Life Without Money in Detroit’s Survival Economy

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When her car broke down, Halima Cassells didn’t have $400 to fix it. But she had logged hours in her Detroit neighborhood time bank by babysitting, and that time yielded a repair.

When she was pregnant in 2012, she couldn’t afford baby clothes, a stroller, or a car seat. But she could throw a potluck barbecue, and her friends could afford to bring their old baby supplies.

“When people come together to share, it’s not transactional,” says Cassells. “Everyone assumes an amount of responsibility with everybody. It’s a different way of knowing your needs are being met.”

Detroiters like Cassells, after years of privation, have turned to what experts call a gift economy to survive. Theirs is an alternative economy based on time banking, skill-sharing, and giveaways—home-grown vegetables, a roof repair, spare keys to a shared car—in which neighbors give as they can and take as they need.

Erik Howard, co-founder of the Southwest Detroit youth-development organization Young Nation say: “When the city didn’t have the capacity to provide, alternative systems were created,” he says.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • It’s a currency of community that has helped Detroit’s poor survive without ready cash.
  • Those who rely on it say it has helped strengthen communities.
  • The neglect and abandonment are turned into a source of power and opportunity.


“The city’s much-touted renaissance is reviving just seven of its 139 square miles. In the rest, all that many people feel they have are community-based networks of their own making.”

Detroiters like Cassells, after years of privation, have turned to what experts call a gift economy to survive. Theirs is an alternative economy based on time banking, skill-sharing, and giveaways—home-grown vegetables, a roof repair, spare keys to a shared car—in which neighbors give as they can and take as they need.

Original Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-01-12/life-without-money-in-detroit-s-survival-economyLife Without Money in Detroit’s Survival Economy

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