Learn about alternative currencies and exchange systems for sustainability

Enabling the more efficient exchange and sharing of products and services, in order to increase human well-being while reducing the consumption of natural resources, is a key dimension to the sustainability transition. A less understood dimension of this challenge is the role of alternative currencies and exchange systems in enabling that efficiency. On Al Jazeera’s episode on the banking crisis last week I explained the role of such systems to help businesses and communities trade during recessionary times. Their potential role in helping the sustainability transition been recognised by the European Union in its initiative to establish a research and policy agenda for sustainable lifestyles. It is the right time for more companies, NGOs, consultants and policy makers to understand how they can engage in alternative currencies and exchange systems. Three events we are involved with in Greece, Sweden and UK in the next 3 months will give some additional insight.

In the First Policy Brief of the EU’s ‘SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles’ project, they identified five pivotal issues for sustainable lifestyles. One of these is “the emergence of non-monetary systems: reward schemes, alternative currencies and the principle of reciprocity to incentivize people to rethink the value of services and goods in terms of their actual costs and benefits.” It recommends “a Toolbox for change makers” to “enable the transition” that should include “alternative currencies and reward schemes..”*

There is a growing sense that we are on the cusp of disruptive innovation in sustainable exchange, as EU SPREAD notes, “web and mobile technologies can play a critical role in building large-scale, sharing communities for the future.”* Data from the NGO I advise, Community Forge, show a significant uptake in the last 2 years, with now 400 currencies using its free open source software and 130 fully hosted on its servers.

If you are interested in these areas, then I recommend attending one of the following events in the coming months:

Sweden, 24th August: a short workshop on community currencies with myself and Matthew Slater. Contact the organisers of Future Perfect for more information.

Greece, 10th and 11th October: a 2 day workshop on community currencies with best selling author and expert Thomas Greco, myself, Matthew Slater and innovators of local currencies in Greece. Contact the organisers of the European Sustainability Academy for more information.

UK, 30th and 31th  October: a talk and then half day workshop on community currencies with Thomas Greco, at the Lancaster Campus of the University of Cumbria. Contact the organisers at Transition City Lancaster for more information (email:  th@  reliablegreenweb.co.uk)

Later this year, at the University of Cumbria, I will be launching a trans-disciplinary programme of research, dialogue and training on alternative currencies and exchange systems, and how they might enable a sustainability transition. If you are interested in this agenda, Id be pleased to hear from you (jb at lifeworth . com).You can also follow tweets on this topic via https://twitter.com/jembendell


Jem Bendell

Director, Lifeworth

Professor of Sustainability Leadership, University of Cumbria (Incoming, Oct 2012)

* Quotes from: Emerging Visions for Future Sustainable Lifestyles. Preliminary policy considerations from the SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 European Social Platform project. Developing pathways to more sustainable living. First Policy Brief, February 2012

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