Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One Hour of Time

This post is cross-posted at my other blog, Hats For Health. Longtime readers here may recall that I seem to have a strange fascination with paper hats. This post won't explain all of that, I at a loss to imagine whence this fascination stems, but for what it's worth it explains it a little.

My ideas always seem half-baked. I've got another blog called Bazungu Bucks. The idea behind Bazungu Bucks is to assign a credit for time spent in service to African people, where one hour of time equals one Bazungu Buck. You can read a little more about the idea in this post. I guess it's a very Western metaphor to think; time is money. But then again, Bazungu Bucks aren't real money but an alternative currency.

Now this idea hasn't gone anywhere because nobody can figure out how to spend Bazungu Bucks, so what's the use? Since you really can't spend Bazungu Bucks like money, what I had in mind is that sort of a reputation system. If a person spends enough time in service to African people and accrues some Bazungu Bucks they could go to another person with some Bazungu Bucks and make a deal--after all who else would do something for Bazungu Bucks than someone who already had some? Perhaps first there is a question: What did you do to earn those bucks? Chances are good that the ways different people earned their bucks represent individual interests and skills. So the next question might be: Would you be willing to trade some of your time using your skills to earn some of my Bazungu Bucks? The bucks sort of grease the wheels of collaboration among partners.

The devil is always in the details
. In this case I've not worked out too many of the details for anyone to take the idea seriously. Nevertheless I think there is a kernel of a good idea in Bazungu Bucks and that's simply: Our time is valuable. One dollar won't get anyone very far, and a single Bazungu Buck may not get you anywhere. But dollars added up can make a difference and so too the small efforts of many. The reputation systems at various Web sites like eBay function a little like how I imagine Bazungu Bucks might. In any case such reputation systems prove there is value to what we do which is not so easily measured by real money.

It takes about an hour to make a hat. As a fund raising endeavor it's probably not very efficient. I think most people would be willing to pay a dollar for a handmade paper party hat. And I think most would agree that a dollar an hour is slave wages. So maybe the idea of Hats For Health isn't just half-baked but downright wacky too.

I think that Hats For Health hold value beyond fund raising. First of all parties are very important to people because they are a way to share our connections to others. An hour making a Hat For Health is an hour spent in service to others. In that hour a person makes all sorts of decisions to make a nice hat. So the hat contains a story about the person who makes the hat. When people make hats together in groups stories are shared. Now fund raising is a good reason to make hats, so the best way to sell the hat is to tell someone the story about the hat. When a person wears a Hat For Health they tell a story about it to. Making Hats For Health is a way of expanding connections. The stories of paper party hats for health have real value beyond the money raised.

Three million people die a year as a result of diarrhea, a disproportionate number of them are children. Nearly two-thirds of the people on the globe do not have dependable access to safe water. So at a very rudimentary level the story of a hat begins: Too many people in the world lack for the basic essentials of life, and too many are dying. I made this hat to do something about that. Won't you do something too?

The best part about the hats is they are colorful and fun. They are meant to be worn at a parties. The stories in the hats are joyful. The invitation to do something, to spend a little of your time to devise solutions to the pressing problems today is joined by: Come on, it will be fun!

1 comment:

prettyobvious said...

And exactly how many Bazungu Bucks can I get for 363 tons of $100 bills?