The ‘Masters of the Universe’ in Wall St. have been challenged on their own doorstep this week http://occupywallst.org/
The Wall St. protest and its supporters around the world have identified a dysfunctional money system as the cause of many of their grievances. They have become a new civil rights movement for financial justice.
The history of all successful social movements is a history of effective organising: anti-slavery, womens’ rights, universal voting rights, civil rights, environmental and peace campaigners have all had to learn the hard way how to mobilise and organise in a disciplined way to achieve their goals. We can’t create the world we want unless we learn how to organise.
There are active monetary reform movements whose agenda is to persuade governments to issue their own interest-free currencies without debt and independently of commercial banks:
American Monetary Institute: http://www.monetary.org/
Positive Money Campaign: http://www.positivemoney.org.uk/
Even if any of these proposals succeed, there will still be a need for local currencies owned and run by local citizens, businesses or government to provide all the liquidity we need for local exchange and to strengthen the links between people and environment.
So while others are on the barricades, I have been talking to people who hold one of the Keys to the Universe: local currency organisers.
And what great stories they have to tell!
Henk van Arkel from Holland ran his first environmental campaign in 1965 at the age of 14.
An old man explained to him how a financial system based on compound interest and constant growth was the cause of many social and environmental problems. He showed him historical examples of attempts to organise alternatives in France:
and in Austria: http://www.reinventingmoney.com/documents/worgl.html
Many years later this seed blossomed into his life’s work with Strohalm – now called the Social Trade Organisation – and the world’s leading research and development agency for local currencies: http://www.socialtrade.org/
Henk realised that you have to ‘beat capitalist monopoly money within the market’ and this led him to an intensive study of money and alternative forms of currency.
Stro has developed several different models of local currency and constantly innovates through its work with local organisations and governments, particularly in South and Central America.
It has also developed and patented a key technology platform for running local currencies, its Cyclos software: http://project.cyclos.org/
Another pioneer of new exchange systems is Richard Logie, founder of the Business Exchange in Aberdeen, Scotland: http://www.tbex.com/
He grew up in poverty in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands. If you did favours for others in the community, you got things in exchange. He learned to do all kinds of odd jobs in the community and learned how to barter his skills at school. “We didn’t have any money but we were rich, we always had stuff.”
These early experiences again sowed seeds for his life’s work developing business to business exchanges. After many challenges in an unregulated industry, he has survived to build one of the UK’s most successful business exchanges.
His key learnings include the need for standards and the best technology available to support the work, which has led him also to patent software to support local exchange systems of every type: http://www.getsglobal.com/
One night as he was thinking about what to do next in his life, Peter Krause-Keusemann from Germany had a dream. He woke and went back to sleep several times, each time writing down the details of a new currency to bring people and nature together.
Peter says he knew nothing about local currencies but this dream became the basis of a new local currency system called Coinstatt in the industrial Ruhr area involving hundreds of local businesses: http://www.coinstatt.org/
Since launching the currency in 2007 he has learned many important lessons about organising, in particular the challenges of weaning people off an ego-based economic system, getting people to state their needs clearly and how to market and administrate effectively.
Will Ruddick is a physics graduate who went to Kenya as a US Peace Corps volunteer and then partnered with the Green World Campaign. He too was searching for ways to link currency mechanisms to environmental improvements. In 2010, he designed and launched the ECO-Pesa currency, which has supported the people of an informal settlement area to collect waste and plant trees: http://www.ecoethics-kenya.org/projects/eco-pesa.html
The next stage of the project is to set up a co-operative to manage a large forest area and incorporate the currency into its design.
All of these stories will appear in full in the new English edition of the book on regional currencies by Margrit Kennedy, Bernard Lietaer and John Rogers to be published by Triarchy Press in 2012.
TEXT COPYRIGHT John Rogers, Germany