The “Encuentro de Monedas Locales” (Local Currency Gathering) took place from Thu, 09th to Sun, 12th May 2013 at Seville, Andalusia, Spain. 136 people from Spain’s 9 autonomous communities (Andalusia, Aragón, Basque Country, Canary Islands, Catalonia, Extremadura, Madrid, Murcia and Valencia) and also from Brazil, Chile, France and UK joined this meeting, sharing their experiences and strengthening the human relationship for future collaborations.
On Thu, 09th and Fri, 10th the event took place basically at “Casa de Pumarejo” (Pumarejo House), a wonderful building in the 18th century at Plaza de Pumarejo which unfortunately suffers from degradation and is on the verge of being demolished by developers who want to build a modern hotel there. A non-profit was set up to preserve this invaluable heritage and in March 2012 it started to use its own social currency called Puma to strengthen people’s bond. The conference began with the presentation of Jara in the Aljarafe county (just to the next of Seville City) with the aim of increasing the local self-sufficiency of housing, education, health, clothes, food and energy. Their problem is the bad road network (roads are usually heading from this county for Seville Capital with few roads linking towns within the county), but they have already 273 members. Then followed the presentation of Puma as a currency for the “Cuidadanía” (a new word coined from “ciudadanía” (citizenship) and “cuidado” (care), meaning “care citizenship”), having fairs and food supply centre to stimulate trades and currently it has 608 members, of which 38% are men, 52% are women and 10% are local businesses. Both Jara and Puma are based on the online LETS CES.
The Fri, 10th began with the presentation by Enric Montesa for Rubit, a social currency to be launched soon at Russafa, Valencia City. This local currency, with a mobile phone payment system, will promote and support social and cultural initiatives and the local economy, will be issued as a non-convertible currency to link local businesses, non-profits and inhabitants there. Then Alejandro Rodríguez talked about his project Málaga Común (Málaga, Andalusia) as an online LETS. Then Jorge Timón from Cáceres (Extremadura) spoke about the project Freicoin, a demurrage-charging electronic currency (similar to Bitcoin) which started last December, Israel Sánchez from Puma talked about the food supply centre where food is sold both in puma and euro, and Miguel Figueroa from Gran Canaria showed their social currency DEMOS which gives its members some basic income. And Ciaran Mundy gave the general picture on Bristol Pound, UK, proving that since its launch in September 2012 this system goes on growing, with more than 150,000 Bristol Pounds in circulation as of March 2013.
In the afternoon two experiences in rural zones were presented. Eva Ramírez Hidalgo talked about Las Pitas, a bustling LETS-type experience in Bajo Andarax (Almería). It’s quite important to underscore the fact that this experience evolved from a timebank (Note that Spain has more than 300 timebanks!) as it faced with the hardship in allowing its members to get goods, especially food. Chelo Farina talked about a similar experience La Mora in Sierra Norte (Madrid). Then a panel discussion was held in terms of legal issues where Enric Montesa talked about the Code of Commerce, Civil Code and how to deal with VAT for turnovers in social currencies, dealing with a currency as “civil contract”. Then six workshops took place simultaneously on: “exchange platforms, payment system and security”, “Self-organisation of Local Networks: Stimulate and Take Care of the Collective Creation Process”, “Facilitator’s Role in the Group Process and the Conflict Resolution”, “Tornado of Ideas and Proposals to Innovate in our Local Currencies”, “Emotional Relationship with the Money” and “Strategies to Sustain Social Currency Local Networks: How to Take Care of People who Work for the Public”.
On Sat, 11th and Sun, 12th the session continued at the IES Velázquez school. Julio Gisbert talked about the recent trend of local currencies in Spain with a map of initiatives and Miguel Yasuyuki Hirota shared the summary of the congress which had taken place in the previous weekend at Traunstein, Upper Bavaria, Germany (see here for more information on the congress in Germany). Then Peplluis de La Rosa, professor at University of Girona (Catalonia) and also of RES Catalunya showed his study on the money’s circulation speed, showing that social currencies tend to circulate quicker than national tenders, and Francisco Ortega showed his electronic currency platform Kapital Truth based on the evaluation system.
In the afternoon another panel discussion was held in terms of relationship between social currency and other sectors (public and private ones). Luis Blanco from Expronceda at Almendralejo (Badajoz, Extremadura) mentioned that the mayor is supportive of this initiative, although he hasn’t started to receive his salary in social currency as does Bristol’s one. Andrea Caro from SOL-Violette (Toulouse, France) underscored the character of this experience as “citizens’ currency”, although this project is financially supported by the City Hall, and Pedro Tolosa from Tolosa (Guipúzcoa, Basque Country) talked about a social currency project to be launched later in 2013 by the local association of hotels and restaurants with the support from a local credit union. Then SWOT analysis as well as evaluation on the event organisation and strategies to continue working as a network were done, and on Sun, 12th it was decided that Valencia will host the next Spanish meeting in 2014.
As this was a second edition of the Spanish-level meeting (in 2012 it was at Vilanova I La Geltrú, Catalonia), I was happy to see some advances, not only in terms of the number of participants (more than double than last year) but also in terms of the improvement in the discussion level. I am convinced that this movement is finally taking off in the Spanish society, with the potential to be developed in different parts of the country to satisfy people’s unmet needs, especially unemployment (according to the latest data, the unemployment rate reaches 27%!).
It should be reminded, however, that the collaborating work within the network is still quite fragile, which prevents the network from leveraging its full potential. More efforts should be done to involve people with collective works, such as maintaining websites and/or blogs, editing a manual and studying legal issues, so more people, especially those who still stay out of the network, can learn more about social currencies.