Complementary/Community currencies (CCs) are all currencies that are not legal tender and therefore circulate as supplements to ordinary money. CCs can be valued and exchanged in relation to ordinary money, or may form their own unit of account and pricing mechanism. They are used across the globe in networks limited by geography, sector or shared values and are issued and managed in not-for-profit manner.
Under the umbrella of CCs there is a huge variety of examples worldwide that fit, to varying degrees, under the following labels:
- Local currencies (a.k.a. Transition Currencies, Regiogeld, MLC)
Despite labels often used to refer to particular CCs, in practice every existing currency system is unique.
The knowledge gateway provides access to online resources, literature and diverse research on CCs. The site has been established as a wiki-like collection of categorised articles on community currencies, kept up to date by peer-contributions and with curation from our international partners to help uphold the readability and reliability of material.
You can explore and learn about common understandings of the key concepts, generic currency types and specific systems in operation today and in the past.
We give an overview of the people, organisations and projects which you might want to be aware of for your research. The site also offers access to a selection of documents from different disciplines, as well as a multitude of images and videos.
Starting with the material produced by CCIA and the “Timebank Knowledge Commons” collected and curated by our friends in the USA, the site provides access to practical toolkits designed both for practitioners setting up new currency initiatives and those improving the practice and sustainability of their projects.
Bringing together a host of knowledge, the CCIA project published an implementation framework for currencies, mapping out 3 stages and 7 phases.
The different phases of stage A are useful to consider for any practitioner who is still trying to narrow down and define what kind of currency to create for what purpose:
- Phase 1 – Exploration, looking into the specific concepts and elements of the currency
- Phase 2 – Concept, formalising the partnership and understanding funding options
- Phase 3 – Feasibility, getting ready to launch
- Phase 4 – Project Planning
It is common for practitioners to go through many iterations of the phases of stage A, each time adding more detail to the currency design, culminating in a complete project plan.
Stage B offers ideas and assistance to those who have a detailed project plan and want to start turning their plan into reality.
Stage C then guides the reader to consider whether to (i) scale-up the project beyond the pilot area, (ii) replicate it in other areas or (iii) terminate the project if the pilot has proven unsuccessful.
Building on this framework CCIA will publish a handbook for the implementation of CCs in 2014. Existing guides written in a range of languages are available for download in the document section.
Beyond studying the existing published material and seeking to learn from practitioners and researchers at events, there are several courses and participatory resources available for prospective practitioners wanting to learn more.
The CCIA partners currently run workshops for groups in North West Europe who want to start a new currency and there are other institutions running courses on the topic such as IFLAS at the University of Cumbria, the Bristol Pound group, and Schumacher College – both in the UK. Sign up for the CCIA newsletter or follow on social media to hear about opportunities as they come up.
Although some CCs get started through the effective use of volunteers, most currencies require funding to sustain themselves. Funding ensures that all or part of the time that people dedicate to the project can be compensated, as well meeting the required costs for currency development (e.g. printing notes, customising software, marketing and communications). This funding can be drawn from the users and stakeholders themselves, as well as institutions, foundations and local government.
CCs are no different to conventional money systems in the respect that their operational costs require sustained funding. The running costs of mainstream money often go unnoticed as they are built into the financial system as a whole, with mechanisms such as bank service charges, subscription for accounts and penalty fees raising funds to continue operations. Read more here.
CCs need to comply with the laws of the country where they operate. With this in mind there are a number of specific areas that need to be considered when designing and implementing a currency. These include:
- Taxation – VAT, corporation tax and income tax
- Insurance – Volunteer insurance, limiting liability
- Labour Laws – Impact on social security, unemployment and disability benefits employment terms (if receiving a CC as part wage)
- Privacy and Safety – Safety of CC users (especially vulnerable users), data protection
- Financial Services Regulation – Issuing physical currency, issuing digital currency non-convertible to national currency, issuing convertible digital currency, money laundering
- Acceptance of CCs by public bodies
Planning for effective communications and marketing is a vital part of ensuring that a CC is a success. There are numerous tools (events, leaflet campaigns, e-mails), platforms (facebook, twitter) and media (radio, TV, newspapers, blogs) that can be used to get the message out.
Have a look at the CCIA “Communications Guide” found in the toolkit section, as a starting point.
All CCs purport to achieve an outcome – be it social, environmental or economic – that is positive, significant and lasting.
So far the impact assessment of CC pilots has been limited to some landmark currencies or to currency types in general. To further the evidence base and best practice in the field, the New Economics Foundation as part of the CCIA project is developing an evaluation framework for CCs, published as part of a review of currency impact assessment.
Practitioners have a key role to play in keeping evaluation in mind when planning and implementing their initiatives. For this reason CCIA have published a guidebook with a toolkit for beginning an evaluation process.
As CC practitioners the work that you are doing fits into a wider move to reform money and the institutions that manage it. You may want to take the time to learn more about the diverse movement by visiting the resources of institutions researching related issues:
- Public money creation – Positive Money (http://www.positivemoney.org/)
- Reforming financial institutions – http://moveyourmoney.org.uk, http://shareaction.org, JAK Bank
- P2P lending – http://www.zopa.com, https://www.lendingclub.com, http://www.kiva.org
- Crowdfunding – https://www.kickstarter.com, https://www.indiegogo.com