Promise of Regional Currencies
* Book: People Money - the Promise of Regional Currencies. By Margrit Kennedy and Bernard Lietaer with John Rogers. Triarchy Press, 2012
'People Money' is the first English edition of Margrit Kennedy's and Bernard Lietaer's 2004 German book 'Regionalwährungen'(also published in French and Spanish); It is a comprehensive guide to the principles and practice of regional currencies showing the diversity of community currencies experiences and exploring the different initiatives around the world.
"We took the opportunity of the first English edition to completely update and expand the book to include profiles of regional currencies around the world: Banco Palmas, WIR Bank, Brixton Pound, BerkShares, Chiemgauer, Equal Dollars etc. The portraits are based on interviews with 40 local currency organisers, which we think plugs a gap in the literature to date and adds valuable new evidence about the potential of these systems."
"The book shows how regional currencies can transform the lives and well-being of local communities, how they can sustain businesses, how local authorities can participate in their success and, consequently, why supporting regional currencies is of vital importance to the future of your community, region or country.
As a comprehensive guide to the development process and implementation of a regional currency, it can help communities and stakeholders in taking the plunge for social, ecological and cultural transition."
PART 1 – The Case for Regional Currencies
1.Think globally, act regionally 5
Globalisation – a dirty word? 5 Regional development – a global phenomenon 7 Making decisions at the right level 8 Global problems, regional solutions 8
2. Money, the Blind Spot 11
What is money? 11 What is the cost of money? 13 People Money 16 Complementary currencies 17 Regional currencies 18 Policies for regional currencies 20 A negative example: how to destroy regional sustainability 22 Two positive examples of regional currencies 23 Banco Palmas, Brazil 24 WIR Bank, Switzerland 31 WIR’s stabilization effect on the Swiss economy 37 What can we learn? 39
3. An old idea in new clothes 41
Historical Precedents 41 Good money, bad money? 44 Historical inflation rates 45 From gold standard to global currencies 46 Local money in the UK 47 The Guernsey Story 48 The Wörgl Story 50 Regional currencies for regional economies 52 Key lessons 53
4. Characteristics of regional currencies 55
Each region is different 55 Goal: reverse the drainage effect 56 Key elements of a regional currency 58 Integration and organisation 61 Criteria applying to a regional currency 62 Co-operation with financial institutions 64 Fiscal aspects of regional currencies 65 Clearing systems 67
Part Two – Regional Currencies in Practice 68
5. A global community of practice 69
Learning from doing 70 Is it a movement? 70 Why do people start them? 72 Where are they? 73
6. How to implement a regional currency 77
Learning from failure – one example of a currency that failed and why 77 Development process 78 Complex system 79 Get on board 80 Models of ownership – who can start it and how long does it take? 80 Researching the routes and destinations – the key economic and social players 82 Designing the bus – choosing the currency mechanism 84 Creating a bus company – the formalisation of the ownership process and governance of the currency 86 Hiring the drivers and servicing the passengers – management of the currency 86 Keeping the bus on the road – recovering costs 87 Telling people about the service – marketing 88 When to launch? 89 Remember to review 90
7. The people and their money – portraits of regional currencies 91
Who starts them? 91 The many habits of highly effective local money organisers 91 A simplified typology of regional currencies 96 Interviews with local organisers 98 Currencies that support local economy – Business Exchange Systems 99 The Business Exchange, Scotland 100 Community Connect Trade Association, USA 105 RES, Belgium 110 puntoTRANSacciones, El Salvador 115 Currencies that support local economy – Other local economic models 119 Brixton Pound, England 120 Talente Tauschkreis Vorarlberg, Austria 124 Equal Dollars, USA 130 BerkShares, USA 136 Chiemgauer, Germany 142 SOL Violette, France 148 Ithaca HOURS USA 153 Argentine stories 158
Currencies that grow community 163
Blaengarw Time Centre, Wales 164 Community Exchange System, South Africa 170 Dane County Time Bank, USA 176 Other regional models 183 Sectoral currencies 186
8. Research, develop, support – the role of agencies 193
International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA) 195 STRO, Netherlands 199 QOIN, Netherlands 203 Regiogeld e.V, Germany 205 CommunityForge, Switzerland 207
9. Learning from practice – the power of regional currencies 211
10. Future positive 217
Recommendations for action 221 People Money – the time is now 222
APPENDIX ONE Resources for developing regional currencies 225
APPENDIX TWO The Business Case for Complementary Currencies 226
"PEOPLE MONEY is a comprehensive , real-time survey of all the robust, viable local currencies and credit-systems emerging worldwide .These are now vital to provide safety-nets as citizens cope with the assaults of "austerity" policies of "technocrats" guided by defunct economics and what behavioural scientists call "theory-induced blindness".
Economics was never a science and monetary policies based on its failed models are causing such widespread harm that the sensible solutions described in this book are now coming to light. This book is vitally important, not only to NGOs and concerned citizens , but also required reading for bankers, financiers and all economy policymakers looking for saner alternatives. "
"PEOPLE MONEY is the single most useful and empowering book I have encountered for those wanting to get involved in the complementary currency movement. Its diverse real-life examples and insightful ‘how-tos’, embedded in deep theoretical understanding, will surely make it essential reading for activists, policy-makers, and economists interested in localization and sustainability." (http://www.triarchypress.co.uk/pages/People-Money_reviews.htm)
Cited in the book:
Banco Palmas, Brazil, and the brazilian network of community development banks, WIR Bank and currency, Switzerland, Business Exchange, Scotland, Community Connect Trade, USA, RES, Belgium, PuntoTRANSaccioines, El Salvador, Brixton Pound, England Talente Tauschkreis Vorarlberg, Austria Equal Dollars, USA ~ BerkShares, USA Chiemgauer, Germany SOL Violette, France Ithaca HOURS, USA Dane County Time Bank, USA Blaengarw Time Centre, Wales Community Exchange System, South Africa
See also the documentary material at: Regional Currencies
"The global financial crisis that began in 2007 is not the first. Researchers at the International Monetary Fund identified 124 systemic banking crises, 208 currency crises and 63 episodes of sovereign debt defaults between 1970 and 2010. And in the previous 300 years there were 48 major crashes. Listening to the daily news, it seems like crisis is normal and permanent. But the causes are systemic and systemic causes require systemic solutions.
In 2003, Margrit Kennedy and Bernard Lietaer discovered that they both wanted to write a book about the possibilities and advantages of creating regional currencies. They were happily surprised to learn that each of them already had very concrete ideas why the introduction of this type of money would make sense in the near future. They also found out that their experiences with local currencies and knowledge of historical examples were quite different and that it made sense to write this book together.
Margrit had already featured alternative money systems in her first book ‘Inflation and Interest Free Money’ in 1987; Bernard had introduced the term ‘complementary currencies’ in ‘The Future of Money’ in 1999 and was friends with historians of coinage, who had discovered many coins from the middle ages to the industrial revolution that acted as regional currencies on a large scale across Europe. On her travels in Europe and the Americas, Margrit had discovered many different local efforts to develop new ways of using money, like the Swedish JAK Bank, the Swiss WIR Bank, the Argentinian Credito and numerous Local Exchange Trading Systems, all of which showed that complementary currencies could be of enormous help to the people who use them.
Before Margrit and Bernard were able to finish the book, the word had spread in Germany about their plans to publish a book on this topic. Twenty-four initiators from various parts of Germany, who were thinking of implementing regional currencies, began to ask for more information on how to proceed. Neither Margrit nor Bernard knew exactly how to go about it, as neither of them had encountered an example of a regional currency that met all their criteria, so they organized a meeting of all those interested in creating regional currencies to discuss the various options. There was a lively exchange of experiences and expectations at this first meeting, which inspired everyone to set up the Regiogeld e.V (Regional Money Association p.XX), representing regional money systems across Germany.
The resulting book was published in 2004 by Riemann, Munich , and became something of a handbook for the first German models. It was later translated into French and Spanish .
John Rogers was invited to update and edit the original book for this first English edition.
Part One: The Case for Regional Currencies contains the essence of the original book and Part Two: Regional Currencies in Practice features portraits of local systems around the world, selected from interviews with 40 organisers and promoters, reflecting the great variety of current practice. This evidence gives a new impulse and credibility to the concept and helps those who feel compelled to follow in the footsteps of the first initiators to learn from their often challenging experiences.
All three authors wish to salute the courage, ingenuity and perseverance of those local currency pioneers who have shown the way. In particular, thanks to all of the local organisers and support agencies who gave generously of their time to do interviews and correct mistakes in the text for this book. Apologies for any mistakes that remain and if we have overlooked anyone who should have been included. Tell us who you are and we will include you in the next edition.
A personal thank you from Margrit and Bernard to our life partners who support our work: Declan Kennedy and Jacqui Dunne, who by chance were born in the same hospital in Dublin, and whose Irish humour and wonderful ability to tell stories continue to inspire us to fill our visions with life and our life with visions. John would like to dedicate the book to the memory of Eluned, who insisted he get started with local currencies, and to Sitara who cheerfully puts up with his obsession.
Up to now, most regional currencies have been initiated by citizens and businesses. Regional and city governments are starting to join them as they search for innovative solutions to the range and scale of problems facing them. We hope that this book will provide enough information and inspiration to local governments, businesses and citizens to try out bold new experiments that put regional currencies back on the map for a long time to come."
The powers of regional currencies
Regional currency is the Harry Potter of currencies: a wizard with hidden powers.
These powers expand the field of monetary magic, which in turn expands the field of human possibility. Some local currencies show off one or another power best and a few systems can combine all of these powers together.
- Power of problem solving
People set up community currencies in response to a number of social and economic problems: the concentration of global economic power and wealth in ever fewer hands; a dysfunctional and socially unjust monetary and banking system; lack of local purchasing power; breakdown of local community.
- Power of acting locally
Community currencies are focussed on a geographical area or community of interest.
National currencies are kept systematically scarce in order to maintain conventional economies and some regions suck the life out of others by systematic transfers of wealth. Local currencies are always sufficient for local needs for exchange, whatever the state of the national economy, and cannot be used outside that community.
The size of systems varies from as few as 10 members of a tenants and residents’ group on a public housing estate through to hundreds of businesses and thousands of individual participants.
- Power of valuing and sharing our gifts
Many people feel useless or surplus to requirements in the market economy. Millions of people have talents, ideas and skills that are going to waste. Community currencies encourage people to discover and share their gifts with each other. People can turn their time and energies into currency and then receive value in return for their efforts. Or, if they wish, they can give their currency away to other family or community members, who then spend it and let it circulate to bring benefit to others.
- Power of mobilising under-capacity
The world is also full of under-used resources that could be shared around better: spare business inventory; second hand goods that go to landfill; publicly owned leisure and arts centres that are not used to capacity; voluntary organisations with rooms and vehicles.
What is often lacking is the money (an information system) for matching up spare capacity (supply) with those who could benefit from it (demand). Various local currency designs provide that information system.
- Power of harnessing volunteers
Another way for people to share their gifts is to offer service that benefits the whole community. Many voluntary and charitable organisations rely on volunteer effort to deliver their services and yet struggle to find enough people to get involved. Local currencies offer a ‘carrot’ for involvement by offering something in return. They make reciprocity a core value of organisations whose mission is to serve. Those who wish to remain strictly volunteers have the option of simply giving their credits away to others.
- Power of a network
Local currencies provide an instant network for people locally, whether they are born and bred in the area or moving there for the first time. They allow people to make new friendships and connections quickly, which can help people to build up confidence, learn new skills or try out ideas for new businesses. Networks remind people of ancient bonds of mutuality, which tied people together throughout history.
- Power of integration into social economy
Local currencies have the potential to bring together the key elements of local society under one umbrella that benefits everyone: local businesses, local citizens, local public agencies, local voluntary organisations.
They can also be integrated into other methods of local economic development in the social economy, such as Credit Unions, Cooperatives, Micro-credit, Development Trusts.
- Power of control
At this scale people feel a sense of belonging, trust and control over the local currency, which they do not with national currency. There are three keys to achieving this:
• careful system management
• democratic governance with written agreements
• self-management and self-control of participants.
The development of all three elements builds up confidence and accountability.
Thousands of experiments with community currencies worldwide have repeatedly shown the potential and significance of these small, local systems to give people improved quality of life and hope for the future in a more human scale, localised, convivial world.
- Power of circulation
National currency often comes into a community and flows straight out again in the form of taxes to government, profits to distant shareholders or wages that are spent elsewhere. Local currency aims to stay and circulate because it cannot be spent outside that community. How many times does a unit of currency need to circulate to build a local economy or make it sustainable? Nobody knows, but it is clear that the more times currency changes hands the more work it is doing. The only problem might be if the work it is doing damages the local community or environment, in which case other trading rules can be built in to exclude certain categories of goods and services from trade and to encourage trades that contribute to sustainability.
- Power of time
The aims of most local currency developers are some form of sustainability: local wealth, local community, local environment etc. Time is an important element. Sustainability does not necessarily mean that a currency will remain in existence forever. The point is whether the system achieves what it sets out to achieve, not the sustainability of the system for its own sake. Unfortunately, it is easy to get sucked into organisational maintenance as an end in itself and lose sight of the original goals.
- Powerful combination
An effective regional currency integrates these various magical powers into one powerful spell for positive local and global transformation."