The invented German word ‘Regiogeld’ is an abbreviation for the concept of ‘regional money’, a local medium of exchange similar to the Euro. Its main difference to the Euro is it is only valid in one region, which is usually designated by the name of the local initiative: Chiemgauer, Havelblüte, Elbtaler, Vorarlberger Talente.
In the German speaking world, the term has become well known mainly through the efforts of leading initiatives such as Chiemgauer in Bavaria and the national organization Regiogeld e.V. , which guarantee quality standards. In a broader sense, the term Regiogeld has become known internationally to mean complementary currencies that restrict themselves to one region.
Regiogeld is not intended to replace the Euro but to complement it. It is often issued in the form of vouchers but also increasingly administered through electronic accounts. It serves to promote an ‘economics of the common good’ in regions by:
Keeping purchasing power in the region, which promotes regional businesses and stimulates regional economic circulation
Extending the commercial possibilities of a regional market and being used as a tool for regional development
Promoting the sale of regional products, enabling higher turnover and creating jobs
Shortening transport routes (‘food miles’) and thus promoting a more environmentally-friendly mode of economics.
Regiogeld is interesting for local communities and local authorities because they can experiment with it directly for themselves without needing to wait for ‘big politics’ to get involved. As small ‘currency areas’ seem at first glance to be outmoded (“But we deliberately introduced the Euro for the whole of Europe!”), Regiogeld quickly ignites discussions about money and economy. Thus Regiogeld promotes awareness of economic connections and the realization that money is a design tool that people can use to design new communal possibilities for themselves.
Money creation: how regional currencies are issued
In order to circulate well, a regional currency needs a critical mass of users across all sectors: citizens, businesses, voluntary organizations and local government. The bigger and more diverse the user group, the more probable it is that goods and services will find takers who will also accept Regiogeld. In Germany, there are two main ways in which regional money is created:
1. By exchanging national currency (“Euro-backed”): Users buy regional currency with national currency in order to be able to pay with regional currency at participating businesses. Businesses may change the regional currency they have received back into national currency at any time (in some cases paying a fee, which in the case of Chiemgauer is used to benefit local voluntary groups and projects). This model is used internationally, for example by BerkShares in the USA and the English “Transition Currencies” such as Brixton and Bristol Pound.
2. Backed by the promise of future goods and services (“service-backed”): Issuers of the currency estimate the value of services promised by the participants and how much regional currency should be issued into circulation and then actively support the circulation of the currency. Examples in Germany include Urstromtaler, Elbtaler and Lausitzer. Internationally for example Ithaca HOURS and Equal Dollars in the USA are issued in this way. There are also other ways of issuing regional currencies such as Community Way from Canada.
More information about Regiogeld and Regiogeld initiatives: www.regiogeld.de
For an overview of the variety of regional currencies and profiles of leading systems worldwide: “People Money – the Promise of Regional Currencies”.