Dreamworld Report – last one for this trip: NOLA – St. Louis – home!

IMG_0864I pretty much pulled into New Orleans and went straight to the 2nd anniversary party for the NOLA TimeBank. Exciting! I feel very connected with this timebank because they started up right during a visit two years ago, when I asked a few people if they’d like to invite folks to get together for a potluck to explore IMG_0867timebanking in New Orleans. Gretchen Zalkind, who had been part of the Arroyo   SECO TimeBank in LA, had been planting seeds about timebanking there and just ran with it. Now they’re 2 and have a few hundred members and some exciting IMG_0873partnerships existing and emerging. Their anniversary party was at a very cool incubator space called Propeller. They made a lovely matching wall, had great food and presentations from Gretchen about NOLA timebank and me about timebanking in general, how we apply it in Dane County, how it’s happening in other places, and where we are in context of overall movement toward cooperative economics. I met some great people and had really interesting conversations. I met someone who’s interested in energy projects and also group carpentry project fixing up homes we could sell for income streams. Pretty good food for thought. Good party!

The next day we had a small meeting at Tulane University, with Social Innovation Social Entrepreneurship professor Carol Whelan, Gretchen Zalkind and two of Whelan’s students, who are helping coordinate the timebank as part of their internships. This was a really good brainstorming session. We discussed ways we in Dane County have engaged with our universities (not extremely consistently or effectively) and possibilities for more collaboration between Tulane and the NOLA TimeBank, and ways the interns could use their own skills and interests more effectively. I’ll look forward to seeing what ideas they implement.

IMG_1042 IMG_1065The rest of my time in New Orleans was a little vacation for Halloween, including a good party with a good band on Halloween night. Jon Hain met me down there and then traveled the rest of the way back home with me.

November 1-2 we drove to St Louis, stopping in Memphis on the way, where we ate at a great little vegan restaurant called Imagine. Then we drove up to St. Louis in time for dinner with Renee Marver, the founder of the US’s first modern timebank (as far as I know) at Grace Hill Settlement House in the early 80’s. She’s retired now but keeps in touch with lots of timebankers and helps by sharing her experience as well as her new ideas. And there are new timebanking efforts afoot in St. Louis too, which she connected me with.

IMG_1112 After dinner I played a show at Foam, IMG_1122IMG_1117jh-13k190-foam,_st._louis,_stephanie_rearicka really cool little venue.




jh-13k276-carissa,_renee_betty,_st._louis,_stephanie_rearickThe next morning Renee and I met with Carissa, a woman who used to work at Grace Hill and is now working to start a timebank among a women in transition group she currently works with. She has a little bitjh-13k272-carissa,_renee_betty,_st._louis,_stephanie_rearick of grant money to get started and we discussed various ways to use it to establish a foothold. We all agreed that, however the money was spent (a few ways were identified), it would be important to hold some gatherings among the participants to get to know each other, identify assets and needs among the group, and get a sense of common goals. They may look toward a partnership with Grace Hill’s now-reviving timebanking program or they may go it on their own. I’m going to go back sometime over the winter or early spring and spend some time with more of the people doing and exploring timebanking there.

And I also collected some materials from the early days of Grace Hill’s Member Organized Resource Exchange (a side note: when I first learned about timebanking and was looking to start one, I ordered Grace Hill’s handbook on how to replicate their program. When I was first put in a hotel room with Renee (then Betty) Marver at a conference, I was all star-struck) including the 1981 report that established the ways in which a service credit exchange could meet some unmet needs and reports from the later ’80s detailing their many cool programs. I’ll digitize it and post on http://buildftw.org soon. It’ll be good to get older projects up there too.

After this lovely breakfast get-together Jon and I hit the road for home sweet home. Stopping at a vegan IMG_1131brewpub in Rockford IL on the way.

IMG_1134And now I’m home, processing all this, moving forward with things at the Dane County TimeBank and getting myself together to write and take next steps on building Mutual Aid Networks including ongoing peer and material support for timebanks and related efforts. This tour really crystallized some ways forward and energized me (well, after I get a little more rest post-whirlwind) to rally the resources to pursue them. I’ll be writing up some overall reports of activities, outcomes, resource inflows and outflows, and resulting plans moving forward from the tour. Stay tuned for that in the next few days..