CityCamp Brighton: Alternative Currencies for Sustainable Cities


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“Money only has a value because we all agree it has,” said one participant during yesterday’s discussion on alternative currencies at CityCamp Brighton. With our current economic model prone to boom and bust, alternative currencies were explored, complementing existing currencies and potentially building more resilience into the economy. Could any of the ideas we discussed act as genuine alternatives to our primary economic model?

Local pounds: City Pounds are a concept that has taken off in some areas of the UK, with the Totnes Pound being a particularly successful example. “A local economy is like a leaky bucket,” says the Totnes Pound website, “wealth comes in and as soon as it is spent at a shop or business that has more connections outside Totnes than inside Totnes, that money disappears.” The Totnes Pound can only be spent at local stores accepting the currency, ensuring the money remains in the local economy.

Time-based currencies: Most people value their time, so could time itself be used as an alternative currency? Japan’s Hureai Kippu system (that’s “Caring Relationship Tickets”) allows people to ‘bank’ the hours that they spend looking after an elderly or disabled person, building up time in a ‘bank account’. As our global population ages and urbanises, could a time-based currency like this be an affordable alternative for looking after elderly populations? And could it be used for other services too?

The Wörgl Experiment: With just 40,000 Austrian schillings in the bank in 1932, the Mayor of Wörgl decided to use that money as a guarantee for creating a stamp script – essentially, the town’s own currency. Unlike other currencies, the stamp script decreased in value each month, meaning those who received it spent it quickly. As a result, the town paved the streets, rebuilt the water system, and built new houses, a ski jump and a bridge. As other nearby towns began to copy the experiment, Austria’s central bank panicked and shut the project down, making it illegal to issue emergency currency.

The Trade Reference Currency: Terra, or the Trade Reference Currency, is a concept by a Belgian Economist for a global currency whose value is based on 9-12 of the world’s most important commodities. By underpinning its value in this way, the currency is supposedly resistant to inflation. Though global by definition, could local currencies, such as the Totnes Pound, follow a similar approach based on commodities produced in the local area?

This Big City is the Media Partner for CityCamp Brighton.

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