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.

Examples

NOPPES

Author: Lorna Muddiman - Published At: 2013-05-22 07:44 -

NOPPES, based in Amsterdam, is a 20 years old LETS (Local Exchange and Trading System). NOPPES's goal is to contribute to a more prosperous (social and economic) life of its members, who exchange talents, services and goods for ‘noppes’, a symbolic currency (noppes means ‘nothing’, no money).

Rushey Green Time Bank

Author: Lorna Muddiman - Published At: 2013-05-21 08:15 -
Picture courtesy of Rushey Green Time Bank

Time Banking is a community development tool and works by facilitating the exchange of skills and experience within a community. The Rushey Green Time Bank's vision is to achieve a cohesive community in the Rushey Green area, where neighbours know neighbours and can rely on each other for help and support. Where people of different ages, cultures, backgrounds and abilities interact with each other on an equal footing and with mutual respect and understanding.

Time Bank of Athens

Author: Lorna Muddiman - Published At: 2013-04-18 13:02 -

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.

How to set up a Timebank

Author: TOOLosophy - Published At: 2013-02-28 15:07 -

Time banking is a p2p currency system where individual members exchange services on a voluntary basis with one another. Time banking values everyone’s time as equal. For every hour spent helping someone in your community, the contributor is entitled to an hour of help in return. The currency units are not money but hours of time spent by people on any type of labour (called a time dollar in the USA or a time credit in the UK).

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