NEW POST “The Map – How To Out Your Local Economy”

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Please go on over to Value for People, where I have now integrated this blog into the site.

Local Currency – an update

I started this blog in September 2011 just as the Occupy movement was getting going and I was starting work on the book “People Money – The Promise of Regional Currencies”. Three years on, and over two years since my last post here, I think it is time for an update.
Occupy represented an essential outpouring of the anger and grief of a generation. I am sure it was a formative and educational experience for many people, some of whom were probably exposed for the first time in their lives to TAMARA (There Are Many Achievable Real Alternatives) instead of the TINA (There Is No Alternative) agenda that neo-liberals have thrust upon us for the last thirty years. Many who were ‘conscientized’ by the Occupy movement have gone on to discover what kind of commitment it takes to bring about real change: direction, dedication and discipline. They have internalised the ‘DNA of Occupy’ and carried it forward into thousands of local actions and options for change.

Meantime, I have continued to beaver away at the theme that has ‘occupied’ me for over 20 years: local currencies and how to make them sustain-able.

I got my first hands-on experience of running a local currency in Wales, UK, where I coordinated a local exchange system from 1993 to 2003. I remained a member for another five years. During the 15 years I was involved, our membership never grew beyond 150, of whom maybe 20 people were active users. A few remained members for the whole time I was there, others came and went. This is completely typical for small-scale, volunteer-run systems around the world and it is almost amazing that people still bother to make the effort to run such marginal systems. When we began our system, we had to write cheques by hand and send them in the post to an administrator (me at the beginning), who then laboriously typed our transactions into a DOS-based (pre-Windows, white text on black screen) computer program. Gradually, we graduated through Excel and Access programs and now many systems completely automate their administration through the inspiring CES global network of exchange systems.

After running a local exchange system for ten years, I went on to co-found the Wales Institute for Community Currencies at the University of Newport, where we supported residents of the former coalmining districts of South Wales to develop community time banks that rewarded local people for work in their communities. From this experience, I learned that a responsible local organisation, like the Blaengarw Time Centre, could issue credits for community work that were carefully backed by rewards, a different model from the ‘mutual credit’ mechanism I was used to before.

In 2007, I left the Institute and stepped back from practice for a few years to reflect on my own experiences and those of many others worldwide. People kept saying that there were thousands of local currencies out there but I wondered where they all were. It seemed to me that the majority of experiments with community currencies had ‘failed’ (not sustained themselves) and I wanted to know why. How could we ensure that more systems became sustainable? How could we scale them up to have greater impact? I tried to summarise my ideas about how to improve practice by writing a community currency design manual, which went through four drafts but was never quite ready for publication. I shared these ideas in a series of webinars in 2010 followed by a workshop at Findhorn College in Scotland.
When Margrit Kennedy asked me to produce and co-write the first English edition of her 2004 German book on regional currencies, which became “People Money – the Promise of Regional Currencies” published in 2012, I jumped at the chance. I wanted the new book to give a realistic overview of current practice and so I interviewed 40 local currency leaders and organisers from around the world. From these I chose sixteen of the most active systems about which to write in-depth profiles. I also included a maturer version of my proposed ORDER design process for regional currencies.

One of the coolest experiences I had with the People Money book was when a wood carver in the Lake District, UK, offered me two spoons in payment for the book. A good barter! The book has gathered some nice reviews.
PM with spoons
Six months after People Money was published, my editor at Triarchy Press asked if I would write a much shorter ‘pamphlet’ explaining to newcomers as simply as possible why anyone should bother with local currencies. After much blood, sweat and tears and five drafts later “Local Money – What Difference Does It Make?” appeared in summer 2013. I processed a lot of my anger at the injustice of the present financial system in the first draft and had to get past that before I could write something useful to people. Here are some reviews.
These two books were my attempt to summarise best practice of local currencies and make some recommendations about how to improve practice. But one thought kept haunting me. What if we had all got it wrong? What if the local currency was not the most important thing? What do we really know about the local economy? Who are the main players in that economy? How do they use currency? I developed a simulation game called “People Money Game” to give people a hands-on experience of how exchange functions. People have played this game in several countries in English, German and French. It has given me valuable insights into how local currencies bring together underused resources with unmet needs.

These experiences led me to publish my latest pamphlet in September 2014 “The Map – How To Out Your Local Economy”, which is the subject of my next post.
The Map Cover 2


Quick, head on over to Triarchy Press and pre-order your copy of People Money, published in England on 5th July 2012:

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“People Money – the Promise of Regional Currencies”

So we are nearly there.

The adventure trek I began in September 2011 with my first interviews with local currency organisers turned into a Himalayan expedition of interviews with 40 regional currency practitioners from Argentina to New Zealand on six continents. Now the summit is in sight.

The finished product – a completely updated and expanded first English edition of Margrit Kennedy’s and Bernard Lietaer’s 2004 German book “Regionalwährungen” – will be published by Triarchy Press in England in June.

“People Money – the Promise of Regional Currencies” is in two parts.

Part One: The Case for Regional Currencies starts by proposing a new definition of globalisation that honours local diversity, presents regional currencies as  a powerful tool for localisation policies, investigates the money ‘blind spot’ we all have that only sees one kind of money – national currencies – , presents Banco Palmas in Brazil and WIR Bank in Switzerland as leading examples of effective regional money systems and finally discusses the key characteristics of regional money systems.

Part Two: Regional Currencies in Practice profiles the diverse global movement of local currency systems, from business to business exchange systems to LETS, Time Bank and Transition Town currencies. It explores the many habits of effective local currency organisers, presents a design methodology – the ORDER process – for new systems, followed by portraits of 15 leading systems including Brixton Pound, BerkShares, Chiemgauer, Ithaca HOURS, Talente Tauschkreis Vorarlberg in Austria, Dane County Time Bank, Blaengarw Time Centre, Equal Dollars etc., continuing with portraits of agencies that research, develop and support local currencies such as IRTA, STRO, QOIN, Community Forge and the German Regional Money Association. The book ends with ‘Future Positive’, a summary of lessons learned, recommendations for action and brief portraits of the Bristol Pound – launch due 2012 – and the Nanto – launch due 2013 –  both being supported by local authorities.

So, climb to the summit of the new economics with us by ordering your copy, telling all your friends and planting a flag for sane money in an insane age.