Mutual Aid Networks (MAN) is a US based initiative with global reach. Its mission is “To create means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community.”

MAN is a natural evolution from twenty years of local economic development work in Wisconsin, beginning with the local currency Madison HOURS, then Dane County Time Bank. Organizers realized that each economic tool alone was not enough to bring about the economic and social justice they were looking for.

MAN poses several questions: What would it look like if everyone were doing the work they loved, what they felt called to do? What if everyone had the opportunity to build their skills to their maximum capabilities and then apply them to making their communities whole and beautiful?

Communities around the world have long practiced successful models for economic self-sufficiency. Among these mechanisms are:

  • Timebanking which contributes to community building through the mutually beneficial exchange of services among neighbors
  • Price-based mutual credit which creates liquidity within networks of local businesses
  • Cooperative savings and lending which pools resources, builds capacity, and extends community wealth
  • Cooperative ownership which provides collective use of resources that are difficult to access individually

While each strategy has been effective in limited local contexts, each can only go so far toward addressing shortcomings in the formal money-based economy. Mutual Aid Networks (MANs) represent a new and unique way to connect these mechanisms into a system that maximizes the strengths of each one.

Individual Mutual Aid Networks comprise sites interested in combining more than one complementary economic mechanism in a local context. Local Mutual Aid Networks are connected by an umbrella cooperative, The Main MAN, incorporated in Wisconsin and designed for global membership. The purpose of the Main MAN is to provide a platform and process for knowledge and resource-sharing and collaboration among all local MANs and their supporters.

Eight MAN pilot sites are emerging in such diverse locations as: Lansing, MI; St. Louis, MO; Allentown, PA; and Providence, RI. Various international venues are also participating in this emerging network, including Hull, UK and Bergnek, South Africa.

Mutual Aid Networks are autonomous organizations and can have any organizational form, and are based on Core Principles adapted from timebanking, commons governance, and Rochdale cooperative principles.

Positive Money describes itself as the UK branch of a global movement to democratise money so that it works for society and not against it.” It was started by blogger and author Ben Dyson in the wake of the finance crisis of 2008. 

There were two or three fringe groups campaigning for monetary reform in the UK for a couple of decades before the finance crisis but they achieved relatively little.

Positive Money brilliantly uses short videos and social media to put out its basic message to a much wider audience. It argues there is a fundamental problem with our monetary system:

Right now most of the money in our economy is created by banks. Banks create up to 97% of money, in the form of the numbers in your bank account, when they make loans. This means that they effectively decide a) how much money there is in the economy, and b) where that money goes.

The control of the creation of money, in the hands of banks, has contributed to the problems of:

Positive Money proposes a solution to these problems:

We believe the power to create money must be removed from the banks that caused the financial crisis and returned to a democratic, transparent and accountable body. New money must only be created and used to benefit the public and society as a whole, rather than just financial sector.

We have detailed and workable proposals that would allow this to happen.

Positive Money’s proposal would mean in practice that an independent monetary committee would decide how much money is required by the economy and authorize the central bank to create interest-free, debt-free credit to run public services and provide commercial bank loans.

Positive Money is affiliated with the International Movement for Monetary Reform.

 

The following edited text is taken from the website of the New Economy Coalition: http://neweconomy.net/

Another World Is Possible. There Are Many Alternatives—It’s Time For A New Economy.

The New Economy Coalition grew out of the work of the E. F. Schumacher Society – founded by Robert Swann and Susan Witt in 1980, pioneers of community land trusts and local currencies in the US – and the UK based New Economics Foundation (nef), founded in 1986, a pioneer ‘think and do tank’ for new economics.

Shortly after the start of the 2008 financial crisis, leaders from both NEF and the E. F. Schumacher Society recognized the need for an organization that could help bring systemic economic alternatives into the mainstream in North America. They collaborated to create a new organization called the New Economics Institute. Around the same time, The New Economy Network was founded by a diverse group of individuals and organizations seeking to amplify their collective impact in service of a just and sustainable economy.

In 2012, the New Economics Institute and New Economy Network merged to create the New Economy Coalition (NEC), a new organization focused on connecting and amplifying New Economy organizing across the US and Canada. The Schumacher Center for a New Economics was formed as a separate organization to continue the enduring research, education, and regional economic development projects of the EF Schumacher Society.

NEC started inviting organizations to participate in the coalition. Since then it has held its first New Economy Week, launched a youth and student regranting program, held a national gathering for young people called ReRoute: Building Youth and Student Power for a New Economy, launched its Racial and Economic Justice Initiative and convened over 700 allies in Boston for CommonBound: Moving Together Toward a New Economy.

NEC describes its vision:

At the New Economy Coalition, we’re driven by a belief that all our struggles—for racial, economic, and climate justice; for true democratic governance and community ownership; for prosperity rooted in interdependence with the earth’s natural systems—are deeply interconnected. Rising to the challenge of building a better world demands that we fundamentally transform our economic and political systems.

We must imagine and create a future where capital (wealth and the means of creating it) is a tool of the people, not the other way around. What we need is a new system—a new economy—that meets human needs, enhances the quality of life, and allows us to live in balance with nature. Far from a dream, this new economy is bursting forth through the cracks of the current system as people experiment with new forms of business, governance, and culture that give life to the claim that another world is possible.

NEC describes its mission:

The New Economy Coalition (NEC) is a network of organizations imagining and building a future where people, communities, and ecosystems thrive. Together, we are creating deep change in our economy and politics—placing power in the hands of people and uprooting legacies of harm—so that a fundamentally new system can take root.

Our network advances change in three main ways:

  1. We convene and connect leaders to tackle common challenges in their work to build a new economy.

  2. We amplify stories, tools, and analysis, weaving a collective new economy narrative that can build shared identity, shift culture and policy, and promote a clear vision of the next system.

  3. We lift up the work of communities on the frontlines of interrelated economic and ecological crises who are organizing for transformative change, through right relationships and direct support.

http://neweconomy.net/

Spice was founded in 2009 to spread the concept of ‘community time credits’, an adaptation of the time banking model developed by Dr. Edgar Cahn in the USA. Spice grew out of the work of the Wales Institute for Community Currencies in the former mining districts of South Wales, UK.

This is how they describe their work:

Time Credit systems work on a simple hour-for-hour basis: for every hour you give to your community you earn one Time Credit, which you can then spend on an activity of your choice. You can give time in ways that match your skills and interests, and spend your Time Credits with our diverse range of fantastic partners across the UK who offer everything from swimming to learning a language.

We develop Time Credit systems that value everyone’s time, no matter who they are. Time Credits open up new opportunities to try new things, learn, be healthier and have fun. We work with communities of all kinds, across many sectors. We’re passionate about the power within communities, and think that we’re better at solving problems when we work together. Our programmes embody exciting partnerships between individuals and the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Spice is currently running programs across the UK with local councils, community development organizations, housing associations, health and social care providers and schools.

It supports 27 time-based currencies in six regions of the UK. These currencies have supported 17,500 people in giving over 400,000 hours of their time. Hundreds of thousands of people have benefitted from the activities and services run by the 700+ organizations using Time Credits. Spice has signed up 350 corporate and public-sector venues to accept Time Credits, and built diverse networks from the corporate, community and public sectors in each of the localities where it works.

http://www.justaddspice.org/

Bringing People Together Through Money? Community Currency and Local Exchanges

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pro-journo/bringing-people-together_b_8916374.html

The following slightly edited text is taken from the website of TimeBanks USA: http://timebanks.org/about/

TimeBanks USA, a registered 501c3 headquartered in Washington D.C., was formed in 1995 by Dr. Edgar S. Cahn, a law professor and longterm civil rights activist, to expand the knowledge and field of timebanking and its impact on individuals, youth, families, communities, the environment, and the world.

TimeBanks USA is committed to supporting timebanks and its partners to advance timebanking by offering ongoing onsite training opportunities in locations across the country; individualized consultation; ongoing group topical webinars and teleconference calls; an annual conference; and access to numerous resources and research in the field of timebanking. The organization also offers tailored software for running local time banks called Community Weaver.

Edgar Cahn explains the origins of TimeBanking (which he first called service credits) as a medium of exchange that would act as a way to encourage and reward the work needed to build strong, resilient communities:

Ronald Reagan was withdrawing funding for social programs. They were closing down. I thought that if there was going to be no more of the old money to support communities, we should create a new one.

The service credits were later named Time Dollars, and later still they took on other names as well, such as time credits and timebank hours. In 1981, Grace Hill Settlement House in St. Louis, MO became the first organization to use TimeBanking when it brought the new medium of exchange into its Member Organization Resource Exchange (MORE) program.

The Mission of TimeBanks USA:

The mission of TimeBanks USA is to promote equality and build caring community economies through inclusive exchanges of time and talents.

TimeBanking is used by organizations and communities to advance a host of social- and justice-related missions. Some TimeBanks are focused on addressing a specific need, like helping frail elderly remain in their homes, or overcoming a racial divide, or reducing social isolation within a community. Others aim to build a sense of community within a geographic area. Still others are “hybrids” pursuing different goals that combine into the larger mission of rebuilding community.The TimeBanking movement is spreading across the United States and internationally. It now includes a network of 200+ independent TimeBanks in the United States. 32+ countries have active TimeBanks.

http://timebanks.org/

The following text is a slightly edited version of the text on the Timebanking UK website: http://www.timebanking.org/about-tbuk/

Timebanking UK is a national charity (Charity No: 1101204) and limited company serving time banks across the UK since 2000. It is guided by a board of trustees who appoint a Chief Executive to run the organization. Together they develop practices and policies to ensure that the organisation maintains quality of support to its members through free software provision, training and the Timebanking UK Quality Mark™ , which is awarded to time banks that adhere to the core values of timebanking and operate in such a way that they develop, support and celebrate good timebanking practice as recommended by Timebanking UK. Its mission is clearly stated on its website:

Our mission is to ensure the contribution of all is valued equally giving people access to a wealth of resources from private, public and community sectors. Timebanking is a key mechanism to bring about change in public services at community level and between organisations.

Timebanking links people to share their time and skills. Everyone’s time is equal: one hour of help earns one time credit to spend when you need it. We operate with an asset-based philosophy that everyone has something to give to help another regardless of age, ability or background. Redefining work and creating support networks empowers those who have been defined as service users making them decision makers.

Timebanking UK works with community groups, time banks and community organisations to promote and support co-production and the development of timebanking through:

Membership Support:
· Supporting the development of new time banks, with clear guidance on how to set time banks up and how they can be used in different applications (we have helped the development of 60 time banks in the last two years).
· Developing regional networks of time banking to share local expertise, best practice, training, capacity and advice.
· Membership support for time banks including a range of resources, training and paid mentoring opportunities.
· Bespoke timebanking software has been designed to use to co-ordinate timebanking activities.

Support for Members and Wider Sector:
· Training, guidance and toolkits to support the development of time banks covering: initial development; specialist areas (safeguarding, asset mapping etc.); thematic support (older people, working in prisons etc.) and development of regional hubs.
· Working with organisations to seed the time banking approach into their mainstream service delivery, ensuring their services are co-produced.
· Holding bi- monthly learning events.
· We give advice, guidance and training from our expert team members on techniques for effective monitoring and evaluation and the use of our new Evaluation Toolkit.

http://www.timebanking.org/


This text is based on an interview with the Executive Director of IRTA Ron Whitney and was originally published in “People Money- the Promise of Regional Currencies” by Margrit Kennedy, Bernard Lietaer and John Rogers in 2012

IRTA is a non-profit organisation that promotes high standards of practice amongst business exchange systems through education, self regulation, ethics and government relations. Started by leaders of US business exchanges in 1979 to represent their interests, IRTA is the oldest barter trade association in the world and has been active in promoting and improving the industry ever since. IRTA estimates that over 400,000 companies worldwide use trade exchanges to share their excess business capacities and underperforming assets and to earn an estimated $12 billion dollars in previously lost and wasted revenues.

Ron Whitney, IRTA’s Executive Director, started a business exchange in the Philadelphia area of the USA in 1993 after working in the legal, real estate and insurance fields. He immediately grasped the potential of trade and barter as a bona fide business model and has become one of its most passionate advocates. After serving in several positions on the IRTA board, he became Executive Director in 2007.

I believe in this industry to the bottom of my toes. I have seen first-hand benefits at every level, from individual traders to Fortune 500 companies. Our core mission at IRTA is to spread a good word about the benefits of organised trade without money. We advocate the importance of having a barter strategy that provides an alternative marketplace for participants to increase their revenues, preserve cash flow and maximise underused assets. These powerful benefits are available in good or bad economic climates. There is a very important bottom line fiduciary responsibility for those managing business exchanges: you are creating an economic system, which brings with it the responsibility and duty to run the exchange in a professional and prudent manner.

Prior to 1979, the business ‘barter’ industry was an unregulated free-for-all in the USA. People were setting up multiple exchanges and disappearing after helping themselves to goods and services from members. IRTA set out to raise the bar to entry and establish enforceable professional codes of conduct. The first battle was with the authorities: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was carrying out random audits of exchanges and had no clear guidance on how to treat non-cash transactions. Members feared the industry would be outlawed.

IRTA lobbied the government and played a key role in framing the Tax Equity Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) of 1982, which recognises ‘trade dollars’ as US dollars for tax reporting. Business exchanges are now required to report ‘proceeds from barter exchange and brokerage transactions’ of all members to the IRS, so it is treated just like cash revenue. This obligation legitimised the barter industry and weeded out the cowboys.

In the 1980s and 1990s, IRTA created a members library containing advice and information about all aspects of setting up and running effective exchange systems. In 2012, it wrote an advisory memo on how to deal with exchange deficits, which is just as critical an issue to local exchange systems as it is to nations. Here is an extract:

The barter exchange must have the authority to assure adequate liquidity exists in the barter system by regulating the supply of trade dollars (money supply) needed to finance the smooth turnover of products and services being offered in the exchange. Simply put, there need to be enough trade dollars in the system for members to be able to buy goods and services they wish to purchase…

Excessive deficit spending by a barter exchange will cause serious liquidity problems that threaten the financial stability of the entire exchange. However, properly managed exchange deficits, which fall within the recommended IRTA guideline of 2.5 to 3.0 times the annualised average monthly trade volume (calculated only on one side), can increase trade volume and revenue by providing the right level of money supply sufficient to allow members to buy and sell freely within the system. (1)

Ron Whitney and his board take IRTA’s role as guardian of standards very seriously. Its Code of Ethics and Conduct is regularly updated.

We think through every aspect of running an exchange. What are the obligations of a franchisee? What about exchanges that try to poach others’ members? What kind of advertising is ethical? We have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ disciplinary process for IRTA members who breach our code, culminating in termination of membership. What IRTA does is critical, we as an industry have to self-police.

The new frontier is the internet, which opens up great possibilities and challenges at the same time. Anyone with good programming and marketing skills can set up a website, launch an exchange system and persuade people touse it without having any real knowledge of how to run an effective exchange.

An IRS study of internet based barter exchanges found that the percentage of non-compliance for tax reporting was much higher for pure internet based exchanges than with the traditional regional non-internet-based barter exchange sector. The proliferation of on-line barter systems has made IRTA’s role of maintaining industry standards even tougher.

On the other hand, the internet also brings opportunities for innovation and  growth on an international level. In 1997, IRTA created The Universal Currency Clearinghouse (UC) (2) to provide an on-line seamless international trading platform for its members. UC is an added benefit for IRTA members who traded 6 million ‘trade credits’ (6m US dollar equivalent) in 2011. About 80% of UC business is travel related and transaction fees are kept to a very low 0.25% to cover costs. Things have clearly come a long way since the early days of the industry when people were recording exchanges in a ledger book with a pencil.

IRTA’s role extends way beyond insisting its members conduct their business in an ethical and professional manner. IRTA also advocates to protect and preserve the industry against governmental regulations that could negatively impact the industry, as Ron Whitney explains:

Recently, an IRTA member exchange in North Carolina told us that the NC Bar Association was ready to prevent attorneys from participating in barter exchanges, based on an argument that to do so violated their State based Code of Conduct for attorneys. IRTA immediately appeared before the NC Bar Association to point out the importance of organised trade, that it was totally legal and widely accepted as an alternative payment system. It was not, therefore, a violation of their legal code. It completely turned the situation around: the Bar Association passed a resolution supporting attorneys participation in NC barter exchanges and the NC Bar Association opinion is now used as the model for the other States in the USA to permit the participation of lawyers in barter and trade systems.

Ron has also served on an advisory group to the IRS in Washington, helping to inform government officials about the potential economic benefits of reciprocal exchange. At least fifteen States are considering launching different types of currencies. IRTA members are involved in discussions with the Chinese government and the City of London too.

This is a very exciting time of huge activity as cities and counties running deficits see how can they use mutual credit clearing house systems to maximise their capacity. We are also seeing the first signs of consolidation and convergence of all sectors in mutually owned systems that benefit every level of society. Management, risk and profit are shared collectively between participants in quasi public-private partnerships that operate in the best interests of the whole. The future is limitless. We are going to see an explosion in the next few years as businesses, government and consumers learn of the powerful benefits that barter and trade systems can offer in solving many of the economic ills of today’s world.

www.irta.com

(1) Irta advisory memo, Guidelines & recommendations for barter exchange deficits:
https://www.irta.com/library/irta-advisory-memos/guidelines-and-recommendations-for-barter-exchange-deficits/

(2) www.ucci.biz/

The “Community Currencies in Action” project was a collaboration between English, French, Dutch and Belgian partner organizations between 2012 and 2015.

Goals of CCIA

The main aim was to promote different types of complementary currency and to bring together and expand the collective knowledge of participants, while making it accessible to others. One of its distinctive features was integration of the public sector, both as promoter of complementary currencies and as target group for project publications and events. The CCIA project was 50% supported by the European Union’s regional development fund Interreg IVb for North-west Europe.

Pilot currencies

The following six complementary currencies were either partly extended or begun by CCIA:

  1. The Makkie in Amsterdam, a time currency project for the promotion of citizen participation in the Amsterdam-East neighborhood. From the beginning, the city government participated in the project as one of four lead organizations.
  2. The “E-Portmonnee” in Limburg province, Belgium, a reward and incentive scheme for the reduction of household waste and extension of composting and recycling. The local public waste service Limburg.net runs the currency for selected communities. Local administrations are responsible for issuing the currency to participating households and also offer goods and services for purchase with the earned points. These range from energy-saving bulbs and garden accessories to shopping vouchers, theater and museum tickets, to bus and train tickets. Thus the environment wins twice.
  3. “TradeQoin” is a business barter currency started during the CCIA project by the organization Qoin in the Amsterdam region.

  4. The social enterprise “Spice” led three more time-currency projects in South Wales. These time currencies are connected to a national UK network of redemption points but are issued by local organizations, partly with the support of public funds.
  5. The “Brixton Pound” is a local currency in South London, which has existed since 2009. It is supported by the London Borough of Lambeth as a CCIA Partner and is further connected to publicly funded programs.

  6. The regional currency “SoNantes” was introduced to the French city Nantes in April 2015. It promotes regional businesses and is based on the principle of ‘mutual credit’ between businesses. Citizens of Nantes may also purchase SoNantes with Euros and spend them at participating businesses or use them in future to benefit from special offers from the city, including bus and train tickets. The project was initiated by the city authority. The public bank Credit Municipal de Nantes was tasked with implementation.

Apart from the six partners who led a pilot currency project, two additional organizations took part in CCIA: the Wales Council for Voluntary Action in Cardiff as the official management partner with respect to the EU institutions and the New Economics Foundation in London, which was responsible for academic supervision of the project and acted as central contact point and publications manager. Leander Bindewald managed the project and was its spokesman and principal researcher. Alongside the numerous publications in various languages by NEF and other CCIA partners, it is above all the many contacts with politicians and public institutions that will demonstrate its long-term effects. Over a three year period, the project set new standards for explaining and demonstrating the possibilities of complementary currencies to a range of audiences, from local politicians to universities, central banks and UN institutions.

Publications

The most important publications of the CCIA project are:

  • A handbook for the implementation of complementary currencies: People Powered Money. The text of this book is also available in German, French and Dutch
  • The multi-lingual information platform on complementary currencies
    www.Community-Currency.info
  • A briefing paper for the public sector: Community Currencies – Opportunities and Challenges for local government
  • The study of effectiveness: Money with a Purpose – Community Currencies achieving social, environmental and economic impact
  • The methodological Evaluation Handbook No Small Change- how to evaluate your community currency with accompanying work materials
  • Investigation of the legal situation of complementary currencies in various European countries.

All publications can be downloaded here www.CCIA.eu

Regional currency promotes regional economic circuits and local voluntary organizations. The following regional currency networks in Germany have been active for several years, keeping buying power in the regions and enabling interest-free financing:

Regional currency is mostly seen in the form of vouchers: Chiemgauer, Sterntaler, Ampertaler and many other “Taler” and “Blüten” circulate around the regions.

One card – many possibilities

From the experiences with the Chiemgauer, the supporting regional currencies organization, Regios eG, developed software that simplifies the introduction and administration of regional money. At the heart of this concept is the Regiocard in combination with regional money accounts. Cashless payments can be carried out with the Regiocard. Users register for free with their local Regiogeld organization and receive a Regiocard within 14 days. The Regiocard functions like a European credit card (EC card): customers can draw down vouchers from their account or pay directly through the terminal at the cashier. This card brought regional money into the modern world of electronic payments. It simplifies the use of regional money and is easy to understand – for providers, users and local organizations. In order to be able to offer this service to providers, regional money promoters need a Regiocard reader. This costs 10 Regios / Euros per month, in combination with a normal credit card terminal 15 Regios / Euros.

The data center for Regio initiatives

The Regios eG is currently the data center for the Chiemgauer and Sterntaler regional currencies in Bavaria. It ensures that the Regiogeld accounts balance, that Regiogeld users can easily pay and also that larger sums can be transferred using the electronic system. A ‘silent’ system running in the background is necessary to be able to process a turnover of four million Chiemgauers annually. At the push of a button, it supports card payments, automatic transfers to support good causes, a transfer of 10,000 Chiemgauers or a withdrawal of 100 Chiemgauers cash.

The Regiogeld accounts provide the technical basis for Regiocard. Companies and voluntary organizations that take part in the Regiocard system need a Regio account. Payments by users and donations to voluntary groups are booked through the system. Direct transfers between regional currency accounts do not incur transfer charges. A regional contribution is only required when someone wants to transfer from one regional currency account to another bank account that is not a participant in the regional accounts system.

The Regios eG sees itself as a service to regional currency initiatives.

http://www.regios.eu/

The Dutch foundation STRO (Social Trade Organisation or Strohalm) was founded in 1970 by Henk van Arkel. Its original focus on environmental issues has shifted in the last twenty years ever more in the direction of activities in the area of alternative economics and particularly complementary currencies – always following the conviction that economic and monetary conditions are the main determinants of our development possibilities as societies. Since 1995, the research and pilot projects of STRO have been focussed on Latin America, where the negative effects of the monetary economy were most keenly felt and where an increasingly strong counter-movement of the “economia solidaria” (solidarity economy) was already present. Most proposals for solutions here aim to support small businesses and sustainable communities.

STRO is best known in the field of complementary currencies for its “C3 model” and its own Cyclos Software, which is used by many complementary currencies and other non-commercial financial service providers.

STRO supports initiatives in Uruguay, Brazil, Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador and has recently also begun projects in Europe again, mainly in Holland, Spain, Norway and Portugal. STRO is also the main partner in the EU Projekt DigiPlay4Growth.

“The current economic and financial crisis clearly shows that the current monetary system with its interest bearing money doesn’t work at all. For two decades, the STRO Group has been working on new ways to make money work to get regions out of economic crises. STRO has developed and tested monetary tools in pilot projects and built the banking software that supports these tools. The Spend Local campaign aims to promote the worldwide use of STRO tools. Presently STRO has a whole range of instruments and approaches available to support private or public initiatives that make money work and stimulate economies.”

Quote from STRO website http://www.socialtrade.nl