Creator of Time Dollars Joins HWS – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Creator of Time Dollars Joins HWS

Edgar S. Cahn, the creator of Time Dollars and co-founder of the National Legal Services Program, will be on campus to share his experience and perspective on Engaged Citizenship on Tuesday, March 27. The lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.

Regarded as the father of poverty law, Cahn is the creator of Time Dollars, the world’s only tax-exempt currency, in which community members “bank” the time they have committed to helping others in exchange for the services they need (such as home repair, child care, tutoring, etc.). In 1980, after suffering a massive heart attack that nearly claimed his life, Cahn created Time Dollars to provide a solution to massive cuts in government spending on social welfare. Now there are TimeBanks in 40 states and 32 nations and Cahn has extended the idea to juvenile justice with the creation of Time Dollar Youth Court and to elder care with CareBanks.

A lawyer by trade, Cahn spent the next 20 years of his career as a U.S. civil rights lawyer and activist, fighting for the rights of ethnic minorities, women and indigenous communities. Cahn started his career in government as special counsel and speechwriter for Attorney General Robert Kennedy under President John F. Kennedy. Cahn also worked to spearhead the first national campaign against hunger and malnutrition in the United States, and in doing so he authored an influential report titled “Hunger, USA,” which helped instigate litigation that initiated both the preeminent exposé of hunger in America and the first major national drive against it.  

In 1972, Cahn and his late wife, Jean, created and founded the Antioch School of Law, which later became the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia and continues the tradition established in the Antioch days to emphasize social justice as a critical role for the law. As law-school deans, the Cahns were the first pioneers of clinical legal education in the U.S., an approach which is now to be found in law schools throughout the nation.

In 2008, Cahn launched the Racial Justice Initiative, providing a break-though legal theory with the potential to dismantle structural racism in juvenile justice and child welfare.

In addition to his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore, he also earned M.A., Ph.D., and J.D. degrees from Yale University. He was a Fulbright Scholar, won a Medal of Distinction from the District of Columbia Superior Court, and was named a Point of Light, along with numerous other honors and awards. He is the author of “Time Dollars and No More Throw-Away People: The Coproduction Imperative,” showing how to mobilize a nonmarket economy that recognizes and rewards reciprocal contributions of service and caring.

Cahn currently serves as Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia School of Law. Previously, Cahn has held positions at the University of Miami School of Law, Florida International University, the London School of Economics, Center for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University and the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law.

The event is hosted by the Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning. Questions concerning the event can be directed to CCESL at ext. 3825 or