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Community Currency Typologies

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Several typologies have been proposed 1, but none has been succeeded to capture and explain all phenomena referred to by academics, practitioners, entrepreneurs and sociologists.

In 2004 Siglinde Bode proposed a classification mainly based on a ‘business approach where money is a medium of exchange between businesses and customers  and it provides a clear comprehension of their operating systems but not necessarily their specific objectives, purpose and vision’ 2

Margrit Kennedy and Bernard A. Lietaer in their 2004 book People Money developed a detailed typology for all forms of currencies stating that “ we will classify all forms of currency, whether conventional or complementary, historically attested or currently in development.” 3 The authors propose the following division into five different dimensions:

  • Purpose or objective
  • Medium
  • Function
  • Money creation process
  • Cost recovery mechanism

As Martignoni notes ‘One disadvantage is quickly apparent: for many systems a whole bundle of attributes are assigned, or mixed criteria are given, which makes the differences even more complicated to recognise. For instance, ‘Medium’ is divided into ‘commodity money’, ‘paper and coins’, ‘electronic money’ and ‘hybrid forms’. Many complementary currencies have to be put into the category of ‘hybrid forms’ and so the classification scheme yields no great insights.’

Blanc (2011) then proposed three ideal-typologies as first attempt of classification for overlapping CCs systems:

1. Territorial Currencies (see Local Currencies and Regional Currencies). These non-national and non-for-profit currencies seek to influence “monetary relations in a geopolitically defined space” 4. This entails that “they serve first the purpose of defining and strengthening a territory and, eventually, the public local authority which claims for a form of control on this territory” 5. These types of money do not aim to replace legal tender, but underline the activities of actors laying within the delimited area of interest. Such currencies can also be referred to as ‘Local Currencies’ or ‘Local Money’. Examples include the Bristol Pound and the Brixton Pound in the United Kingdom, Sol Violette in France and Chiemgauer in Germany.

2. Community Currencies. These systems lay within a social realm: “they regard social spaces, defined by sets of actors [and]…emphasise the construction of well-being, empowerment, autonomy and social exchange of a given community” 6. In practice, these currencies may include “social services and self-help, as well as environmental services for a community” 7 argues that these models “pursue mainly economic purposes” and are created “with regards to economic spaces, defined by sets of actors and economic activities from production to exchange, mostly considered as ruled by market principles”. Their underlying factor of market exchange, although this does not mean that such currencies run-for-profit. On the contrary, many of the existing currencies fitting in this category are applied by non-profit organisations with the objectives of developing, protecting or orienting the economic activities of specific market sectors toward determined aims 8. Such currencies are typically used by barter or trade exchanges and barter networks, of which examples are TradeQoin in the Netherlands, the Sardex in Italy, and RES in Belgium, France and Catalonia. This category also includes digital currencies created to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions, like Bitcoin, Freicoin and Ripple.

Although the classification put forward by Blanc 9, offers a straightforward series of purpose-specific CCs, it does not take into account all the existing forms of CCs nor avoids creating additional overlaps. For instance, there can be a local currency functioning to strengthen the local economic activity and at the same time displaying some social purposes, thereby fitting into the community currency classification as well (i.e. see Chiemgauer). In addition, Blanc’s typology does not envision a kind of CCs that is gaining momentum at present: the so-called Green Currencies. This generic term includes all those experiments of CCs designed with the purpose of promoting environmental sustainability 10.


  1. Bode 2004, Lietaer Kennedy 2004, Blanc 2011, Martignoni 2012, Seyfang & Longhurst 2012
  2. PLACE C.. BINDEWALD L..Validating and improving the Impact of Complementary Currency Systems through impact assessment frameworks, 2014, forthcoming:
  3. Kennedy / Lietaer (2004), p. 237
  4. Blanc, 2011:6
  5. Blanc, 2011:6
  6. Blanc, 2011:6
  7. Blanc, 2011:7[/ref[. Time banks and Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) lay within this typology, while other examples of community currencies include WeHelpen and Makkie in the Netherlands, Spice in the United Kingdom and Fureai kippu in Japan.

    3. Economic Currencies. In this respect, Blanc 112011:7

  8. Blanc, 2011
  9. 2011
  10. Seyfang and Longhurst, 2012
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