A volunteer programme has now become the largest alternative printed currency in the world, with 25,000 people having taken part to date.
Spice, founded in South Wales in 2009, is a social enterprise that has developed a unique time-based currency called Time Credits.
Individuals volunteer in their community and in return they receive a Time Credit for each hour they give. The credit can be spent on community, cultural and leisure activities in the local area. Spice Time Credits can also be spent across the national network of partners, for example at the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral or the Wales Millennium Centre – meaning volunteers can access incredible (and often expensive!) tourist attractions for free as a reward of their efforts in their community.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health and wellbeing at Lancashire County Council said: “Initiatives like Spice Time Credits are a very innovative way of engaging with our communities, and empowering local people to play their part.
“Time Credits value everybody in a way that money doesn’t. It doesn’t matter what you do, your time is worth the same and is as important as everyone else’s.”
The Time Credits are similar to bank notes, but have no monetary value. All notes have a standard reverse side in all areas, with the front localised.
Becky Booth, Spice founder and chief executive officer, said: “Spice is a globally unique time-based currency. The vision is to build resilient and connected communities, with social change as a priority.
“Time Credits are a way for people and organisations to identify with what we are trying to do and, by joining the scheme, help to make it happen.
“Time Credits can be used anywhere in the country. You can earn the credit in Lancashire, but be able to spend it in places including Cardiff or London, or vice versa.
“Through the scheme people can try new things on their doorstep and across the country.”
Peter West, from Preston, was the 25,000th volunteer to earn Spice Time Credits. Peter volunteers every Thursday for the “Wheels For All” session at Moor Park in Preston, which offers the use of adapted cycles for adults with special needs or disabilities. For every hour that Peter volunteers, he earns the equivalent in the form of a Time Credit.
Peter said: “I spent my first Time Credits on a Blackpool trip hosted by the Lancashire Time Credits team. I live in Walton-le-Dale, Preston, but worked in Blackpool as a child, so going up the Tower brought back more than a few memories and I felt very nostalgic.
“I have only been volunteering and earning Time Credits for a few months, but I just want to help. When you are on your own, it fills the hours.
“I have two daughters, who both live in other areas of the country, and I have one grandchild. I volunteer to keep myself fit and occupy a few hours, as I enjoy meeting people and just getting out of the house.”
The Spice Time Credit model now has over 25,000 users, and approximately 450,000 Time Credits have been issued across England and Wales so far.
Spice currently works with over 700 groups and community organisations with over 500 venues accepting Time Credits.
81% of people who volunteer through Spice Time Credits have said that taking part has had a positive impact on their lives, while 77% of people had taken part in more community activity, and 64% spend more time with others in their local community.