BerkShares is a local currency that circulates in The Berkshires region of Massachusetts, U.S. It was launched on September 29, 2006 by BerkShares Inc., with research and development assistance from the Schumacher Center for a New Economics 1.
According to the Berkshares website, “the purpose of BerkShares is to function on a local scale the same way that national currencies have functioned on a national scale—building the local economy by maximizing circulation of trade within a defined region….the people who choose to use the currency make a conscious commitment to buy local first.”
Using BerkShares, the local exchange of goods and services is prioritized. Community cohesion may be strengthened though the improved personal transactions and local trade. In addition, sustainability goals can be reached, since local trade reduces transportation miles and increases local production resilience.
The Berkshires region comprises the Berkshire County of Massachusetts, parts of Litchfield county, CT, and parts of Columbia County, NY. Also referred to as the Berkshire Hills or the Berkshire Mountains, the mountainous region enjoys a vibrant tourism industry based on music, arts, and recreation. Berkshire County has a population of roughly 130,000 people.
The BerkShares website lists over 380 businesses in Berkshire County that accept the currency.
Organisation and History
Berkshares was launched on September 29, 2006 by the non-profit BerkShares Inc., with research and development assistance from the Schumacher Center for a New Economics and with the partnership of local entrepreneurs, community banks, and other local non-profits.
A Board of Directors (in by-laws called ‘Board of Trustees’) is elected from among the members of the organization BerkShares, Inc. This Board conducts the affairs of BerkShares.
Membership in BerkShares, Inc. costs 25 BerkShares (or US Dollars) annually. Any resident of the Berkshire region may become a member. Proceeds go to support the organization and its efforts to develop the currency into a viable local currency for the Berkshires. Each October, the members come together at the Annual Membership Meeting.
Businesses may choose to accept the currency formally or informally. Businesses that register with BerkShares, Inc. benefit from a free listing in the BerkShares online and print directories.
Residents and visitors may use the local currency BerkShares without being member of the organization.
Future plans could include a loan program to facilitate the creation of new, local businesses manufacturing more of the goods that are used locally.
BerkShares are placed in circulation when citizens exchange federal dollars for BerkShares at any of the BerkShares Exchange Banks. By estimation, over 5 million BerkShares have gone out of the participating bank branches since launch in 2006; an average of 130,000 are in circulation at any one time.
Federal dollars remain on deposit at the BerkShare Exchange Banks to redeem excess BerkShares at a rate of 95 cents per BerkShare. 100 BerkShares can be purchased for 95 federal dollars (100B$ = $95). BerkShares are printed in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50.