Local currencies

What local currencies are

Local currencies are means of exchange used in a particular place or community. In the hundreds of systems using our software – the Credit Commons Collective – participants have an internet-based account to record transactions between them. Exchanges are made in a local unit of their choosing, with a debit on one’s account indicating a commitment to provide goods or services to other members of the local group in future. Therefore people exchange goods and services without any ‘official’ money.

These systems offer an alternative way of meeting people’s needs, through one another, and help make use of unused resources. There are a wide variety of names in use for such local currencies, from “Grain du Sel” to Hours. Unlike cryptotokens or money-bought local voucher currencies, they impose no monetary restrictions on the amount that a community might exchange. As local groups grow then their credits may be accepted by a wider geographical area if they agree exchange rates with other local currencies. The LocalPay Technology Project would make this interoperability a seamless experience, thereby increasing uptake and use.

What can be exchanged

Each person decides what they want to offer the rest of the community. It might range from gardening, childcare, cooking, mending equipment to helping people with building a website or lending a car. People can share the goods they use infrequently, or they can share time by doing work in exchange for what they need such as vegetables, babysitting, or help learning to drive. The use of a local currency means participants do not need to make a direct swap with someone. Instead, they give to one and receive from another. Categories covered usually include:

House & Garden
Education & Language
Health & Wellness
Sports & Leisure
Construction & Repair
Computing & Electronics
Business & Clerical
Care & Companionship
Arts & Culture
Community Activities

Some groups include local businesses to encourage localisation, where you access goods and services from your locality, thereby benefiting where you live and work. Food buying, production and distribution are obvious ways that people can circulate their value locally to assist their area to grow and prosper. The LocalPay Tech project would provide the necessary tools, standards, training and support for more local currencies to engage small businesses.

One Local Currency’s Story

Dane County Timebank is a thriving local currency amongst a disadvantaged community in USA. Established in 2005, the TimeBank provides a way for more than 2,000 members to connect with each other and offer or exchange services.

For many young people, the changes associated with coming of age can seem daunting, and when combined with the instability that comes with an arrest, it can become unmanageable. Restorative justice systems help youth stay away from a path of repeat offences while introducing positive influences like the TimeBank’s Youth Court Program and the Dane County Community Restorative Courts work toward reshaping the traditional criminal justice model.

These programs allow victims and offenders to interact with one another and help repair the offender’s relationship with the community. In Dane County, the Community Restorative Courts act as an alternative to the judicial system for first-time offenders who are 17 to 25 years old.

Any person between the ages of 12 and 16 who receives a municipal violation may now “opt-in” to the restorative justice courts run by the TimeBank.  If an informal jury of their young peers decides that the youth should offer a useful recompense to the community, then they ask the youth to do community work that is remunerated in the local currency.

The Dane County Time Bank has provided systems for free to its members because it uses the free open source software from CommunityForge, one of the founding platforms behind the Credit Commons Collective. The proposed LocalPay Technology Project would secure the future of the Dane County Timebank and more than 300 other active local currencies. For some testimonies from individuals see here.