Our Name:We are a unique timebank whose name reflects the ancient practice of exchanging with currency that predates our current use of paper dollars and metal coins. Cowry shells were used as currency for centuries across the world throughout Africa and in China and continue to be used ceremonially among indigenous peoples of North America. By naming ourselves, The Cowry Collective, we give reference and reverence to these practices that have come before us and have paved the way for the alternative currency movement today. In our timebank, for every hour of service you do, you earn a cowry. (commonly referred to as a timedollar or time credit in the timebanking world).
Our Values:(From Timebanks USA)
Assets: Everyone has capacity to be a contributor to the well-being of others in their community.
Work: Those who carry out the really essential activities (such as bringing up healthy children, helping to keep their communities safe and caring for those around them who are more vulnerable) need to be validated and rewarded in some way for the vital work that they do.
Reciprocity: We need each other. Giving and receiving are the basic building blocks of positive social relationships and healthy communities.
Social Capital: Belonging to a mutually supportive and secure social network brings more meaning to our lives and new opportunities to rebuild our trust in one another.
Respect: Every human being matters. Everyone deserves respect from individuals and from civic institutions.
Our Beginnings:Founder, Chinyere E. Oteh, first learned of timebanking in 2007 while attending the Community Arts Institute (CAT), a program of the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis, MO. A fellow brought in an article on a thriving timebank in Portland, Maine and a timebanking project sounded fun and promising to the group but it did not materialize.
In 2009, Chinyere couldn't forget the magic and power of sharing she had read about in that article, titled "The Mighty Dollar" and she invited a few friends to join a timebank she called, The Cowry Collective. She hoped these friends would invite a few friends who would also do the same and the group would organically and easily grow. In 2010 Chinyere became a founding member of Yeyo Arts Collective operating Gya Community Gallery. The Cowry Collective was offered as a program, and regular orientations were held at Gya as well as InPower Institute. During 2010 - 2011 the group's membership leveled off at 25 and the challenges of being a volunteer-run project without access to software to track exchanges slowed the activity of the group.
Meanwhile, the economic landscape continued to be less than promising, and Chinyere remained uplifted by the alternative: stories of timebanking successes across the country and the globe. In 2013, Chinyere joined with another collective member to begin planning for a rebirth of the group and they discovered developments in the timebank world including free software provided by hOurworld. After receiving training on the software, The Cowry Collective coordinators began holding monthly orientations to recruit new members and invited the original members to continue in building the strength of alternative currencies and cooperative economics in St. Louis.
It does seem that timebanking is an 'idea whose time has come' as hundreds of timebanks now exist across the country and the use alternative currencies is a more widely known and accepted concept and practice.
We continue to grow and invite you to join us!