Celebrating 20 Years and a Bright Future for Ithaca Hours

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Tompkins Weekly — May 27, 2012
By Leslie Strebel

One of the world’s most well known alternative currency systems is marking its 20th anniversary this year, and you’re invited to the party! The celebration will be held on Wednesday, June 6 at 5:30 at The Space @ GreenStar and will consist of presentations about upcoming innovations and a potluck dinner. Under the leadership of Ithaca Hours President Paul Strebel and several new board members, the system has been expanded and modernized.

At a time when economic uncertainty is high, alternative currency systems provide a means of making communities more resilient, provide needed goods and services to local residents and bring citizens closer together as they look for new ways to help one another.

The future of Ithaca Hours includes an electronic/mobile trading platform and a timebank. Timebanking enables participants to exchange goods and service with one another, with everyone’s hour being valued equally. While traditional barter systems require trades back and forth, time banking systems give much greater flexibility. For example, Joe might walk Suzy’s dog, Suzy might take Mary shopping, Mary might babysit Sasha’s children and Sasha might weed Joe’s garden. No money changes hands, and web based software tracks people’s credits, debits, needs and offers. Ithaca Hours is pleased to be supported in this way by the hOurworld timebanking system, recently featured in PBS’s Fixing the Future Series.

The electronic trading (LETS) system offers a platform for tracking exchanges of Ithaca Hours currency remotely, bringing the system into the modern world of money management. Utilizing local currencies keeps money circulating in the community as Hours can only be spent at locally owned and controlled businesses. Keeping money circulating within the community for as long as possible is one of the building blocks of a resilient local economy.
Utilization of the Ithaca Hours system is experiencing a resurgence, and the list of businesses accepting Hours is growing. Strebel expects the expansion of the system into the electronic world to make it easier to transact business and increase utilization even further. “People have been accumulating Hours through the years, and they are starting to circulate again in a big way,” says Strebel, “indicating the health of these systems in general and this one in particular”.
To support these ongoing innovations, a crowd funding drive is being developed on Indiegogo, and will launch at the June 7 event. Exchange some of your cash for Hours, and your pledge will be matched with a 25% donation (in Hours, of course) to one of the following local organizations: Dream Catalyst, Loaves and Fishes, Sustainable Tompkins or Durland Memorial Alternatives Library. The minimum exchange for an individual will be $10, and businesses are requested to exchange a minimum of $100, with inclusion in the online directory.

The festivities will begin at 5:30 with a brief look back at the history Ithaca Hours, a short presentation of the LETS system by Greg Kops of Think Topography, and a sneak peek at the new Ithaca Hours logo designed by Shirari Industries. At 6:30 we’ll share a dish-to-pass potluck dinner, and at 7:00 p.m. the timebanking portion of the event will commence. All of the evening’s activities are free and open to the public.

The Ithaca Hours 20th Anniversary Celebration is featured as part of Local First Ithaca’s Community Capital Week. Other events include the Alternatives Federal Credit Union annual meeting on Tuesday, June 5, featuring keynote speaker Michael Shuman (free and open to the public), a workshop for community stakeholders with Shuman ($75) on Wednesday, June 6, and The SEEN presents Co-ops, Power to the People on Thursday, June 7 meeting at 5:30 pm at LaTourelle ($5/members and students, $10/non-members, Ithaca Hours accepted). Please call Ithaca Hours Ambassador Danielle Klock at 379-1527 or email danielle@thinktopography.com for more information about the event or Ithaca Hours.

Leslie Strebel is a financial planner who serves on the boards of Alternatives Federal Credit Union and Local First Ithaca in addition to her role as managing partner at The Strebel Planning Group.

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