A Pictorial History of Community Currency Systems
Stephen DeMeulenaere, 2000
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For the past 6000 years, communities have issued, managed and circulated their own currencies. In addition to ensuring that the needs of people in the community could be met, the use of these currencies protected the community from the economic instability going on around them. As economic systems developed into the forms that we see today, the community-based
currencies themselves have also changed to suit new realities, never losing the essence of currency as something that is designed, issued and managed by the community members themselves.
After a few hundred years of domination by national currencies, their power is beginning to diminish. The rise of supra-national currencies like the Euro, the widespread use of the US Dollar outside of its borders, and a series of major monetary crises in Asia and the Americas is weakening the monopoly of national currencies within their borders. As a response,
communities are introducing community currencies to protect themselves from these crises.
Within the last 20 years, community currency systems have been established in 35 countries worldwide, with plans underway in many more.
Community currency systems are community organized and managed systems of exchanging locally produced goods and services using an interest- free currency whose circulation is limited to a particular geographic area defined by the community. Except in very few cases, these systems are based on the principle of « mutual credit », in which each person has the right to take from, and a responsibility to give to, the system. When a community member withdraws credit from their account, they effectively issue that currency and back it with their promise to repay their credit by earning it from others. The administration of the system therefore does not issue
the currency, rather simply providing the third-party service of transaction recording, accountkeeping and gathering information on their members offers and requests.
Complementary Currency Resource Center: CC Library www.complementarycurrency.org/materials.php