What are complementary currencies?
Complementary currencies are agreements within a community to accept something else than national currencies as a means of payment. They are sometimes called community currencies, local currencies or “common tender.” Not all these common tender currencies are local, however, and some have purposes other than community building. Because they are designed to function in parallel with conventional money — not replacing but complementing national currencies–we will use the terminology of “complementary” to describe them.
New monetary innovations are now being crafted and used by an ever-growing number of communities worldwide to address a wide array of different social and economic mandates: from effectively caring for the elderly in Japan, to urban renewal in communities like Curitiba or Palmeiras in Brazil, providing new jobs and significantly raising the standard of living in communities, all without incurring costs to government or industry. The potential and adaptability of social currency innovations are part of the shift from the Industrial Age to a Post-Industrial or Information Age. Most of them would not have appeared without cheap computing power becoming available. This also explains their impressive growth from a handful to thousands such currency systems worldwide in the past two decades.
Mounting evidence from these practical experiments in diverse communities around the globe demonstrates that complementary currencies can have significant positive impacts on communities that use them. These new kinds of currencies are addressing critical social problems for which conventional money has proven inadequate such as the erosion of community, ecological deterioration, the need for elderly care, and much more.