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Kia ora koutou,

I’m gen, I’ve just returned to my hometown, Christchurch, after 20 years in all sorts of different places doing

all sorts of different things, from owning and operating a bar on a ski resort in France, to working as a paramedic for St John Ambulance in Auckland. I have always been passionate about sustainability, the environment and social justice issues and have recently realised that working in this arena is the only real choice for me.

The project I am working on has to do with my experiences of working in the health system, and how we might better use our health dollar to enhance individual and community health rather than focusing on the far more expensive cure. Initially I would like to connect my organisation, St John, with a concept known as Timebanking (a services exchange tool in which one member’s time given in work or services done, can be exchanged with any other member for equal time and services. This tool can be used to effect all sorts of beneficial outcomes and has the added bonus of building community cohesion and social capital). With our knowledge of how community breakdown affects both mental and physical health, rebuilding community is a first step towards overall better health and savings in health resources.

This idea would benefit St John in two main ways, first, as two thirds of ambulance crew in NZ are volunteers, those who chose to join a timebank could gain much greater rewards for the time they put into St John and their communities, with the likely outcome being an increased retention rate of volunteers, saving the organisation large sums in training, uniforms and recruitment.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as one of the few agencies who touch the lives of such a wide range of people in our communities and across the whole country, St John is uniquely placed to endorse this simple and clever tool. I believe that St John’s high profile and trusted name behind the concept will encourage people to seriously consider how Timebanking can promote better health and stronger community. And as we progress in rebuilding our communities, the non-emergency calls St John Ambulance attend which are related to social isolation should reduce in number, thereby lessening the stress on our resources.

Timebanking has enormous potential to improve health outcomes, which have already been demonstrated in the UK and US where Timebanking is used to care for the elderly and keep them in their own homes; reduce chronic illness sufferers emergency admittances to hospital by providing the skills and support to manage their health needs better at home; improve confidence and mental health by providing people with purpose and social interaction; and reduce rehabilitation time after accident or injury. My goal is to bring those benefits to the New Zealand health sector and help us transition from the expensive and inefficient individual cure-focused health system paradigm, to promoting individual, community and societal wellness.

Check out my prezi at

  1. Hi Gen
    This is a very interestign concept and love the work you have done. I have been working on a concept to change healthcare from a rural perspective for a few years now and the biggest component needs to be connecting the community and bringing as many options as possible to the local area. The concept of time banking would definately fit within the framework I am developing. I am a big believer that spending more does not directly correlate to better outcomes, but I definately lean toward the concept of communtiy and communities taking care of each other. I would be really interested if you have any other thoughts to how the healthcare system can be improved. We have hit some major hurdles and it seems to come from within the system itself, which has been very surprising. I think the timebanking approach would be very useful in the rural communities where i predominantly operate.

    cheers Greg

    • Hi Greg, thanks so much for your comment, I have checked out your website and looks like you and Kirsty are doing great work. I think you are right, that a lot of the problems in healthcare come from within the system. The system we have is really a ‘Sickcare’ system rather than a ‘Health and Care’ system as I would like to see. I have been doing huge amounts of reading around this and there are many really great people who are already working to change things. Check out my first post – lots of great info – to cross-polinate with some of these. I like this idea of ‘Upstream Doctors’ and I think this is definitely where we need to go if we are to affect the necessary changes to cope with the challenges of the very near future. Keep checking in, I will be spreading all the good ideas I come across and connecting people where I can. Thanks for reading, gen

  2. Steve Henry permalink

    I like what you say Rob that its about communities taking care of each other. My concern with any big system, like healthcare is people get divorced from the exchange. that is my tax dollar pays for my health care. One of the great advantages I see of timebanking and St John as Gen is describing is the instant feedback loop of where my energy goes and the attention is put to how I can participate… it takes it from someone else to me being more responsible……

  3. Francine Currie permalink

    Hi Gen
    When you first shared this concept with me I was excited. There is huge potential for all sectors of the community to get alongside of TimeBanking. I would love to see you succeed with St John in really making significant changes to our Health system.
    I agree with your comments re VAO’s and how best to retain them in the system. I have always said that surely it would be more economical to keep the VAO’s with an ATP than lose them and just keep spending money bringing new people through the system.

  4. This awesome work Gen – inspiring reading.

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