Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The practice of community currencies is at a crucial point in its global history – never before have there been so many initiatives, models, theories and widespread hopes in the field as today. People are turning to currencies as solutions for social, economic and environmental challenges in their communities – whether communities of traders, local residents or health and social care providers.

By creating new ways to exchange time and goods, new currencies provide a valuable addition to conventional money and the narrowly profit orientated economies it supports. They allow people to build connections that don’t depend on how many pounds you might have in your wallet, purse or bank account. Thanks to advances in technology and a big increase in the awareness of the need to form economically and environmentally sustainable communities, discussions on how to make money work better for people are now entering mainstream policy debates. 

Complementing work on monetary and financial reforms, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) are the UK’s leading institute in researching complementary currencies. And helping to link theory with action, NEF are part of a transnational partnership laying the ground for cross-sectorial currency innovations designed for the common good. In short this means demonstrating just how complementary currency projects can connect public and non-profit sectors as credible vehicles for achieving positive social, environmental and local economic changes.

The partnership, called Community Currencies in Action (CCIA), brings together the city of Amsterdam, the city of Nantes, the borough of Lambeth in London, two public and voluntary organisations in Belgium and Wales and three expert organisations in community currencies: Qoin, Spice and NEF. Together they are launching or scaling-up six currency pilots each following a different model designed in response to a range of challenges.

E-Portemonnee (E-wallet) is an electronic savings and reward system designed to reduce household waste and support sustainable environmentally friendly behaviour in the East Belgian province of Limburg. Over in France, the SoNantes is an all-digital currency aimed at economic development of local businesses. It includes a mutual credit system so that businesses can provide goods and services to each other without spending Euros – with individual shoppers also able to participate by opening up an account at the local credit union. The SoNantes cards can then be used on public transport, in shops and cafes as well as to pay for certain council services.

Co-funded by the European Regional Development Program Interreg IVb, the partnership is providing a package of support structures to help further currency start-ups across North West Europe, based on the learnings from the 6 pilots. CCIA is linking up currency practitioners with groups wanting to learn more about how similar schemes could work in their communities and hoping to prompt further responses to the challenge of how money can be redesigned to better serve society’s needs.

Find out more on the CCIA website, where all research and guidebooks will be made available.