Community Currency in Your Neighborhood
Starting a community currency is no small task. As Mira Luna suggests in her article on Sharable, it's not going to happen overnight, and it's not going to happen on its own.
"One of the biggest mistakes is assuming the currency will do everything itself. One or more exchange coordinators are vital, particularly in the beginning," Mira says. Governance for your community currency is necessary; you need a dedicated group of volunteers to make decisions, advertise, and keep people interested in using your community currency. If the currency is not in the forefront of people's minds, they will easily slip back into a pattern of using regular money.
Once you've decided to create a community currency and have a team of like-minded people in place, what should you do? First, you must identify the need or needs your community currency can help meet. "To keep the energy flowing, identify unmet needs and underutilized resources in your community, especially those not served by the conventional system," says Mia. What does your community need? Does it need to connect underemployed workers with food? The elderly with care-givers? Community members with local businesses? If you are able to pinpoint the greatest need in your community, you are much more likely to be able to get people interested, involved, and excited about using your community currency.
Also, you'll need to think about what form your currency will take. Will it be another traditional paper currency, or will it operate digitally? Different forms of currency will best suit different kinds of communities. For example, Bernal Bucks in San Francisco are digital; users have a debit card and accumulate loyalty points. However, this kind of system wouldn't be likely to work in a small farming community that relies mostly on the flow of physical cash.
Another key will be discovering how to fund your currency. Some community currencies chose to charge a membership or transaction fee, but these fees will be a barrier that will slow the process of getting your community currency up and running. You may want to look for external donations or other means of funding, at least in the beginning.
Finally, don't forget to be flexible! There are no hard and fast rules that work for every community currency; you will have to discover what works for your community's unique situation. If you find something isn't working, switch to a new idea, but don't give up. Allowing your currency to be pliable and change directions according to reactions and results will give your currency a much better chance of widespread adoption by your community.
Image by HiMY SYeD/ phototopia, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.