E China’s Hangzhou establishes ‘time bank’ to explore mutual-aid volunteer services

“Time bank”, an online platform that allows people to “deposit” the time they spend providing volunteer services and “withdraw” it when they need help, has helped Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang province, solve problems in people’s life and promote mutual aid between neighbors.

As an innovative model of mutual-aid volunteer service explored by Hangzhou, “time bank” represents a typical example of the city’s efforts to employ data resources and scientific and technological means in facilitating primary-level governance.

The “time bank” platform is in fact a part of the comprehensive digital platform of a locally developed app that provides citizens with local news, information, and services for government affairs and life. Users of the app can post information about their request for help at the “time bank” section of the app, and then receive services from community volunteers.

“‘Time bank’ is great. It has not only solved my problems in life, but brought me closer to my neighbors,” said a senior citizen surnamed Wang, who has benefited from the platform.

More than a month ago, Wang, a resident in Fuyuanxincun village, Jiangcun subdistrict, Xihu district of Hangzhou, had to live alone after his wife was hospitalized. His daughter Wang Xiuzhi needed to stay with her mother in hospital and was worried that her father might have difficulty taking care of himself. When a typhoon hit the city, she was extremely anxious about her father’s safety.

As Wang Xiuzhi was at her wit’s end, a staff member of the management committee of Jiangcun subdistrict recommended “time bank” to her. She decided to give it a shot and made a request on the platform, hoping to find someone to help take care of her father.

The special “order” for help was immediately received by Ma Jun, a resident who lives in the village where Wang Xiuzhi’s father lives. On the evening of the day when he received the “order”, Ma went to the senior neighbor’s home with a warm meal, and promised that he would continuously look after him during the following days.

The “time bank” model has promoted and facilitated mutual aid between residents in Jiangcun subdistrict, according to Yan Chao, secretary of the working committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the subdistrict.

In the past, residents in the subdistrict could only provide and receive volunteer services in activities organized by residential communities, said Yan, adding that now they can receive “order” for volunteer services online, which is much more flexible and convenient.

Since the “time bank” platform was launched in April this year, 356 volunteers from the Fuyuanxincun village have completed more than 1,680 online “orders” for volunteer services, according to Yan.

The comprehensive digital platform the “time bank” is based on is able to gather data from over 40,000 sources of resources in eight fields from government departments at various levels, including healthcare services, fitness and sports services, and volunteer services, Yan said.

The digital platform displays data collected from activities and services in a real-time manner, and receives feedback on activities and responses to needs, thus realizing communication and sharing of data, Yan noted.

The new grassroots governance model of Xihu district has connected online digital platform with residential communities, said Li Shengquan, president of the council of urban construction and management association of Zhejiang province.

By leveraging digital technologies, the new model has enabled residents to show their loving care for each other through volunteer services, realizing combination of services for people’s livelihood and efforts to promote social civilization, Li noted

By Dou Hanyang, People’s Daily


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