Complementary Currencies

A Creative Solution


Complementary or community currencies represent one of the most creative solutions to meet a community’s needs that mainstream money does not fulfill. A complementary currency is an agreement within a community to accept a currency with no legal tender status. They are called “complementary” because their aim is not to replace legal tender but to perform functions that the latter is not always able to deliver. Community currencies have proven effective in dealing with three obstacles hindering the pursuit of the communities’ goals:

  1. the lack of money and/or credit
  2. the prevalence of misaligned incentives within the communities’ actors,
  3. and the competition of outsiders (like transnational corporations, large chain stores, etc.)

Complementary currencies are neither historically uncommon nor insignificant (Peacock, 2014; Graeber, 2011). However, most of the current ones have emerged and spread since the 1980s, mostly in Europe, the Americas, Oceania and Japan (Blanc and Fare, 2013). It is estimated that there are currently more than 4,000 currencies created by communities or local authorities around the globe (Lietaer and Dunne, 2013). Among these, some of the most successful and well-known systems include WIR (Switzerland), Sardex (Sardinia, Italy), SoNantes (Nantes, France), Banco Palmas (Fortaleza, Brazil) and Fureai Kippu (Japan). Types of complementary currencies can be defined according to their rules of issuance and circulation as well as the social actors involved, the most popular being Time Banks, Local Exchange Trading Systems, Commercial Credit Circuits, Convertible Local Currencies, etc.

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