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People Money

People Money, The Promise of Regional Currencies by Margrit Kennedy, Bernard Lietaer and John Rogers

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About the book

People Money is a comprehensive guide to the principles and practice of regional currencies.

It shows how regional currencies can transform the lives and well-being of local communities, how they can sustain businesses, how local authorities can participate in their success and, consequently, why supporting regional currencies is of vital importance to the future of your community, region or country.

It is also a comprehensive guide to the development process and implementation of a regional currency.

The Present Currency System

Centralised national money destroys community. It makes us deal with human beings like we deal with dented cans – we throw them away when we can’t make a profit from them …
Bob Fishman, Equal Dollars Community Currency

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, vast numbers of people have had their livelihoods stripped away and, for many, the future looks bleak. There is a growing gap between the haves and have-nots and the disagreements between policy makers (economists and governments) about how to ‘rebalance the economy’ increasingly suggest that nobody has control or knows what to do.

The growth vs. austerity options under consideration will do little to help the financial sector stabilise. According to the IMF, there have been at least 145 banking crises, 208 monetary crashes and 72 sovereign-debt crises in the last 40 years and these are bound to continue if we stay with the present approach.

It is not just another downturn in the business cycle but a deep systemic crisis caused by the rift between a casino economics based on monetary speculation and the social and ecological realities of our time. The only way to bridge this chasm between money and planet, between money and people is to reinvent money.

The Change and Benefits of Regional Currencies

Communities are full of underused resources: individuals with time and talents; businesses with spare capacity in the form of restaurant tables, hire cars, printing services, theatre seats; voluntary associations with underused vehicles and rooms; local authorities with underused community and leisure centres.

Regional Currencies reinvent money to mobilize these resources without burdening taxpayers either at the national or regional level. Regional Currencies:

  • value talents and skills
  • rebuild communities and strengthen local economies
  • help protect local environments share inventory, labour and skills that could serve the community
  • harness volunteers more effectively
  • support learning, training and skills-sharing
  • sustain local businesses with spare capacity
  • meet the demand for the care and support of the elderly.

Furthermore, they are not subject to the risk of a meltdown in the financial sector. Like the Brixton or Lewes pound (and there are many thousands of them worldwide, in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa, New Zealand, …) regional currencies behave and do what national currencies don’t do.

Who should read People Money?

  • Anyone who is interested in developing and implementing a regional currency
  • Policy makers on the funding of education, sustainable initiatives, social welfare, youth projects etc.
  • Business leaders with spare capacity
  • NGOs or organisations who want to attract more volunteers
  • Local authority and community leaders
  • Talent exchange initiatives
  • Anyone who doesn’t understand the importance of regional currencies

Contents

In Part 1, The Case for Regional Currencies, the authors give an excellent overview of the present monetary system – its history and purpose – and an explanation of its inherent weaknesses. They include a short history of regional currencies and their effects, with examples dating back to 1265. (The oldest one in existence today is the WIR bank in Switzerland, now 78 years old with a turnover of the equivalent of 1.627 billion Swiss Francs in 2010.)

The characteristics and purpose of the various models of commercial- and community-oriented currencies are then explained, with examples from rich and poor, urban and rural communities. Different types of currency – voucher systems, circulating currencies, exchange rings and micro-credit banks – are looked at in detail.

A regional currency should ideally:

  1. represent a win-win situation for all participants
  2. be organised with the aim of mutual social benefit
  3. be professionally run
  4. be transparent for its users
  5. be democratically governed
  6. be sustainably financed
  7. contain circulation incentives.

Drawing on the experiences of organisers of regional currencies, the authors describe the administration and governance of the currencies, how to cooperate with other financial institutions, clearing systems and the issue of taxation.

Part 2, Regional Currencies in Practice, focuses on the ‘how to’ of developing a regional currency and the benefits that have accrued as a result of their implementation.

Regional currencies can be started by individuals, businesses or local government authorities. Through years of experience and in-depth interviewing of the organisers of different currencies, the authors have developed a framework of 5 phases for new developers to work from. Each of these phases is clearly explained so that, by the end, currency designers will have a:

  • Currency mechanism
  • Cost recovery model
  • Management structure and key job descriptions
  • Appropriate governance model
  • Marketing strategy: a suitable name and the beginnings of a corporate identity
  • Training needs assessment and plan to recruit ‘multipliers’ who will publicise and explain the concept throughout the region.
  • Map of other projects in the regional and social economy, which are complementary to the regional currency and could work together
  • Project presentation portfolio for decision makers and multipliers

Finally, the book profiles of some of the leading organisers of regional currencies around the world, explaining their driving passion and the nuances of each of the models – how the currency started, how it developed, the difficulties encountered on the journey, and how these were overcome.

Regional currencies featured in the book include:

Banco Palmas, Brazil ~ WIR Bank, Switzerland ~
The Business Exchange, Scotland ~ Community Connect Trade, USA ~
RES, Belgium ~ PuntoTRANSaccioines, El Salvador ~
Brixton Pound, England ~ Talente Tauschkreis Vorarlberg, Austria ~
Equal Dollars, USA ~ BerkShares, USA ~
Chiemgauer, Germany ~ SOL Violette, France ~
Ithaca HOURS, USA ~ Dane County Time Bank, USA ~
Blaengarw Time Centre, Wales ~ Community Exchange System, S. Africa ~

[For a much more detailed explanation of the history and current conduct of the money system and how it threatens not just economic stability but social and environmental sustainability altogether – see Money and Sustainability: The Missing Link.]

About the Authors

Prof. Dr. Margrit Kennedy is an architect with a Masters Degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a Ph.D. in Public and International Affairs, who worked for UNESCO and OECD and was a professor for Ecological Building Technologies in the Department of Architecture at the University of Hanover. Projects in ecological architecture for the International Building Exhibition Berlin in 1987 led her to the discovery that it is virtually impossible to carry out sound ecological concepts on the scale required today without fundamentally altering the present money system or creating new complementary currencies. In her two books Interest and Inflation Free Money (1987 – translated into 23 languages since) and Occupy Money (2012) she explores the systemic problems of the present system and the advantages of using new complementary monetary designs. Her work in this field has been instrumental for the start of more than 60 regional currency initiatives in the German speaking parts of Europe.

Bernard Lietaer has been active in money systems for 35 years in an unusual variety of functions. While at the Central Bank in Belgium he co-designed and implemented the convergence mechanism (ECU) to the single European currency system and served as President of Belgium’s Electronic Payment System. He was General Manager and Currency Trader for the Gaia Hedge Funds, when Business Week identified him in 1990 as the world’s top trader. He is currently Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and Visiting Professor at the Finance University in Moscow. He is the author of fifteen books relating to monetary and financial issues.

John Rogers cut his teeth with local currencies by running a local exchange system in Wales for 10 years. He co-founded the Wales Institute for Community Currencies at the University of Newport, which he directed with Geoff Thomas from 2003-2007. They coordinated research into the effects of time banking in ex-mining communities, which was published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in ‘Hidden Work’. He now offers training and consulting for local currencies through Value for People and has spoken and led workshops at many international conferences.