Earlier this month I visited several countries in Europe to learn more about complementary currency systems etc. I will depict it briefly and chronologically.
I arrived at Zurich, Switzerland to visit the Money Museum, one of few places in the world where surveys on historical monetary systems are conducted (Note: this museum is only open on Tuesdays in the afternoon!). I learned that the Sunflower Foundation, which runs this institution, is planning to host the Money Forum in 2010 where experts on this topic will exchange their opinions, on top of showing practices of complementary currencies. On this evening I had the chance to attend a lecture on Roman coins which tell us why Julius Caesar had to be killed (because the Senate did not like him), and I was intrigued by this message by this means of exchange.
On the next day I moved to Lausanne to visit Mr. François de Siebental who has been implementing social credit systems in different continents(Click here to learn more). The first initiative started in 2004 in Madagascar to give credits for irrigation systems, houses, churches, schools and cultural centres etc. in complementary currency, and he said that it is quite successful. He also mentioned the importance of basic income, alluring that his projects are contributing to make it a reality. Another interesting story that he gave me is that the Swiss people have more grip on their central bank than their neighbours in the Eurozone do, showing his pride on their national autonomy.
Then I went to Lille, France to attend a conference on the SOL project, an electronic currency system which works both as a developed form of mutual help and as a loyalty card among solidarity economy actors. The conference started with an introductive lecture by Mr. Philippe Derruder who argued that our monetary system has failed so far to improve our environment and human aspects, explaining that money is nothing but a “connection which is based on the social confidence,” condemning the current “illegibility of the monetary creation by the banking sector” and concluding that complementary currencies are a tool for the economic autonomy. Ms. Celina Whitaker, of the SOL project team, gave the general introduction on complementary currency systems and also about their own one, followed by a guided tour to different shops which accept SOL (a fair-trade shop, a bicycle-sharing non-profit etc.). Currently 1500 cards are issued in Nord-Pas-de-Calais (a French region with Lille as capital), and the challenge is how to continue this system after the experimental period ends in December 2008.
Last destination was Madrid, Spain where it was my turn to give the general lecture on complementary currencies. Mr. Jaap Vink of Strohalm gave a presentation on the projects which his foundation is conducting, such as C3 (Circuit of Consumers and Commerce), a legal-tender-backed internal exchange system which is already operational in Porto Alegre, Brazil as Compras, with 575 businesses circulating R$410,000(about 160,000 euro or US$ 227,000), commodity-based currencies in Central America(Honduras and El Salvador, click here for details) and Fomento in Fortaleza, Brazil (click here to understand the mechanism). After my general presentation Ms. Stefania Strega from Canary Islands stated that money should be circulated like nitrogen in the natural world, insisting on the importance of the holistic vision. Then several existing initiatives of Bancos del Tiempo (Time Bank in Spain, in Spanish) were presented, such as for problematic families and for youths, and I thought that these initiatives are still to grow further.
Next day I learned that Spain has other interesting initiatives, such as Solidarity Economy‘s portal site which is alive with news from Latin America too, Economistas sin Frontera(Econists without Border, in Spanish) and www.noticiaspositivas.net (Spanish version of the British site www.positivenews.org.uk) and the solidarity finance bank coop57. I was intrigued by this dynamism and would like to go on working in close touch with them…