently work within Dane County TimeBank.

Carmen Smith, visiting PhD student from Bath University in England, graciously took notes. I especially appreciate her overall reflections at the end of the notes, which you can read here.

This is a long-delayed and cursory post, because there has been a massive amount of work to do since then. but the workshop was great and you can see details in the slides and notes.

Thanks for reading,



June tour report 2nd half: great conferences and site visits

photo 1-9The Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro Vermont.

Wow. This was great. It started really early the morning after we met the Yes Men in Brooklyn. That means we drove to Vermont after the Yes Fest ended at 10pm, and arrived at about 3am. Then up for Charles Eisenstein’s keynote at 8:30am. It was lovely, and accompanied by a great cellist, but I was a bit too tired to deal. So I had to take a nap during the first workshop session.

I came back just in time! My friend Marie Goodwin was eating lunch with Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life, and someone I’ve long wanted to meet. She’s fantastic! I sat with them at lunch and had a wonderful time. And talked with Vicki about Mutual Aid Networks, which she instantly really got the gist of and started envisioning how it could apply to her living well in her community whenever she finally ages. And she agreed to be on our Advisory Board! As did Charles Eisenstein when he showed up at lunch later. Hooray!

Later that afternoon the Brattleboro Time Traders, the local timebank, hosted a reception and featured Edgar Cahn, Gwen Hallsmith, photo 4-7Charles Eisenstein, and me as guests. It was really wonderful! A very special treat was that I met Eric Bachman, tech coordinator for TimeBanks USA and general great guy whom I’ve worked with off and on for 4 years but had never met in person. The whole event was really great, with some weighty conversation about community economics including timebanking, public banking, implications and promise of various approaches to economic and community life.

photo 1-8The next day I had the pleasure of attending Vicki Robin’s workshop on her new book and her work surrounding it, “Blessing the Hands that Feed Us” about her experiment with a 10-mile diet. Vicki is really funny and fun to listen to, and you learn a lot. It was really great.

Next session I was on the panel for “No More Throwaway People” with Edgar Cahn and Gwen Hallsmith. We focused on timebanking as part of a healthy community economy, plus ways we can connect with other photo 5-6community and economic approaches. It was well attended and there was some lively discussion. If I could remember all the details I’d share them here but alas, this was long ago and one of many conversations about the same topics, hot everywhere. Which is nice, but not always good for reporting on the details weeks later…

photo 3-8Immediately following our panel Chris and I sped off toward Boston to get to the CommonBound conference. This was huge. Sponsored by the New Economy Coalition, held at Northeastern University, there were about 600 people in attendance. The agenda was really meaty in a way that was exactly what I was looking for.

The first workshop I attended was the one I was most excited about, with Janelle Orsi from Sustainable photo 2-8Economies Law Center (SELC) and Marjorie Kelly from Democracy Collaborative, titled Deep Social Enterprise: Maximizing Impact through Structure and Governance.

photo 4-5I had met Janelle last year on my tour when I went to a SELC workshop on mutual aid societies, akin to the savings/lending/investment pools we aim to create within MANs. She is an amazing resource! and human! She has already helped me through a lot of the difficult legal questions around how we structure and operate.

I arrived early to the workshop and had a chance to talk with her more in-depth about MAN developments and came away super excited. In particular, I’m exploring ways that we can use member dues and rebates within the Main MAN as a way to channel money and other resources to MAN projects that are meeting various agreed-upon goals such as contributing to our shared infrastructure, assisting other MANs, accomplishing local goals, etc. It can be our own playground for how we better identify needs and assets and help resources flow more effectively.

The workshop itself was excellent. I learned a lot about various governance approaches and the value of exploring to find the right one. I also learned a lot from my conversations with John Bloom, of RSF Social Finance, who was at my table.

There was a lot of other good stuff at workshops and in plenaries but I have too much to report on to detail it all here. Other highlights photo 3-6for me: the table I joined for the participatory plenary. Topic was ‘enterprise’ and I happened to join a tablephoto 5-4 full of likeminded folks, including a woman from Romania who has developed a vision very similar to the MAN, and whom I hope to connect with much more! Plus Noemi from Data Commons (who I met at another fantastic workshop with the wonderful Pamela Boyce Simms of the transition movement), Crystal who does graphic design and communications work, and many more. And of course a great panel on timebanking and other complementary currencies, with Lisa Conlan-Lewis of New Hope Time Exchange, Linda Hogan of hOurworld, and Scott Morris of Ithacash (a MAN pilot site!)

The Saturday of the conference we stayed with Deborah Frieze, amazing activist and co-author ofphoto 1-6 Walk Out Walk On, a book that’s been very influential to me. Her place is gorgeous, including the Old Oak Dojo, a building she’s created to comply with Living Building certification standards. And always great to connect with her, she’s brilliant. Here’s a photo of some of the gardens in her gorgeous space.

photo 3-5And finally, after an excellent plenary with Adrienne Maree Brown of Kresge Arts, Gar Alperovitz of Democracy Collaborative, and Gopal Dayaneni of Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, we pulled together a little discussion just focused on Mutual Aid Networks, in the grass outside the conference after its end. Attending this were John Bloom of RSF, Julia Ho of MORE in St. Louis, seeking to become a MAN pilot site, photo 2-6Jenny Ladd of PV Network in Northampton MA,  Jennifer Ly and Aaron Tanaka of  Center for Economic Democracy in Boston, and Edgar Cahn of TimeBanks USA, plus me and Chris Petit of Time For the World/Mutual Aid Networks. This was a great chance to go in-depth into what it means to be a pilot site, potential benefits and pitfalls to various facets of our work, and how we’ll move forward. A great way to end the CommonBound Conference!

photo 1-5From there we went to Akron to spend a few days at my parents’ house and get some work done. And got the chance to have a lovely visit with the hub leaders in the Crooked River Alliance of TimeBanks at the home of the wonderful Abby Greer! We learned what some of the local hubs are doing, how they’re organizing themselves as local hubs within a larger timebank, and talked about Mutual Aid Networks. Tom Phillips, hub leader of the Stark County TimeBank, is engaged in a lot of efforts around building local food systems. There are a lot of exciting synergies between his work and MANs, and among all of the efforts we heard about.

photo 2 photo 1From there we headed to Detroit, where Chris caught a bus for home and I went on to a bonfire MAN discussion hosted by Ty Diggy. This was really cool. We had a great and wide-ranging conversation and ten really active and motivated Detroiters signed up to help build the MAN.


And the final stop on the tour was Lansing, Michigan, with the great Edge Brussel (who’s been responsible for some of thephoto 5 videos I’ve shared, that have helped photo 4motivate us to try Neighbor-to-Neighbor Care Teams and a solar energy project). We had a MAN discussion and timebank orientation at this great venue, The Avenue Cafe and Bar, followed by a concert with me and two local groups. It was awesome and fun.


and phew! the work part of the tour was done. After that I went on my family vacation, a much needed break.


photo 5-8Before I sign off I’m adding a photo from the Gardiner Maine event, which I was remiss not to include earlier.

And now I’ll let you go, and thank you for reading this long long post!

Enjoy your summer days,


Tour news – exciting stuff!


it’s been a whirlwind couple weeks! I just finished up the work part of my tour with some timebank stuff then a fun show, a MidMichigan TimeBank benefit, in Lansing. Now I’m about to start a family vacation so I want to post about as much of it as possible before freeing my brain for the rest of the week…

Yes, it would have been great if I’d written and posted about all these as they happened, but there was a lot going on. So I’m going to jam a bunch of stuff into one post and try to keep each thing brief for now.

Picked up Project Co-Coordinator Chris Petit in Oak Park IL, where he lives, to head out east. I’ll skip the parts that didn’t involve Mutual Aid Network work.

IthacaphotoFirst work stop: Ithaca, NY where Scott Morris is organizing Ithacash, one of the potential MAN pilot sites. We caught up on the status of all our various projects and talked about ways to move forward in cooperation and collaboration. And saw the waterfall! It was cool and lovely how easy of a walk it is from downtown to the waterfall, and how many people just hang out there. Ithaca is beautiful! And has such great legacy in Ithaca HOURS (which is who we emulated in making Madison HOURs back in 1995/6) and all the other local efforts that make Ithaca so cool and livable.

Then on to Gardiner, Maine, another exploring MAN possibilities, where Stacey Jacobsohn of Time Initiative of Maine (T.I.M.E.) organized a potluck and talk on timebanking. The crowd was a mix of people who were newer to or wanted to focus on timebanking and some who were interested in other complementary currencies and more comprehensive community economy models, so I presented primarily on timebanking with a quick and incomplete mention of Mutual Aid Networks. Could have been more graceful, I’m sure, but it at least got the point across that there are some efforts to connect and take things in a new direction, for those who are interested. And there were a few, which was great. I already reconnected with one at the CommonBound conference and we collected a bunch of contacts for the future, both as observers as we progress and as active contributors.

After Gardiner we made a quick detour (well, 3.5 hours) to Brooklyn for a fundraiser for the Yes Men! They are heroes of mine, and if you don’t know their work you must do yourself and the world a favor and check it out. Funny and powerful, and educational in the best possible way!tail

The event was a lot of fun, with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a preview of the film they’re working to fund (The Yes Men are Revolting!), and a game of Pin the Tail on the Lobbyist.

Because we drove so far out of our way I knew I could force myself to talk to them (I’m just star-struck and intimidated, they’re plenty approachable) – and I wore a fancy, colorful outfit to help me along. Too bad I totally forgot to try to get a photo with them, or at all.. Both of them were enthusiastic about the MAN and both agreed to be on our advisory board. Huzzah! I’ll follow up more formally in a couple weeks and am excited to try to work with them in some way in the future.

photo 1-2Right after the fundraiser ended, at 10pm, we drove back up to Brattleboro Vermont for the Slow Living Summit. I’ll check back in later to write about that, the CommonBound conference, NYC, Kent Ohio, Detroit and Lansing. It might be a few days because now I’m about to check out for my family vacation. I’ll catch back up with you after some R+R.

Lots of exciting stuff, including more awesome advisory board members, people looking to pilot MAN sites and general overall good ideas, energy and action.


Thanks for reading,




Goodbye to a wonderful man

photo 1-1I am sad to say that Richard Rockefeller died in a plane crash yesterday.

Richard was a great friend, supporter, organizer, thinker behind timebanking, among many other great things he did with his life.

Our time on the Board of TimeBanks USA overlapped briefly, during which I came to know him as a brilliant, thoughtful, ethical, kind man.

My heart goes out to his family and friends and the rest of the world for our loss.


More MAN News.. in brief

redbud_blossomsHello again,

just briefly for now…

Check it out! Scott Murto of the Lansing Michigan MAN pilot site (spearheaded by MidMichigan Timebank) has written a great post in the Daily Kos. Our first MAN mention in an article. And a beautiful one at that!

Building New Economic Paradigms: What’s Happening, That Vision Thing, and You

And stay tuned for news from the road. I’m just beginning this East Coast tour which will include stops in Ithaca, Maine, Vermont (with Charles Eisenstein and Edgar Cahn!), Boston for the CommonBound Conference (with zillions of awesome new economy thinkers and organizers), Brooklyn for a Yes Men fundraiser, Philadelphia, Detroit and Lansing. A lot will be happening and I’ll try to keep on top of sharing it with you as I go…

happy June!

MAN development update

Hello, MANballoon

First, some great news! We received a grant from RSF Seed Fund, a very competitive national grant. We’re very proud to be recognized by such a great organization.

And we’re extremely happy to report that we have received core funding from the Kailo Fund, to support our core operations through November. This is wonderful. Now we’ll work to raise the rest of our funding for software development, organizational development, evaluation, documentation, etc. You can help with this by donating and spreading the word (there’s a donation button on this site).

This funding from the Kailo fund is especially wonderful in enabling me to bring on a new project Co-Coordinator, Chris Petit. Chris was on the Board of Dane County TimeBank before moving to Chicago last year. He was one of the first to recognize the potential of the cooperative saving/investment model in shoring up our work. I’m very excited to be able to bring him onboard. And relieved! It’s a lot of work to re-design work.

We continue to put together the pieces of this massive, living, breathing 3- (or 4-?) dimensional puzzle that is Mutual Aid Networks (MANs). There are so many moving parts that it’s hard to write it up as prose, so I’m going to list a few points and try to give you the gist of where we are.

Then on Saturday I leave for a 2-week tour of potential MAN pilot sites plus conferences where I expect to see and meet a lot of potential collaborators, supporters and friends. I’ll return later in June refreshed and ready to report on lots of progress!

Mark your calendar for Wednesday June 25, 4-6pm at Madison’s Central Library, where our Builders Workshop will be entirely on Mutual Aid Network development and exploring what we can do locally.  If you’d like to join online check for information about how to connect. Also, sign up there if you want to engage in ongoing communication about MAN development.

And here’s what’s happened since I last updated you:

MAN design team meetings – 1 local and 3 online with farther flung participants. We continue to pare down core principles, write draft bylaws, envision what it means to be a member of the MainMAN (our first iteration of Mutual Aid Networks, the borderless MAN that exists to support this work-redesign work), work toward setting up a board of directors.

At the same time, we have been meeting with organizers of our first local MAN, the Allied Community Coop. We came to agreement on what the bylaws should contain and how they should relate to the bylaws of the MainMAN.

Then we sent both sets of draft bylaws – for the MainMAN and the Allied Coop – to our lawyer, who is working on harmonizing them. The idea is that both can be used as templates for future MANs – one applied to mutual support among local initiatives, one applied to using the MAN structure as a template for sustainability within local initiatives.

At the same time we’re working through how we bridge Dane County TimeBank (DCTB) and the world of MANs. We held a strategic planning session for DCTB on May 10. There we discussed a lot of the implications of Mutual Aid Networks – including the fact that they are being designed largely in response to a felt need to find or develop new organizational structures that more effectively support the activity of timebanking, and can be more self-sustaining. But we need to be hyper-aware of any potential to create vulnerabilities in the timebank. We created a “Bridge Team” of people heavily invested in DCTB in order to navigate this process wisely. As usual, we’ll share our notes about this process in order to be able to use it as a model for similar transitions in other initiatives.

And we’re beginning to collect official letters of support/commitment from MAN pilot sites. Our first two have come in! From St. Louis Cowry Collective and the folks at MidMichigan TimeBank. Stay tuned for more updates, which will start coming in faster after our June trip.

And here’s the itinerary for the trip: Saturday in Chicago, Monday in Ithaca talking with folks from Ithacash, Tuesday in Maine, the Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro, VT from June 4-6 where I’ll serve on a panel with Edgar Cahn and attend a Brattleboro Time Traders event with Edgar and Charles Eisenstein, the CommonBound Conference in Boston June 6-8 with some meetings with Boston-area organizers and potential MANs, some nebulous days that I’m sure will fill up fast, the Philadelphia area on June 11, Lansing and Detroit Michigan June 13 and 14. If you’re between Boston and Philadelphia and want to talk more about how we can work together, please get in touch so we can get together between June 9 and 11.

In the meantime, feel free to give us money and/or send your ideas. Soon we’ll have more ways for you to plug in and contribute. That’s what the MAN is all about!

As always, thanks for reading



MANning up


Progress on developing Mutual Aid Networks is ramping up nicely. I’ve been saying lately that the first half of 2014 is my time to Go Big or Go Home. What that means is that the job of shepherding these into existence is much too big for one person (with bits of help from others who have full-time jobs elsewhere) and I recognized that I either need to get the high-level and large quantities of help that I need to do this on a global scale and move quickly (my ideal) or I need to just focus back in on making this happen here in Madison, sharing our work with the world as we go.Go_Big!

Well things seem to be lining up to Go Big! So, I’ll keep you posted as we go. And if you’re reading this chances are you can contribute to our building the capacity we need, so please get in touch to let me know how you’d like to be involved.

And now for my report on our progress the last two weeks:

We will be holding weekly MAN web meetings into the foreseeable future, until enough people are up to speed. These are mainly for potential pilot sites and supporters but feel free to join just to learn if you like. They are every Wednesday at 2pm EDT (time zone converter here). The first hour is an overview of the project with clarifying Q&A, the second hour is for deepening the discussion among MAN pilot sites. We are currently discussing the core principles we’ll agree to and making our communication strategy and timeline. Meeting schedules and other communications are now here. These web meetings are a lot of fun – there’s great energy and enthusiasm! Slides from previous meetings are here.

I’ll be heading out to the East Coast in June to present at the Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro, VT, and am using the opportunity to visit potential pilot sites on the way out and back. Chicago, Ithaca, Maine, Boston, Lansing and Detroit are currently on the agenda. Let me know if you’re somewhere en route and want to find a time to meet between May 31 and June 14.

Last and absolutely far from least, we held a MAN Design Team meeting on Friday April 4. We answered the questions we feel the bylaws need to address, then turned over the writing of the bylaws to Jon Hain, who has generously offered to take the first crack at them. Jon is one of the founders and directors of Madison HOURS, who stayed with it its whole long life and is now helping to shepherd it into its new incarnation as a component of the MAN. Jon was a primary contributor to the organization of Madison HOURS in addition to having extensive experience with cooperatives from his time as a Willy Street Coop staffer board member. He’ll be working on the overall MAN bylaws alongside the bylaws for the Allied Coop, our first local MAN, in order to set the stage for creating complementarity between local MANs and the overall MAN network – the latter of which has now taken on the nickname the Main MAN, which I really love! (I’ll need to change my slides and writing from MetaMAN to Main MAN.) He will aim to draft them before April 22 and the Design Team meet again Friday April 25, 11amCDT to discuss and move forward. Far-flung participants are welcome to join online (instructions and meeting details here.)

Detailed notes are here. Stay tuned for more, things are starting to move!


As always, thanks for paying attention.


Builder’s Workshop #14: Building Capacity in Your Organization


BW14_groupsLast Wednesday we held our March Builders Workshop, Increasing Capacity in Your Organization.

This was geared toward helping our timebank’s organization members to better connect with each other and timebank members at large, in order to fulfill their mission as robustly as possible while facing the same funding shortages common to most of us non-profit (and for-profit too!) types.

First we had introductions, including each person’s organization or project. We gave an overview using these slides. Then for the bulk of the time we used the Art of Hosting’s World Cafe format for our discussion.

The questions we discussed in the World Cafe:

  1. What would we do if we had all the resources we needed?
  2. What resources have we learned about today that could help us?
  3. What steps can/will we take to make those connections?

As is often the case, the #1 result from this discussion was that everyone got a chance to meet each other and talk more about what they’d really like to do, what they need and have to offer.

And we got some great momentum and action steps from it! We will organize a monthly gathering of organizations and supporters, with hosting duties rotating among participating organizations. We will create more outreach materials geared toward organizations connecting with their staff, board and supporters on the value of timebanking. And we will create a Common Good account in our timebank to make it easy for people to come together for unofficial projects that feed the commons, and to earn their timebank hours from the Common Good account.

All in all it was a fun and productive day. And Kristin Sage made delicious pumpkin muffins too! The notes are here, including the muffin recipe.

And below are the goals stated by participants, along with next steps, written up on the flip charts where we kept notes.


As usual, please feel free to use anything that was generated here and apply it to your own local work. Let us know how you improve on it!

Thanks for reading,



Builders Workshop #13: Building Better Software

This year’s Builders Workshops will be more focused on the work session piece.

Our first workshop was geared toward helping us to develop software teams. While we had a fairly small group of participants, they represented a wide variety of skills and interests, so we made some good progress!

We’re viewing the work as four quadrants: Local or Global, Tweaks and Improvements or Long-term tool and systems strategy.

We’re developing better ways to manage and document the work we do on our local Dane County TimeBank software (we use Community Forge and adapt it to our needs), and training some local folks in Drupal in order to expand our capacity.

This evening we continue the bi-weekly software meetings we’ve begun, where we tweak our timebank’s site and develop our processes for moving forward in a more concerted fashion.

Notes from our workshop are here.

Thanks for reading,



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