When markets are shaken, as happened in Cyprus for example, traditional money can become scarce, leading people to search for other ways to pay bills or carry out everyday activities. Time banks, LETS or electronic currencies are all examples of the alternative ways in which people can live their daily lives more easily and more economically.
Picture by Vetustense Photorogue, creative commons
The emergence of the "alternative economy"
An alternative currency is any currency used as an alternative to the dominant national or multinational currency systems (usually referred to as national or fiat money). Alternative currencies can be created by an individual, corporation, or organisation, they can be created by national, state, or local governments, or they can arise naturally as people begin to use a certain commodity as a currency. In brief, they represent a desire for alternative monetary or exchange systems that can be trusted as well as build trust. The following offers an insight into the alternative economy in Europe:
- The Cyprus crisis facilitated a greater circulation of Bitcoin, a completely electronic currency. It is now the most visible alternative currency among a wide range of currencies currently in play across Europe. Bitcoin, which is the world’s first online decentralised currency, has already spawned better versions of itself (“litecoin” and “PPCoin”).
- A Time bank uses time; not money as its alternative currency. For every hour a person spends helping someone, he/she is entitled to an hour's help in return. Time banks can be found in many European states including, the UK, Greece, Spain, and many more.
- In Spain, where communities, families and individuals have been hit particularly hard by the crisis, there has been recorded a total of 148 registered complementary currency communities (gulf-times.com). These new kinds of social or people’s currencies are springing up across the country.
- Barters offer another type of alternative currency. These are actually exchange systems, which only trade items; thus without the use of any currency whatsoever. The Netherlands has become well-known for its network of LETS (local exchange trading systems), which is a special form of barter that trades points for items.
Despite their many different names, the purpose of the social currencies is the same: to be an alternative to the euro and help people out. The goal is to create more cohesive communities, promote well-being for all, and enable people to find once more a sense of "normality" in the struggles that the crisis has presented to much of Europe.
* For further information on the different types of alternative currences, check out the examples provided below.
The Athens Time Bank was created in May 2011, at Sydagma Square, when thousands of people gathered there to participate in mass strikes and demonstrations.
Links and other sources
- "A Fistful of Lindens" - Go here for a more complete list of the different types of alternative currencies in existence.
- "Barter and alternative currencies flourish in crisis-ridden Spain" - An interesting read on the emergence of complementary currencies in communites across Spain, such as the "mora", where goods can be bought and services exchanged on the basis of berries ("moras").
- The United Nations Non-governemental Liaison Office's 2013 Draft "Validating complementary and community currencies as an efficient tool for social and solidarity economy networking and development: The deployment of theory of change approach and evaluation standards for their impact assessment"
- http://www.dyndy.net/ A website designed by researchers/ activists around the Future of Money "Pattern Language for Alternative and Complementary Money Systems to inform and empower grassroots communities with concepts and tools to overcome scarcity"
- http://p2pfoundation.net/ECC2013/Money_Stream http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Money Thoughts around Money and the Commons