Currencies that circulate locally within a community have been created many times in the past, especially at times of economic hardship.
Last year, the Greek government passed a law that supported finding creative ways to cope with the economic crisis. For the first time, alternative forms of entrepreneurship and local development were actively encouraged.
As a result, many local currencies have been developed. In Volos, the local mayor, Panos Skotiniotis, believes that the alternative currency has proved to be an excellent way of supplementing the euro. “We are all for supporting alternatives that help alleviate the crisis’s economic and social consequences,” he said.
Internationally, there is now a strong ‘complementary currency’ movement which promotes the local economy.
In Brixton, England, council employees can choose to receive some of their salary in Brixton pounds. The Mayor of Bristol is being paid in Bristol Pounds!
Also supporting Communities are LETS (local exchange trading systems) and Time Banks which are examples of mutual credit systems. In a mutual credit system, the amount of currency in circulation expands and contracts as it is needed, so it is never in short supply.
Time Banks are a form of mutual credit where the currency used is hours. For every hour participants deposit in a time bank, perhaps by giving practical help and support to others, they are able to withdraw equivalent support in time when they themselves are in need. Time Banking has the ability to optimise the benefits of the social capital resources already held in our Community at no additional cost.
Time banks, like LETS, strengthen communities by helping people find means to do things for each other. It is like an organised exchange of favours, so is helping enable a gift economy.
Recently, collective savings and loan schemes, mutual credit and local complimentary enterprises have outperformed the larger banking organisations and provided those involved with significantly more security.
On Saturday 26th January, as part of the Sustainable Skills Summer School, Margaret Jeffries from Project Lyttelton, will be running workshops on how to establish a local time bank and complementary currencies.
On Sunday 27th January, Margaret Jeffries will also be running a workshop on how to establish a collective savings and loan scheme.
For details of these workshops, check out: www.sustainableoamaru.org.nz
By establishing these initiatives and optimising our social capital and financial resources we strengthen Community resilience to weather any economic or social challenges.