Community Currency – Trading Without Cash
By Ryan Moore
cash was not the only currency you could use? Businesses and individuals have
been exchanging goods and services without the use of cash since the beginning
of humanity. It’s the oldest way of doing business.
to a tool for community empowerment, which enables merchants and consumers to
plant the seeds for an alternative economic future in their communities.
already thousands of local community currency systems operating worldwide.
Ottawa has sparked a new initiative – the Ottawa Community Currency Network
currency is a way to complement our national currency, but it has no value
anywhere outside the Ottawa area.
community networks gave over five million euros to several foundations
developing community currencies. Community resources have been used more
effectively as a result.
One of the
major challenges is bringing the public out of their comfort zone. The concept
of an alternative currency has the potential to threaten a person’s worldview.
benefits of a community currency are vast, including social, economic, and
have political democracy without economic democracy. People are more overworked
than they have been since the early 1900’s. Now that we are moving toward a
knowledge-based economy, it’s important to learn more and work less.
having a voice when it comes to dealing with our own resources, and looking
closely at the huge gaps of wealth and power both here and internationally.
One of the
advisors to the Ottawa Community Currency Network, Tim Inkpen, says that
focusing too much on building the proper infrastructure is detrimental to
seeing OCCN succeed.
“We have a
powerful dream of a sustainable Ottawa where individuals can meet their needs,
communities are prosperous and resilient, the environment is respected and
businesses make money by enhancing the quality of both the community and the
environment,” Inkpen said in a recent speech.
would like you to take a moment to imagine what Ottawa would be like if this
vision came true.” Said Inkpen. “Imagine the streets being quiet enough to hear
yourself think; being able to safely swim in a pollution-free Ottawa River;
going to sleep at night knowing that no matter what happens, you will always
have enough to support you and your family; being able to eat affordable
organic food every day.”
local trade builds stronger community currencies. People interact more with
each other, form new connections and build stronger community networks.
post offers and want ads (much like online classifieds). Then members have the
option of trading goods in person. Transactions are recorded to balance the
currency has also been a useful initiative for local charities and community
groups, who might not otherwise have adequate funding to meet their immediate
living below the poverty line can trade goods to improve their situation,
rather than depending on others to provide.
Tire money is an example of a company that created local currency as an
incentive for customer loyalty. It’s the same principle local, small and
medium-sized enterprises can use to develop a stronger niche in their
can list their goods and services on the OCCN’s online.
and organizations can also employ more people, and accomplish more because they
no longer have the typical economic restraints.
should be simply a medium of exchange,” Inkpen said. “Yet, in our current
system, it has become something much more. It is something that has value in
and of itself, largely divorced from real goods and services. How? Thanks
largely to the way modern money is created. Under the current system, all money
is based on debt and interest on that debt. Without debt the entire existing
monetary system would cease to exist. And thanks to interest on that debt, the
debt keeps getting bigger and bigger, making ever increasing demands on
people’s lives and on our environment.”
worldwide money is almost completely controlled by banks and currency traders.
A strategy to avoid this is to invest in a local currency, which replaces debt
with interest-free commitment, where the producers and consumers themselves
define the value of money. This allows members to generate funds for projects
they deem most important. Then, payment is made in the community currency.
instance, if Sarah wanted her house painted and offered a bike as payment, Ken
may be able to paint the house, but may not be interested in the bike. OCCN
issues Sarah $100 in Bytowns (the community currency developed by OCCN) in
order to pay Ken. This means Sarah is committed to return value to the
community (without creating debt). In order to return this value, Sarah could
rake Jane’s leaves for a week. If she chooses, Sarah could list her bike in the
OCCN website classifieds.
this system operating requires contributions from many different people. The OCCN
invited you to become part of this international movement. There are many
volunteer positions available.
also needs people to fill board positions. Please contact Tim Inkpen with any
questions or concerns.
Moore is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
article is originally published in the "Insider Section" of the April-June 2013 issue of “Peace and
Environment News” (PEN) - Volume 28, Number 2, - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.