The edge between protest & prototyping solutions

Published on June 28, 2013 in Blog
As you likely know, we at REconomy are focused on solutions, and so we’re very excited about this guest post from Kate Macdonald (News Co-ordinator with Timebanking UK) that discusses the world of protest and the moment when protest becomes an incubator and motivator to create new ways of acting rather than just protesting against the old ways. Her blog focuses on the 15-M protests in Spain and its links to the repaid growth of Timebanks. If you don’t know about Timebanks or 15-M take a look at the introductions towards the end of this article.


This creative edge between protest and prototyping solutions is currently very relevant because all over the globe there’s increased levels of protest (with largest protest in history happening just this week). These protests are bringing in so called ‘ordinary people’ who are opening their minds to experimenting with new approaches. There’s great examples of “People’s Assemblies” in the Brazilian protests as a different way of self organised autonomy.


People's Assembly in Belo Horizonte in Brazil, which is one of many assemblies

People’s Assembly in Belo Horizonte in Brazil, which is one of many assemblies


Among many other recent examples there’s also the “Gift Economy” in the Turkish protests, which introduces a whole new way of relating to each other economically. [Introduction by  Shane Hughes]


Gift circles and free markets in Turkey

Gift circles and free markets in Turkey


Kate starts here blog by asking “What links the Spanish 15-M protest movement with a Time Bank in West Yorkshire?”


The answer can be found in the experience of prospective Leeds Time Bank member Ohiane Uranga Pascual. Ohiane recently arrived in Leeds from Spain as part the European Commission Youth in Action Programme, which aims to develop solidarity and promote active citizenship and mutual understanding among young people.


Unable to find work on completion of her masters degree in Social Communication at Complutense University of Madrid, Ohiane and her partner Daniel began volunteering through ‘Everything is Possible’, a Leeds-based not-for-profit organisation which works in partnership with the scheme. The couple’s skills in trapeze and circus skills mean they are kept very busy with children’s workshops, events and festivals but Ohiane’s first brush with time banking came via a very different route.


Ohiane Uranga and Daniel Santamaria at Leed’s based Ladybird Time Bank Bring and Fix event

Ohiane Uranga and Daniel Santamaria at Leed’s based Ladybird Time Bank Bring and Fix event


Cut to May 15th 2011 and the plazas of Spain’s major cities are the stage for mass demonstrations over the country’s financial system and its government’s response to the economic crisis. At the so-called 15-M protests, centred around the Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid, hundreds of thousands are demanding a radical change in Spanish politics to meet the urgent problems of mass unemployment and insolvency.


15-M protests in Spain

15-M protests in Spain


“There were a lot of collectives that were thinking ‘we have to do something’ so they came together in Sol Square,” says Ohiane. “People met in assemblies and at these huge meetings gave their opinions and talked about solutions to the problems in Spain.


“The Bank of Time was talked about by a lot of people who said it was a good initiative that was already in existence. I met these people at that time. We grouped ourselves into different areas of the city and started to organise ourselves. Since the 15-M movement, a lot of Banks of Time have come into existence.”


Ohiane herself soon became involved in a time bank in her home town of Mostoles. A suburb of Madrid with a population of 206,031, Mostoles has an unemployment rate of 26.2 per cent, with youth unemployment running at 55.5 per cent.


Ohiane says that the Time Bank came at a crucial time, helping to improve citizens’ sense of self-worth while providing a wide range of vital services. “One woman said to me: ‘I don’t have a lot of skills, but I am good at listening to people.’ So she says ‘call me’ and people call.”


Members are a mix of unemployed, employed, older and young people, offering skills ranging from electrical know-how, carpentry, digital workshops and language classes to providing home-cooked food. The organisers have a weekly meeting and organise exchanges through the blog.


The experience of being part of this movement and its way of communicating through social media led to Ohiane’s doing her masters degree in the field of social change and development.


“My research was about how the communication can help in social and community development, and how nowadays social networking gives the platform and the possibilities to create and organize social initiatives.”


Although her studies focused on the example of Spain, Ohiane says that connecting communities through time banking can also be applied in the UK, to people facing tough economic and social situations.


“[In Spain], people started to work in different social initiatives, initiating groups of research in different fields, charity organizations, urban gardens and communities of collaboration that later became time banking groups. One of the most relevant and successful initiatives, at least for me, was the time banking network, because it allows social and personal development even if there’s no money or employment.


“I believe that evolution must not just depend on money. It has to depend on social evolution to be a real development. It is great to share and exchange your knowledge and skills to develop a community. In an economic crisis it allows people to continue to feel useful to society and confident in themselves even without a job.”



What is 15M?

15-M otherwise known as the indignados movement and Take the Square #Spanish Revolution, is a grassroots protest movement which is named after the day it began. On the 15th May 2011, hundreds of thousands of people gathered and camped out in Puerta del Sol square in the centre of Madrid and in cities across the country as a response to Spain’s economic crisis and a disillusionment with politicians and corruption. 15-M was the inspiration for the ‘Occupy’ protests and is described as a social movement.

It has evolved from what was originally a youth initiative organised via social media, to include young and old alike who want to find alternative solutions to the economic crisis


Find out more about timebanking:

Timebanking UK is the national umbrella membership organisation for timebanking which works to build a vision of an economy fuelled by co-production. Membership includes access to software to record exchanges and training for brokers. The website allows you to find your nearest time bank and to access resources and information to help you set one up.

Timebanking in Spain:

Here’s a great video with Edgar Cahn the founder of timebanking providing a great introduction.




And for those interested in setting up a timebank here’s a link to a very useful Step by Step Guide to Timebanking


Image Credits: Belo Horizonte: NINJA, Gifting in Turkey: Brave New World, All other images from Kate MacDonald

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