Most people on government assistance, be it social security, SSDI, SSI, Medicaid, food stamps or general assistance would much rather be independent, and these programs, rather than helping them improve their lives, use bureaucracy to maintain their dependency. When people are struggling for survival, they are not able to consider their higher level needs, nor are they able to fruitfully work on self-improvement. B. F. Skinner speaks of the importance of guiding people to make the best possible choices for themselves by rewarding positive behavior and ignoring, rather than punishing, inappropriate behavior. This idea is precisely the opposite of how most government programs function. Being on government assistance, most attempts at self-improvement are ‘punished’ by loss of support before the individual is ready, which discourages them from trying to move beyond basic survival. Edgar Schein consistently restates how people are trained by society from a very young age the value of giving and receiving help. He also discusses that whenever a person asks for help they are humbling themselves and putting themselves in the position of owing help. With government programs, participants are only putting themselves one-down asking for help, but have no opportunity or motivation to help others. This again reinforces a sense of helplessness and worthlessness, preventing full participation in society. The working poor experience similar issues, as their jobs generally are unfulfilling, and they also have few opportunities for self-improvement. People deserve the right to fulfill their potential as human beings, and current society offers few remedies.
Barter Services Network is a social innovation which allows people in need to safely improve their self-reliance through a reciprocal network. It will connect people who would otherwise be isolated and provide them with an opportunity to do productive work. BSN is also a scalable project, which could in the long term become a global organization. Time banking (www.timebanks.org) has proven to be an effective tool for small groups, but requires a degree of trust and self-reliance. BSN allows for rating of members, which is not an option in any timebank program.
Through BSN they would receive peer support on how to have their needs met, and help them move on to working on their higher level needs. Wherever an individual is in the hierarchy, they can receive help meeting those needs, and be better able to improve their self-esteem and grow as a person. BSN is designed for peer feedback on participation, which will allow each person to feel safe and comfortable working with others at the appropriate trust level. BSN is a way for people to test their skills without putting their financial supports at risk. They are able to justify participating to themselves and their families as they earn more supports the more effort they expend.
BSN has not yet been implanted, but has piloted associated discussion groups with Collaborative Support Networks of New Jersey, and has the support of Monmouth Cares, who is starting a time bank, which they intend to run using the BSN framework.