Why We Need Alternative Currencies by Gwendolyn Hallsmith

Time bank, care bank and food currencies in Vermont…

In less than 6 minutes, a good explanation of the incentives and systems and an inspirational example of a polyculture of exchange.

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What brought you to the change the exchange workshop?

THANK YOU for sharing and learning together 🙂

Around 40 people took place in the workshop last Friday, dialoguing around the calling question “how do we creatively meet our community needs”.

Here is a little harvest of the reasons for taking part you shared at the beginning:

Wordle: Change the exchange exploration - what brought you here?

In gratitude for sharing the journey…

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Community Timebank in Oxfordshire: tips received from other initiatives

This could be inspiring in the exploration of polycultures: http://solocal.info/ 11/04/12

“A timebank is just starting among an ethnic community in Oxford. And a system is underway in an Oxfordshire village where the neighbours log their needs and offers to support each other using nothing more than a shared mobile phone.

Here some tips I received from existing timebanks about how to get started:

  • There is no set way to do timebanking. It is an organic process depending on who is involved and what we are trying to achieve.
  • An office base in an institution that operates as a community hub can be helpful. Rushy Green timebank is based at the general practitioners surgery. This is a good base as almost everyone goes to the GP practice rich/poor/ young/old, different cultures. The GPs refer patients (eg with mild depression) to the timebank. People are able to use the timebank office to use the computer (IT skills were a very popular request) or to use the telephone (eg people without access to a landline). It is not necessary to have an organisation to host timebanking. The broker can operate from home. But it helps to have a base within the community.
  • Set up needs a “kitchen cabinet” from within the community to take it forward. It may be enough to start with 3-5 active local people to decide how to set it up and to concentrate on a few streets at first but it needs to develop to a larger scale to get a big enough pool of members.
  • Timebanking is more likely to be successful if it is led by residents and members, rather than by community development workers, housing associations, or local authorities. Involvement of professionals is helpful but timebanking must be led by the residents themselves so that it is not seen as professionals doing things to and for people. It can be inspiring to show videos from other timebanks and to invite members of other timebanks to come and talk to the community. It is also best if residents help to select the broker and define the scheme as they then champion it in their community.
  • What groups are already active in the community? Find out what they are passionate about. Present timebanking to them. Hold a community event to talk about timebanking (residents come up with ideas, prioritise 3-5, decide together how to set it up and start).
  • Offer time credits for group activities. This could be a coffee morning, an activity such as renovating a community garden (people can earn credits for gardening, building, making food etc), a parents group, a health group, a big lunch, a skill sharing event, a bring and fix event. Timebanking credits could offered for participation in events that are already planned. Good questions for participants include “When did you last ask for help” and “What are your concerns?” – to find out what energy there is around different issues.
  • Involve organisations at an early stage eg the schools who could earn credits by offering the use of their hall, then give credits to people who come in to help students with reading.”
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Images of Change the Exchange

This gallery contains 14 photos.

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Storytelling at Change the Exchange

Transition Tales Gatherer Steph Bradley, aka WynnAlice, tells a story of Transition community as part of Change the Exchange:

More scenes from the day, including a stall run by the Earth Inheritors, a co-operative organization made of young people dedicated to “inspiring deep behavioral change for the sake of all children and the Earth”:

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Thoughts on community dialogue

By Chris Tittle

“In a dialogue, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. A dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other.”
-David Bohm

Times of great uncertainty and transition, such as the one we seem to find ourselves in, are also times of great opportunity and energy. They invite us to entertain the idea that what we know from the past is no longer appropriate in a rapidly changing world, that creativity is necessary to respond to emerging and persistent challenges.

How do we, as individuals and communities, respond creatively to change? What habits, patterns, assumptions, values do we hold that may actually block our collective creativity?

These are some of the questions we’ve been asking ourselves throughout the process of creating Change the Exchange. Specifically, how might we best invite ourselves and others into a living process of exploring community resilience? There are many ways into this question and we’ve chosen just one to focus the conversation – money and exchange.

Ultimately, this is an exploration of relationships and how a community can meet its fundamental needs in a meaningful and healthy way. In a culture that has reached a shocking level of monetization and commodification, consciously choosing to re-humanize relationships and re-weave the threads of a thriving local economy can be a challenging yet empowering process.

As students at Schumacher College, most of us are rather transient members of this community. Yet as relative outsiders, we find ourselves with a unique opportunity to both share our experiences from elsewhere and catalyze deeper exploration of some challenging themes. We don’t come with answers, but perhaps a fresh approach and some thought-provoking questions.

“Creativity, in almost every area of life, is blocked by a wide range of rigidly held assumptions that are taken for granted by society as a whole,” writes David Bohm, the visionary physicist and thinker. These assumptions, conscious and unconscious, naturally condition and constrain our approach to dealing with personal and social issues. For Bohm, one of the most effective ways of releasing these creative blocks and creating new shared meaning out of life is through dialogue – a particular kind of dialogue which does not seek a specific outcome or expect tangible ‘results’, but one which is a living and generative process itself.

In designing and facilitating a workshop for Change the Exchange, we have consciously decided not to approach it with an outcome-oriented mindset. We don’t know whether a new LETS scheme or a time bank or a stronger local currency is the answer. We are pretty sure though that there isn’t just one answer and that focusing more on the questions and the relationships will ultimately unleash a more creative response.

So this Friday, we are inviting people with a passion for issues of economic resilience and community cohesion to bring their experiences, opinions, curiosity, expertise…and to allow themselves to perhaps see something new from another angle. Dialogue, in this sense, both offers the opportunity to creatively explore challenging issues and seeks to embody the very nature of relationships we are trying to explore – open, collaborative, creative, trusting.

If the new economy we would like to create is to be more cooperative and re-humanizing, the process by which we inhabit that economy must be an expression of these same values. In many ways, the drive to produce outcomes at the expense of process is at the heart of our old destructive economics. Shifting focus from the structures to the relationships, from the nouns to the verbs, may offer a more meaningful and generative experience.

So come join our dialogue this Friday from 3-5 at Bogan House in Totnes with an open mind…and maybe we’ll together create just what we need.

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Cultivating a polyculture of exchange

By Chris Tittle

an oak tree in the garden

Talking (and writing) about money is an interesting thing. It’s almost always done in relation to its scarcity (“I’d love to (fill in awesome activity), but I can’t really afford to right now”) or its overabundance (“CEO bonuses are (fill in description of disgust/moral outrage)”). Both conversations tend to get negative pretty quick. Language and social customs seem to make it far easier to talk about problems and challenges than comfort and sufficiency.

Money has occupied an increasingly polarized place in personal and public dialogue, as economic hardship continues to disproportionately affect people around the world and financial inequality is exacerbated in even the most ‘developed’ countries.  Such is our common relationship to money that we often forget (or never realized in the first place) that it is ultimately just a social construct, a medium of exchange, a representation of value – and not a concrete and universal…

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Re-weaving the local economy in Totnes

Jay Tompt interviews Chris Tittle about the inquiry he is involved in around exchange. A good introduction to this event and website, thank you Jay and Chris.

Polyculture of Exchange

By Jay Tompt, first published at TransitionNetwork.org

Money:  can’t live with it, can’t kill it or the dominant economic system over which it reigns as omnipotent godhead of all consuming desire, (at least not overnight.)

Meantime, what’s a transition-minded community to do? Maybe money, per se, isn’t the problem, but rather it’s the unhealthy relationships that have co-evolved with it and the dominant economic system that transforms everything into commodity, reaching into nearly every remaining niche of human settlement and interpersonal relationship.

“Everywhere where relationships have been commoditised and monetised, community bonds have been broken down – destroying ‘community’, in other words. What we’re interested in doing is exploring how different needs can be met with different forms of exchange so that these monetised relationships can be reclaimed and rehumanised.”

That’s how my conversation with Chris Tittle begins when we meet for coffee at the Royal Seven Stars to discuss a local project he’s organising called Change the Exchange. I pay the default way, with coins.

Chris came here from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and will soon be off to Kathmandu, Nepal after spending the last year in the Economics for Transition MSc. programme at Schumacher College. But he isn’t simply passing through. He and some of his cohort have resolved to leave a positive legacy, hoping to catalyse a new “polyculture of exchange” here in Totnes.

On Friday the 13th, Chris and others will staff a Change the Exchange stall at the market. They’ll try to engage market-goers in fun and interesting ways about the idea of money and exchange, exploring how relationships might reconnect around new ways of expressing needs and meeting those needs. Meanwhile, others will roam Market Square, looking to connect ‘needs’ and ‘offers’. Later in the day, they’ll convene a Change the Exchange workshop for people interested in supporting a reinvigorated LETS scheme, a time bank, skill share, and more.

What they’re hoping for, he says, is really just to put these ideas out there and see where it goes – it’s up to members of the community to do something with it, or not. “And ideally,” he says, “it would be members of the wider community who are not necessarily involved in TTT, or that whatever project emerges – time bank, or whatever – does not necessarily become a TTT project.”

He goes on to explain that the current money system of the core economy is like a monoculture which demands conformity and lacks resilience. And because the economic system has monetised nearly every exchange relationship, this leaves gaping holes in the social fabric. What a polyculture of exchange provides is a resilience based on a diversity of reinvented or rediscovered relationships that include interpersonal reciprocity and more systemic intra-communal reciprocity. Gifting, time banking, local exchange trading systems, skill share, etc., are all workable examples. Money systems transfer trust from the individual to an abstraction. Restoring and rehumanising exchange relationships relocates trust with individuals, which ultimately create additional benefits within the community.

Most importantly, he says, these systems must be easily accessible because they provide support to those in the community who are otherwise marginalised and most vulnerable, those the core economy has left behind. A polyculture of exchange helps ensure that everyone’s needs can be met. That’s why it’s important that it be seen in the broadest, most accessible, most inclusive possible light. Not everyone in town has a positive view of TTT, but even if that wasn’t the case, developing a sustainable poly-culture of exchange relies on a deep shift in community culture – it’s just too big and too important to be “a project of…”

I let that sink in for a moment.

Given the small size of our town and the prominence of Transition in it, there exists the possibility of it being perceived as a sort of monopoly over all things resilience and sustainable. On the other hand, we note together how fortunate we are that the Economics for Transition course, its inaugural year just coming to a close, is bringing new energy to the community, and helping to reignite interest in pursuing greater collaboration between TTT and Schumacher College, as well as Dartington Hall. What we can look forward to, perhaps, is an emerging polyculture of activity around community resilience, regenerative economics, climate change adaptation, etc.

Perhaps, too, Change the Exchange will lead to a robust polyculture of exchange and new economic security. The TTT Skillshare seems to be off to a good start, already, but may get a new burst of participation. The Plough & Share Credit Union may agree to administer a time bank and the LETS scheme that had run in years past, may re-emerge, too. Given the way this year has begun, it seems the timing couldn’t be better.

Images: Chinese shell money, Creative Commons; poster for Change the Exchange; The Future of Money by Bernard Lietaer

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Preparation Party – 9 April


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