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

A volunteer chats with a centenarian at an elderly care service station in a community of Shapingba district, southwest China’s Chongqing municipality, Oct. 16, 2020. (Photo by Zhao Jiechang/People’s Daily Online)

“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

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

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.

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