When it launched in 2005, Dane County Timebank aimed to set up a sort of local economy that didn’t rely on money, and operated outside the “system.” The idea was that a person with a talent to share could “bank” volunteer time, and make a “withdrawal” of another person’s talents as needed. A graphic designer could create a logo for a local business, and then get their lawn landscaped, or their taxes filed, or a website built, all without any money changing hands.
Within a year of launching, the Timebank as an organization had moved into the racial justice space, especially offering restorative justice in a pilot program in the Darbo Worthington neighborhood on Madison’s east side. The organization was especially suited to that work because it operated outside the “system,” co-executive directors Damita Brown and Lorrie Hurckes said in an interview Monday.
Sixteen years later, that sense of using the timebank model to support marginalized communities is more important than ever, Brown said.
“I really think it’s important to think about the broader context of the moment we’re living in right now,” Brown said, noting that the Donald Trump era has polarized people and exacerbated divisions. That prompted a conversation about rebranding the organization, which unveiled its new name — Flywheel Skill Share — about a month ago.
“We have been talking about it as an organization, and have been continuously asking questions and seeking input and here we are,” Hurckes said.
Hurckes said leadership polled the organization’s nearly 3,000 members and got very little response, but wants to keep lines of communication open, both in terms of the brand and name but also what the organization should focus on.
The organization settled on “Flywheel” because that’s the part of the engine that gives all the other parts of the engine more power.
“We want communities to think about power in a similar way,” Brown said. “Really it’s about redistributing power and lots of folks being able to play a role, but it’s one circle.”
Brown said the idea of “skill share” rather than “time bank” better reflects the organization’s mission.
“The rebranding is definitely a part of wanting to have the kind of focus where we understand our common causes,” Brown said. “We’re pushing through to try to connect with those marginalized communities. There are common causes that we have not been allowed to explore to the fullest of our ability because of the way the national narrative has shaped up over the last several years. And that’s important. Working people, queer people, gay people, Black people, immigrants. Where is the common ground for us to build communities that recognize each other and recognize that these things are related? We’re trying to do that. Flywheel wants to more broadly do that. It’s always been a part of the TimeBank mission to do that. You know, it’s just that we want to move away from the transactional side of things, to the more of the sharing side of things. I don’t want ‘bank’ in our name.”
Flywheel Skill Share members and other community members will be invited to weigh in and learn more at a social event in early December. Details on a date and location will be announced in the coming days.