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merrimack valley time exchange:

Exchanging Services, Skills and Resources

For members of the community who find themselves with more time than money, Merrimack Valley Time Exchange provides access to services they may not be able to afford in the cash economy. For those it serves, the opportunity is priceless.

Carmen Maldonado found herself in a bit of a bind when her women’s group had set a date to meet, but had no meeting space. Thanks to the Merrimack Valley Time Exchange, her problem was quickly solved. 

A “time economy” 

The Merrimack Valley Time Exchange (MVTE) is a new “time bank” program at CBA, where community members can

 choose to exchangeservices, skills and resources through the “time economy.” Members earn credits for time spent doing something that is a service to others, from music lessons to gardening instruction to dog sitting. They are then able to use that credit to “buy” a service they need from someone else –all without money changing hands.

Carmen, an original MVTE member, had accrued many hours toward the time bank by providing interpreter services for the CBA at meetings and events. She was able to exchange those credits for the use of meeting space at the 119 Gallery on Chelmsford Street in Lowell. 

As an all-volunteer organization, 119 Gallery is always looking for additional help, from setting up and staffing gallery shows to working on the organization’s marketing and website efforts, according to Walter Wright, co-founder of the 119 Gallery and another original MVTE member. MVTE members can exchange time credits at the 119 Gallery for membership, gallery space or assistance with their portfolios. Or, as in Carmen’s case, the use of the meeting space.

Valuing skills, not money 

The concept of trade for services is hardly new, but the Merrimack Valley Time Exchange provides the networking and structure to make it more productive, efficient and accountable.

“It’s a way of creating an economy that is not dependent on a lot of cash,” Walter says. “Instead, what’s being traded is information, skills, technology and time.”

MVTE holds monthly mixers and skills exchange events where people network, learn what others have to offer, and how their skills and time are valuable to others.

“For members of the community who may have more time than money, MVTE provides access to services they may not be able to afford in the cash economy,” says MVTE coordinator Joy Mosenfelder, an AmeriCorps VISTA for Community Organizing and Engagement at CBA. “Because value is self-determined, each member has the opportunity to choose how he or she earns time and how to spend it.”

The opportunity to build community connections by working for time can provide an invaluable resource for unemployed and under-employed residents looking for work, or those who can use service exchanges to develop skills and experience to build their resumes and networking.

“This is a much better way to do business,” Carmen says. “It puts more value on what we have to offer each