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Our TimeBuilders project was all based on the understanding that we all need to contribute.

For more information see the Timebuilders website here.


TimeBuilders worked with people whose lives were were “stuck” because of mental illness, long term unemployment and poverty. They felt they were on the scrap heap but TimeBuilders showed them how they can be assets.


We didn’t ask people all about their problems because we knew we couldn’t fix them. Instead we gave them a job to do that would make a difference and people to do it with. Typical projects included: ‘Cookhouses’ preparing weekly meals in church halls using surplus food. A weekly community café. Gardening projects, a community allotment, a community wood workshop where people share skills and make useful items out of old wood. Groups such as sewing, jewellery making, knitting, board games, photography and walking.


People got involved in running these activities and discovered they could do something purposeful, give to others and make friends with people who are doing the same. This is transformative.


Everyone needs to feel rewarded. So each hour that people contributed was recognised and rewarded with a time credit (which looks like a bank note). They can spend the credit on rewards from our corporate partners – tickets for leisure centres, sports matches, theatres, coach trips, quizzes, concerts or for meals in our community cafes. This earning/spending dynamic is a powerful motivator because it gives people dignity and reward.

“I use my time credits to take my daughter swimming once a week. That’s important to me because your money can be spent on other things more important.”


TimeBuilders is a simple model which recognises that wellbeing is social: it is about achieving goals, being with positive peers and being rewarded for your time. TimeBuilders weaves together the unused assets of people and of the wider economy to create small communities of support and purpose.


Its impact is profound.


Last year we worked with nearly 490 people who earned 17,190 time credits (equating to 17,190 hours of participation).


A further 400 people benefited from coming to the groups, meals or activities which members run.


80% of our members are from deprived communities, or suffering from chronic mental health difficulties.

TimeBuilders as we have just described it came to an abrupt halt during lockdown and, if we’re honest we can’t see it coming back soon. However the underlying principles remain the foundation of the Social Supermarket.


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“I would be just sat at home, hiding, watching the four walls. It’s just like someone threw a lifeline at me, this place and time credits and all that. It means you’re able to turn around and do something and know you’re doing a good thing”.

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“I cannot describe the feeling of worth that time credits gave me …. to be rewarded for an hour’s work with a time credit which you can then go and use. When money is so tight it meant the world. They give you worth and confidence.”

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 “I feel like [Timebuilders] has provided me with the space to recover. I can sit in the café, whenever... away from my home doing my own thing. I just feel that flexibility is there. This is going to keep me well, today in the world our basic need is staying well, keeps me from being isolated... gives me sense of belonging.”

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