RSF Social Finance Seed Fund Grantee Highlight
by Kelley Buhles
What would it look like if everyone were doing the work they loved, what they felt called to do?
This is the driving question behind the research and development of Mutual Aid Networks (MANs), a project of Dane County TimeBank which was supported in 2014 by the RSF Social Finance (RSF) Seed Fund with a grant of $2,500.
Developed over the last four years, Mutual Aid Networks are a new form of cooperative that utilize many collaborative economic tools, such as timebanking, price-based mutual credit, shared resources, lending pools, and cooperative savings, to create a model that supports people and communities to live and work in a way that allows them to thrive.
This model was created as a solution to some of the most challenging issues we face in the modern economic system. How do we leverage the gifts and talents of ALL people in our communities? Not just those whose skills are valued by our current economic system. How do we make a living while also finding time to pay attention to health, to make time for art and music, and to care for our community? How do we engage communities to work together in mutual support for each other?
Stephanie Rearick, founder of the Dane County TimeBank and leader in the formation of MANs, has experienced the challenges of our current economic system in a very personal way. As an artist, activist, and small business entrepreneur, she often found it a struggle to do the work she loved, while making ends meet, and trying to create an equitable society. It was this experience that led her to create the Dane County TimeBank and MAN as a way to create cooperative ownership models that would support more equitable, self-sustaining communities and better livelihood for the people in them.
The Mutual Aid Network model creates an infrastructure that empowers people to come together for a common purpose and generate, share, and steward the resources needed to realize their common goal. It leverages current collaborative economic tools, and puts them together into a comprehensive system that allows people meet their own needs, as well as support the needs of others, and their community, through a shared ownership vehicle.
With support from the Seed Fund, among other donors, this project has been able to accomplish much already. The first local version of a MAN, the Allied Community Coop, was created in October in Madison, WI with a focus on building neighborhood wellness and sustainability.
They have also already incorporated a meta-cooperative in Wisconsin called the MainMAN that will support local MAN pilots, such as the Allied Community Coop, with resources and technical assistance. The plan is to launch six more pilot sites across the US that will be experimenting with the MAN model. They have a strong focus on sharing their learning experiences from each of the regional pilot sites so that rapid replication may occur. Stay updated on their progress by following their blog at http://blog.timeftw.org/
RSF is very excited to be among the supporters of this group working to build the next economy!
Kelley Buhles is Director of Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance