That what we now call "complementary money", used to be very "common" money in the past: for centuries cities or regions had their own currency with which people could pay within their "own economy". Besides this money there was also other money that was specifically used to trade goods from outside the own economy. Only in the past couple of centuries this regional money disappeared and made place for a national currency. A next step in this process is formed by the euro: a currency that is legally recognized in several countries as a "national currency".
However, over the centuries people have always tried to set up complementary money systems alongside the national currency. Complementary money, also called "community currencies", can be interesting for several reasons: it can, for instance, be used to strenghten the economic development of a region, to start using unused capacity of companies, or to strenghten the social climate.
Since the financial and economical crisis in dozens of places around the world interesting experiences are being held with complementary money systems. At the end of 2013 the Summer Foundation visited a few of these (completely different) systems.
In the Summer of 2013 the Dam was launched in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, a mutual clearing system in which (small) entrepreneurs and freelancers can trade with each other using the Dam as means of payment. Making it possible to buy goods and services without using the Euro.
In Leuven, Belgium, the Summer Foundation visited the RES. The founder, Walther Smets explained the intention and lay-out of this complementary money system and showed how the RES works in practise. Within 15 years the RES has grown into a currency that is used by 3,500 entrepreneurs (all small and independently owned; national or internationally operating companies cannot join the RES).
In the London neighbourhood Brixton, where approximately 60,000 people live on or below the poverty line, we spent the day with Nehul Damani, who showed us on site how the Brixon Pound functions. The Brixton Pound exists in paper and in electronic format (also known as “Pay by Text”, in which you pay via a text message from your phone). On the one hand the Brixton Pound is designed to support Brixton businesses and encourage local trade and production while on the other hand strengthening the social identity of Brixton at the same time.
In Blaengarw we found an impressive example of real "community" money. Blaengarw is a former mining village in the Garw Valley of South Wales. After the social and economic downturn due to the closure of the mines by Margareth Thatcher in the 1980s, Blaengarw Time Centre brought back social life and a sense of pride in a very unusual way. For every hour spent on a community project supported by Blaengarw Time Centre, citizens receive one Time Credit and this gives a person access to attend one hour of a time-entry social, educational or cultural event, etc.
All these projects are described in our Initiatives Database.