Harnessing the potential of the social economy? Time banks and UK public policy

Gill Seyfang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The paper aims to improve understanding of the UK policy context for the social economy and thereby increase policy effectiveness in promoting the sector.

Design/methodology/approach: First the term “social economy” is discussed and defined. Then the range of policy responses to the social economy is reviewed. The interface between the social economy and policy is examined in detail using a case study initiative: time banks, a type of community currency which uses time as money.

Findings: UK government policy responds very positively to the social economy, viewing it as a potential provider of social cohesion, public service delivery, and sustainable development. However, the time bank case study reveals that existing social policy on work and employment is a barrier to realising the potential of the sector.

Practical implications: Proposals to overcome these policy barriers are suggested: they share the approach of redefining “work” and valuing and rewarding unpaid community efforts in the social economy.

Originality/value: The social economy is attracting increasing policy attention, but there is little empirical research in this area. This paper presents a review of existing policy and examines the impacts of policy in the social economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-443
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology & Social Policy
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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