April 2014 Mutual Aid Networks proposal

Mutual Aid Networks (MANs)

Because there’s an infinite amount of good work to do and a limited number of good jobs


What is a MAN?

A Mutual Aid Network (MAN) is a new type of cooperative that pools and stewards value and rewards good work with cooperative economic tools, such as timebanking, business-to-business mutual credit, and cooperative saving, lending, and investment models.


The goal is to create an infrastructure that empowers people to come together for common purpose andgenerate, share, and steward the resources needed to realize their common goal. This infrastructure will support networks that overlap, connect and share with other networks operating under common principles and using similar yet varying tools and approaches.


We have incorporated a cooperative — Wisconsin Mutual Aid Network Cooperative (WIMAN) — registered in the state of Wisconsin, which has excellent cooperative law and history. This establishes the framework for future MANs.


The Mutual Aid Network (MAN) framework can be adapted to any size, for any group of people choosing to join together for common purpose that fits agreed-upon streamlined core principles and standards. So you could make a Wisconsin MAN, a neighborhood MAN, a MAN for artists who wish to support each other, a global MAN to develop and steward the infrastructure needed by local MANs…more detail and examples here.


We aim to help establish at least six pilot sites in different locations around and outside the US. The team that has developed the MAN concept to date,Time For the World, and the initial MAN pilot sites will create the legal infrastructure to enable additional MANs to form easily, providing templates of needed agreements and documents for easy localization. Each MAN site will be expected to assist new sites, smoothing the way for more rapid spread, improvement, and replication.


The mission of Mutual Aid Networks is to create means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community.


The cooperative members use timebanking,mutual credit, shared resources (like tool libraries, shared equipment and supplies) and cooperative saving, lending and investment models (like the Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco, JAK bank in Sweden, and New Zealand Timebanks’ Savings Pools) to generate, steward and allocate resources toward the group’s agreed-upon goals. All of these models and tools are currently in use around the world, all with success to varying degrees.


This project is an effort to connect them in a comprehensive system capable of:

    • Identifying need for, generating, and compensating all kinds of work, not just that which is routinely valued in the market economy
    • Facilitating leadership, resources, and skill development within a community to meet its own self-identified needs in a manner that generates and sustains healthy, human-scaled community and economic development. Essentially, providing groups of people with the skills and resources to come together to develop and implement projects and share the wealth they generate.


  • Using trans-local learning and sharing to rapidly improve, replicate and scale. This means that all MANs will actively share their processes, tools, outcomes and improvements, and support each other in their efforts. It also means that each local MAN has access to a much broader array of expertise and resources than it would were it only local.


  • Create ways to harness the value inherent in communities in ways that generate more collective wealth and rebuild the commons – indigenous community economic development.

Why the MAN?

Project Background           

Vision:People being put to their highest and best use. Communities equipped and empowered to create their own problem-solving, community, individual and human-scaled economic development projects, i.e., people everywhere from every walk of life doing work they love, contributing to their communities as they wish and working with neighbors to solve problems and realize dreams.


Mission:To create a global network of many-size, many-function cooperatives that takes inspiration from the Mondragon network of cooperatives, with an explicit aim that every member can get their basic needs met within that network while doing work they choose and/or create.


Objectives:Form the legal and financial structures that support the mission, create template agreements for cooperative members to adopt, create work opportunities and compensation options that match both the types of work conducted and the needs that need to be met, apply these structures to meet community goals such as brownfield remediation, community self-sustainability, wellness, energy independence, mutual support, etc. Provide resources that facilitate technical assistance and support in meeting the above goals.


The Applications of the MAN

Mutual Aid Networks may be formed for any purpose agreed upon by the members of the cooperative, in keeping with core principles and practices of the MAN as incorporated.


The Community Shared Resources (CSR) controlled by each MAN will be empowered to facilitate:

  • Individual members designing their own program of good work and free time, to be compensated in a variety of means including Hours, price-based mutual credit (MC$), in-kind resources and money from the pool.
  • Cooperative-created or -approved projects. Projects will be approved by an agreed-upon protocol and process, ideally near-automatic with clear principles and guidelines provided by the MainMAN.
  • Cooperative production, collection and distribution of resources

Example MAN projects:

The Mechanics of the MAN

The legal structure:

A cooperative, organized in the US with explicit simple standards for international affiliation and regional and local spin-offs and partners.


We often have ideas of what we’d like to do in the world, or things that we think should happen to make our communities more livable, vibrant, fair, etc. We tend to lack the time or other resources (money, help, skill sets, etc) to do these things. A cooperative structure can give us the legal and financial infrastructure to commission work from other individuals or groups in order to make these things feasible. Additionally, the Rochedale Cooperative Principles, including reciprocity and cooperation among coops, when applied to the global network of cooperatives, help to alleviate the global problem of shifting financial, human, and environmental costs to players in other communities or countries. The fractal design of this cooperative structure creates opportunities for an infinite array of entry points for individuals and groups, appealing to their existing individual motivations.


Governance principles

Basic core principles include cooperative principles, governance of the commons, and principles of co-production. Creative Commons or like licensing and open data sharing is also  essential. The MAN will provide tools and technical assistance for dynamic governance or other highly participatory models.

Why? The establishment and adoption of structure and governance processes for cooperative stewardship and allocation of resources provides tools for all participants to learn and practice common ownership and wise, fair, and efficient resource allocation.

Tools for resource pooling, exchange and allocation:

TimeBanking – used to catalyze, facilitate, and reward contributions to commons, mutual aid, and support.

Why? It is often difficult to meet the material and labor needs of any given project with money, and the pursuit of monetary contribution often requires the use of time and help which could be more effectively used toward project goals. And the pursuit of monetary resources often requires compromise or excessive paperwork on the part of project organizers. Thus, many worthy projects never occur due to lack of funding.

In the MAN structure, timebanking is treated as adequately abundant (no debit limits as long as reciprocity or contribution to the commons are offered). It is good at facilitating cooperation, collaboration and sharing, discovering community capacity, bootstrapping the resources (skills, time, talents, unused resources) of a given network to accomplish a particular goal, applied toward meeting the basic needs of everyone in the network, including the very vulnerable.


TimeBank Hours (Hours) will be paid out by projects accepted by cooperative members, under agreed-upon criteria (should be clear, simple and near-automatic process), one Hour per hour needed to conduct project.


Hours will circulate under accepted timebanking terms: One hour is always worth one Hour (in any increment needed) and can be exchanged with any other member voluntarily on the same terms. There is no legal guarantee of the value of Hours, no monetary equivalent and pricing only happens to the extent that goods are priced based on the time taken to produce, obtain or exchange them, agreed upon as fair by all parties to the exchange. Any material goods needed to complete a timebank exchange are paid for separately, by the recipient of the service. Material goods needed for a project will be obtained in-kind or through the Community Supported Resource pool.


Hours will be paid out for any work or item that is sufficiently, or infinitely abundant. Hours may also be obtained by individuals or organizations by “Buying Time” – see below.


Price-based Mutual Credit (MC$) will be credits exchanged in the same mutual credit system as timebanking and will be denominated in dollars for ease of pricing and accounting. They will be recorded as cash transactions and taxed according to all applicable laws. Backed by goods and services, MC$, will have debit limits suited to the goals of the particular network and reflecting the relative scarcity of the resources being exchanged.



MC$ recognizes and accommodates the realities of scarcity, competition and market  while improving liquidity and creating incentive for local sourcing and cooperation among local market-based economic players (small-to-medium enterprises). It also facilitates greater availability of highly professional services within a given MAN, facilitates greater accessibility to goods within the network, creates a taxable mutual credit system to fulfill needs that must be met in the marketplace (protecting timebanking from the tax question).


MC$ will be used for business-to-business exchanges, professional services that cannot be offered in the TimeBank for licensing, tax or other purposes. MC$ accounts will carry credit and debit limits agreed to by members of the cooperative, with guidelines and examples provided by the MAN network.


MC$ can be obtained through earning from other organizational or individual members, or by “Buying Credit” – see below.


Community Supported Resources (CSR)

or Pooled, Shared, Loaned and Allocated Money and Material Goods

will be a broad resource base available for exchange on terms agreed upon by all parties to the exchange or allocation, including land, appliances, office supplies, food, buildings, machinery equipment and tools, in a manner formerly referred to as bankftw and laid outhere. Plus money in a simplified JAK-bank and slow money- inspired system of community saving, lending, granting and investment.

Why? In this model, CSRs comprise catalogs of available items and the means to exchange or share them, plus accounts in financial institutions that are cooperatively managed by their given MANs. These accounts can be applied in a number of ways. CSR exist to build greater capacity to meet needs that cannot be met locally or through other forms of exchange, to create avenues for investing directly in communities, to build capacity for a given community to create and implement its own economic development plan, to meet material needs of network participants, to provide a safety net for monetary needs of network participants (ex: could have risk-pooling funds for preventive or minor medical expenses), to provide security for network participants who are earning much more in mutual credit than in dollars (no-interest loans or emergency funds can be made available under agreed-upon circumstances)


The money pool inputs: This can be fed through philanthropy, community savings, grassroots fundraising including crowdfunding, income streams from local projects, “Buying Time” and “Buying Credit.”


“Buying Time” A cooperative member may invest in their community’s system by choosing to accept compensation for a percentage of their working wage. They commit that percentage of their wage to the CSR money pool. For that amount of their work time they accept Hours from their affiliated MAN’s project. Hours are taken out as the work is conducted. Once the wages are contributed to the pool they are controlled by the cooperative – the Buyer of Time has given all rights to the money to the cooperative and is instead being compensated with Hours under the standard terms of Hours use.


This helps to resolve the problem that many people who have high-paying jobs lack time to participate in the community time-based economy. By creating the option to ‘buy time’ we can create an opportunity for workers to replace some of their money-paid work with time-paid work while avoiding a need to partner with each employer or to jeopardize employers’ standing in labor law, or an implication of disrespect for labor laws. The money pooled through community members ‘buying time’ helps to create a healthy balance of resources available to members whose work may be less able to attract monetary compensation.


“Buying Credit” Any cooperative member may invest in their community’s system by exchanging money for MC$ at a dollar-to-dollar rate. Once dollars are exchanged for credit they are managed by the cooperative and the credit-buyer no longer has individual claim to them. MC$ function under consistent terms no matter how they are obtained.


The money pool outputs: Members can obtain no-interest loans (admin fees may be charged, agreed upon by cooperative members) under simple, near-automatic conditions (see JAK bank), projects may receive grants from cooperative members, MAN projects purchase supplies, MAN members draw monetary wages based on monetary needs, if agreed upon by cooperative money pool can back MC$ if/when necessary

Support and technical assistance by and for the MANs


  • Build For the World project-sharing open notebook site. Affiliate agreement may require sharing here or in a similar format (required open source CC-SA-BY)
  • Teach For the World  links to and profiles and materials of trainers/ peer support. Peer support tools and reciprocity network
  • Project Facilitation Processes and Assistance



  • Dream Job/Good Work Creation job description/ work/time templates to assist individual members in designing their preferred work life
  • Detailed Resource Budgeting detailed budget template linking to instruction and technical assistance for replacing money needs with in-kind, shared resource or Hour-based resources. Pilot projects will seek 3-year seed budget and will seek to turn that into a self-sustaining pool using the methods described here.



Who’s the MAN?

The Mutual Aid Network concept as described here originates with Time For the World, a 5-year project of the Dane County TimeBank. The aim of Time For the World is to identify what works about timebanking, what doesn’t work, how we can improve upon the model and connect it with complementary tools to build a comprehensive economic redesign – then to implement our findings, actively sharing our learning with the rest of the world.


Now the MAN will become a loosely affiliated network of people interested in creating a new economy by living it – experimenting with the tools and processes we espouse, using them toward our own ends to create more beautiful communities, and sharing our knowledge and outcomes in service to improving all participant’s likelihood of success.


Building the MAN


2014 Timeline and Budget

Time For the World Phase II-III

link to original proposal


The Time For the World project continues to unfold how we’ve hoped and aimed, with its own organic process and flow. We are currently in phase II, setting up support networks and infrastructure for local projects, developing materials to provide easier points of entry into cooperative economies, and creating infrastructure and practice for a pay-it-forward system of self-sustainability. Beginning mid-2014, Time For the World will begin to enter Phase III, the final phase of its life cycle, which will pilot and disseminate new models and support.


Phase III of TimeFTW will last one year and will comprise the birth and building of future stewardship of Mutual Aid Networks. This year will overlap with the first year of a three-year pilot phase of Mutual Aid Networks.


Time For the World will spearhead and support the resource and infrastructure development of Mutual Aid Networks as a three-year MAN pilot process. The $375K one-year budget shown below will supplement additional efforts undertaken by MAN pilot sites, including ours at Dane County TimeBank. *


2014 TimeFTW Work Plan


Outcome 1: Create umbrella cooperative structure

Task 1.1: Create Articles of Organization

Task Lead: Co-coordinator

Task Support: Legal Counsel, MAN Legal Work Group

Task Activities:

1. Develop mission statement

2. Determine type of cooperative to organize

3. Fill out paper work

4. Review with Legal Counsel

5. File paper work with the state

6. Draft & Develop Bylaws

Outcome 2: Pilot one MainMAN in Wisconsin (WI-MAN framework and statewide infrastructure building)

Task 2.1: Develop Core Values Framework

Task Lead: Co-coordinators

Task Support: MAN Social Work Group

Task Activities:

1. Explore cooperative principles

2. Develop Core Values Document for MAN

3. Vet Core Values Document

4. Adopt Core Values Document

Task 2.2: Develop Governance & Decisionmaking Structure

Task Lead: Co-coordinators

Task Support: MAN Social Work Group

Task Activities:

1. Explore alternative governance models

2. Develop bylaws

3. Membership policies

4. Vet bylaws with stakeholders

5. Adopt bylaws

Task 2.3: Develop template financial agreements for MAN functions

Task Lead: Co-coordinators, Organizational Development Coordinators

Task Support: MAN Financial Work Group, MAN Legal Work Group, SELC, RSF Social Finance

Task Activities:

1. Create money pooling and allocating system – Community Supported Resources pool (CSR)

a. Community saving and lending

b. Project resource allocation agreement

c. Outside investment agreement – an investor may agree to save money in the CSR if certain outcomes are met

2. Develop partnerships with relevant financial institutions

3. Explore relevant legal issues of CSR

a. Advocate for changes to legal barriers and roadblocks

4. Develop appropriate software in order to track transactions in the CSR

Task 2.4: Develop template legal agreements for MAN functions

Task Lead: MAN Legal Work Group, Co-coordinators

Task Support: Legal Counsel, MAN Financial Work Group

Task Activities:

1. Determine tax and reporting requirements for Price Based Mutual Credit and Community Sup- ported Resources pool

2. Create clean pathways for ‘buying time’ – study tax implications, advocate for protection

a. Cooperative ownership model

b. How to create a structure that lends itself to spin-offs at all levels

c. Legal and tax protection for commissioning work from others

d. Organizational membership

Task 2.5:  Create technical tools (working title BankFTW)

Task Lead: TimeFTW technology coordinator

Task Support: MAN Technical Work Group

Task Activities:

1. Integrate current web resources so they are interoperable

a. Mutual Aid Network website

b. Metasofa web intercom – a complementary online collaboration tool

c. Build for The World – project sharing site

2. Create comprehensive budgeting tools for individuals and projects, that track all forms of capital

a. Timebank hours

b. Shared resources

3. Create tools for people to find ways to meet their needs and improve quality of life with the full variety of resources available through cooperative living.

4. Create interface and coordination for open source development

Outcome 3: Pilot organizations within MAN structure in Madison

Task 3.1: Create Allied Community Coop within MAN structure

Task Lead: Sina Davis, Selena Pettigrew

Task Support: Stephanie Rearick, UW Center on Coops, MadWorC Task Activities:

1. Determine relationship and role of Allied Community Coop with MAN

2. Aid in the coordination of the Allied Coop PowerTime II Energy Project

3. Create, document, and share development process

Task 3.2: Transition Dane County TimeBank within MAN umbrella

Task Lead: DCTB Transition Team, TimeFTW staff

Task Support: TimeBank Board, MAN design team, Legal Counsel

Task Activities:

1. Determine relationship and role of DCTB & DCTB board with MAN

2. Create process of transition

3. Document and share process

Outcome 4: Pilot MAN projects in varying locations and develop core agree- ments

•  PA Health and Wellness projects

•  Detroit Work Re-design projects

•  MI Food Collective project

•  Ithaca Local Economy project

•  St. Louis TimeBank Network

•  Chicago Time Exchange project

•  France Cooperative project

•  RiverHours (Portland, OR)

Task 4.1: Recruit Six Pilot Sites

Task Lead: Co-coordinators

Task Support: Pilot site champions & stewards

Task Activities:

1. Create Letters of Invitation

2. Create Criteria for Site Selection

3. Receive Letters of Support

4. Receive MOUs in regards to Core Values and MainMAN structure

Task 4.2: Secure funding/resource base/ personnel commitments for pilot projects

Task Lead: Pilot site champions & stewards, Co-coordinators

Task Support:

Task Activities:

1. Seek 3-year basic funding for at least 6 projects around US, possibly Europe

2. Seek commitments for one steward for each pilot project

3. Write proposals for core infrastructure funding

4. Create and implement crowdfunding and donor campaigns


Task 4.3: Develop detailed resource budget

Task Lead: Coordinators of MAN Pilot Sites

Task Support: Co-coordinators, MainMan supporters and participants

Task Activities:

1. Create links to project ideas for cutting financial expenses, building community resources

2. Create links to supporting materials, including projects on build, web-based instructional tools, and in-person peer support and training (including teachFTW, shareFTW)

3. Create relevant games

Task 4.4: Launch pilot site MANs

Task Lead: Pilot site champions & stewards

Task Support: MainMan

Task Activities:

1. Community Outreach

2. Resource Development

3. Strategic Partnerships Development

4. Local Team Development

5. Visioning Process

6. Project Facilitation

7. Process Documentation

8. Program Evaluation

Outcome 5: Create Clear and Open Communication/Resource Sharing Between MANs

Task 5.1: Develop infrastructure to receive decentralized, broad contribution – including money, in-kind resources, conditional contribution, and skills

Task Lead: Co-coordinators, Chris Vansprouts, TimeFTW technology coordinator

Task Support: Pilot site MANs and supporters

Task Activities:

1. Create http://mutualaidnetwork.org

2. Build broad resource bank and matching tools – bankftw

3. Build internal communication tools

4. Work with participants to set resource distribution policies

5. MAN organization intertrading policy and procedure

6. Traveling MAN – int’l travel and culture exchange, modeled on Route des SEL

Outcome 6: Create Clear and Open Communication/Resource Sharing Within MANs


Task 6.1:

Task Lead: Pilot site champions, stewards & supporters, Co-coordinators, Chris Vansprouts, TimeFTW technology coordinator

Task Support: MainMan

Task Activities:

1. Develop and model transparent communication

Outcome 7: Education and Training

Task 7.1: Educate MAN staff

Task Lead: Co-coordinators, Pilot site champions & stewards

Task Support: MainMAN, teachFTW participants

Task Activities:

1. Create links to supporting materials, including projects on build, web-based instructional tools, and in-person peer support and training (including teachFTW, shareFTW)

2. Provide or point to resources for project-organizing education

3. Teach group process methodologies

Task 7.2: Educate MAN members

Task Lead: Co-coordinators, Pilot site champions & stewards

Task Support: MainMAN, teachFTW participants

Task Activities:

1. Develop detailed work/time description

2. Teach members how to use tools to find ways to meet their needs and improve quality of life with the full variety of resources available through cooperative living

a. All types of work and leisure

b. Make explicit ways each can be compensated appropriately

c. Map to trophic currency types

3. Teach group process participation

Outcome 8: Perform Program Evaluation

Task 8.1: Develop and implement modes of collection, qualitative and quantitative evaluation

and sharing of data among projects

Task Lead: Co-coordinators, Scott Murto, Debby Penberthy

Task Support: MainMan

Task Activities:

1. Research and use holistic measures of effectiveness

a. Genuine Progress Indicator

2. Develop quantitative and qualitative measures

3. Facilitate sharing of evaluative data


One Comment on “April 2014 Mutual Aid Networks proposal”

  1. […] film will be followed by a short reflection, and representatives from the Chicago Time Exchange and Mutual Aid Network will talk about ways you can get involved in alternative economies in Chicago. This event will mark […]

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