Making Time as Sexy as GDP

(but was GDP ever that sexy, anyway?)

This weekend at my cousin’s wedding, I came across the attached wall poster called “How to Build Community,” produced by Syracuse Cultural Workers.

Further to the theme we’ve been driving home here about the lack of connection between GDP and well-being, I was curious how well all of the suggestions stacked up from the perspective of what value they would bring to the monetary economy.  So, just for fun, I have reorganized the list according to whether each activity would have a neutral, positive, or negative impact on GDP.

Neutral contribution to GDP
(No more or less money spent on end products or services)
Leave your house
Know your neighbors
Look up when you are walking
Greet people
Sit on your stoop
Use your library
Play together
Buy from local merchants (substitution of demand)
Help a lost dog
Take children to the park
Garden Together
Support Neighborhood Schools
Fix it even if you didn’t break it
Honor Elders
Pick Up Litter
Read Stories Aloud
Dance in the Street
Talk to the Mail Carrier
Listen to the Birds
Help Carry Something Heavy
Start A Tradition
Ask A Question
Bake Extra and Share
Ask For Help When You Need It
Open Your Shades
Sing Together
Share Your Skills
Take Back the Night
Listen Before You react To Anger
Mediate A Conflict
Seek To Understand (unless you’re paying for a course through a formal school, buying books, etc.)
Learn From New And Uncomfortable Angles
Know That No One is Silent Though Many Are Not Heard - Work To Change This

Positive Contribution to GDP
(More money spent on end products or services)

Plant Flowers (unless a neighbor gives you some starter seeds from their garden… although the contribution to GDP may net negative, if you buy less commercially-grown flowers as a result)
Have Pot Lucks (unless all of your food is coming from that great garden you and your neighbors planted)
Put up a Swing (unless you logged, milled, and made that swing yourself)
Hire Young People for Odd Jobs
Organize a Block Party (again, depending on how you get all of those delicious street foods to keep the party going)
Turn Up The Music (electricity cost, unless you’re making your own electricity)

Negative contribution to GDP
(Less money spent on end products or services, and less taxes paid)

Turn off your TV
Share what you have
Barter For Your Goods (welcome to the informal sector)
Turn Down The Music (electricity costs)

Yet all of these activities take time.  If this list is any guide, then the greatest cost of community building is time, not money.

This is the reason Allison Basille of Hub D.C. is helping start a Time Bank in D.C. – where individuals exchange hours of service in an open marketplace where one hour equals one hour, regardless of who you are.  (e.g. Your neighbor looks after your children for an hour, you pay back the hour to another neighbor by mowing their grass, and on it goes.)

Join D.C.’s new Time Banking community, learn more about the concept, and check out our new blog project focusing on this topic in the Fall.

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Related posts:

  1. U.S. Well-Being vs. GDP

One Response to “Making Time as Sexy as GDP”

  • Well-Being of our Community – Invaluable but not Invisible | Idea Engine Says:

    [...] Today Jeff and I are announcing a project we will be spending a lot more time on this Fall (God willing).  We would like to get you involved in photographing the value in our lives that cannot be expressed in monetary terms- invaluable things we do every day that contribute to our well-being and the well-being of our communities.  These are things that don’t cost a dollar, and do not contribute to GDP, but make our lives richer. [...]

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