Learn About the Cowry Collective

Find out more about the Cowry Collective, a St. Louis Time Bank

LtR Chinyere Otey of Cowry Collective, Sephanie Rearick of Dane CountyTimebank in Madison, Wis., Renee Marver, founder of m.o.r.e. time bank.
LtR: Chinyere E. Oteh founder of the Cowry Collective, Stephanie Rearick of Dane County Timebank in Madison, Wis., Renee Marver, founder of m.o.r.e. time bank.

This summer I had the pleasure of getting to know Chinyere E. Oteh, the founder of St. Louis time bank The Cowry Collective.

Although the concept of time banking was new to me, it’s actually quite simple. Members sign up to be part of the collective, then list services they are able and willing to offer. They can be basic services such as help with grocery shopping, cleaning, or organizing. They can also be “skilled” services, such as grant writing, tax preparation or resume assistance.

Everyone’s time is equal. For each hour you spend working for a member of the collective you earn one cowry. For each hour you spend receiving services, you pay one cowry from your bank. It’s a remarkably egalitarian system, where no person’s contribution is valued over another’s.

Oteh likes to quote Christopher Rice when she thinks about money:

“Every day is a bank account, and time is our currency. No one is rich, no one is poor, we’ve got 24 hours each.”

I interviewed Oteh at Thomas Dunn Learning Center, which is an organizational member of the time bank. At Thomas Dunn, members can use the facilities to give larger classes, and earn more cowries at a time (ex: if you give a one hour class that is attended by six members, you earn six cowries.) The center has an auditorium, art studio, test kitchen and computer lab, all of which members can rent to hold training, using (you guessed it) cowries.

Photo Gallery of Thomas Dunn Learning Center Facilities

Community Building with Time Banking

Another benefit to time banking is that it helps to forge connections and build community. Even for those who don’t have a financial imperative to join a time bank, it can be a wonderful way to give back to the community, meet neighbors and new friends, and stay connected to the world. Retirees, those with limited mobility, people who have recently moved to the area, they can all benefit from being a part of the time bank.

I attended a Cowry Collective Ice Cream social in late July, where members of the collective were able to meet and get to know each other better.

View Interview with Chinyere E. Oteh of The Cowry Collective

Learn all about the collective in the words of its founder in the interview below. If you’re interested in joining, check out their website http://cowrycollective.org/.


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2 years ago

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