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2nd International Conference on Social and Complementary Currencies


The 2nd International Conference on Social and Complementary Currencies took place at ISS, the Hague, Netherlands from Wed, 19th to Sun, 23rd June 2013.  Some 500 people from 34 countries in all the 6 continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania) took part in to learn, discuss and exchange ideas and experiences.  Here you can read abstracts of all the presentations.

On Tue, 18th in the evening a preconference talk was given by Dr. Thomas Greco (Arizona, US) as a special speaker.  After criticising the current monetary system he mentioned the importance to “re-conceive in the most fundamental sense, the very idea of currency, credit, and payment” on the basis of a similar phrase by the former president of the Visa International and showed the following three currencies: “Currency SOLD for cash”, “Currency DISTIRBUTED with no formal obligation to reciprocate” and “Currency SPENT into circulation as a credit obligation” and referred to the “Free and Open Markets“, “Interest-free credit“, “An Honest Means of Payment Based on Sound Principles that Assure Reciprocity” and “An Objective and Stable Unit of Measure of Value” as requirements for efficient, effective, fair and sustainable exchange,  He told o the need that the issuer should accept the currency (s)he issued and showed, as elements to restrict the growth of social to reach the scale.

On Wed, 19th June the event started officially with a minute of silence for Sandra Magalhães, co-founder of the Banco Palmas at Fortaleza, Brazil who had passed away on the previous Thursday, and two keynote speeches were done.  The first was given by Katherine Gibson from the University of Western Sydney, Australia and was about the recovery of people’s sovereignty on the economy on the basis of her book “Take back the Economy” that has come out this year.  She began by criticising the capitalocentrism which alienates employees, CEOs, consumers, property owners and investors and proposed the restructuring of the economy.  She made clear different ways of economy and talked about three types of economy for the three categories: Labour (wage, alternative paid and unpaid), market (market, alternative market and non-market) and capital (capitalist, alternative capitalist and non-capitalist), showing examples that in the Filipino economy all sorts of abovementioned economies exist.  She underscored the importance to know the origin of each product to be aware of the workers’ situation and argued that social currencies are “building relationships”.

The second keynote speaker (the whole text of his presentation can be found at: ) is Prof. Keith Hart from University of Pretoria, South Arica who directs the human economy programme, an expression coined by him to transmit the idea of social and solidarity economy in English-speaking countries’ sociocultural contexts.  He starte by talking about years of his involvement with the LETS model, defined that Europe is having the same problem as the one in Argentina in 2001 – 2002, judged the introduction of Euro as a mistake, mentioned the collapse of the national capitalism and proposed the human economy approach on the basis of his book “human economy” published in 2010 together with Jean-Louis Laville and Antonio David Cattani.

In the afternoon two workshops took place and the first one I attend had four presentations.  Profesor Baeg Eui, Hong from Seoul National University, South Korea shared the perspective of the social currencies in his country where two experiences were highlighted: Hanbat LETS at Daejeon and Gwacheon Pumasi at Gwacheon, Greater Seoul, on top of the recent initiative by the Seoul Welfare Foundation to set up 25 initiatives and classified the experiences in four categories: “neighbourhood community type” (more conservative), “alternative community type” (more anticapitalist and challenging), “active community” (more ecologist) and “ecological community” (more ecological an challenging).  Mike Unrau from Calgary Dollars at Calgary, Alberta, Canadá gave the following six steps to get the support from the local government: 1) Find Organisational Support, 2) Find Small Grant Funding (to lead to larger ones), 3) Build Relationships with City Councillors, 4) Gain City Council Endorsement, 5) Apply for Larger Funding and 6) Speak Their Language / Be Opportunistic.  Juliana Braz from theUniversidad de São Paulo, Brazil showed her research on credit clients of Banco Palmas at Fortaleza, Ceará, proving that 60% of the interviewees answered that their commitment to the community increased and that 80% found themselves identified with this social currency although most of them have stopped to use it as the time passed by.  And finally Ruth Naughton-Doe from University of Bristol, UK demythified Time Banks as they aren’t self-managed, their management actually costs quite expensive, only few members exchange and evidences are lacking on other positive aspects.

In the second workshop other four workshops were given.  Joey Renert from mentioned the importance to back social currencies with fundamental high-demand and exportable resources but that they should be different that those which warrant the oficial tender.  András Novoszáth from the Open University, United Kingdom explained about the importance that the knowledge of a social currency can bring onto the users’ behaviour.  Hugo Godschalk from Paysys Consultancy GmbH, Germany explained different aspects of financial regulations on social currencies, making clear that the diversity of their features make it complicated to apply laws, on top of the fact that each country has different legal system without any unification in the whole Eurozone.  After that Takeshi Hashimoto showed the result of his researchbetween the awareness on the money and the use of social currencies.

The Thu, 20th started with another keynote speech.  Prof. Akinobu Kuroda from the University of Tokyo, Japan highlighted the high social cohesion at LETS in comparison with the official currency’s anonymity and defined that the currency’s quality is up to the social relationship, although some voices said the contrary (the social relationship is up to the currency’s quality).  After that three simultaneous workshops took place in which Ricardo Orzi, from the Universidad de Luján, Argentina compared some French experiences of social currency with the historical practice of barter clubes (clubes de trueque) in Argentina, implying that the use of official tender as collateral, the more assistencialist and interventionist attitude of the State and the lack of personal charisma in France, among other factors, triggered different practices.  I myself (Miguel Yasuyuki Hirota) from the Universidad de Valencia, Spain talked about social currency’s marketing as ofer of values for different stakeholders, providing other concepts such as social marketing, relational marketing and presenting the future experience of ORUE in Valencia, Spain.  Marcelo Gryckiewicz de Buenos Aires, Argentina showed a video of a brief history of barter clubs in Argentina and Uruguay (you can watch the video here (in Spanish)).

In the afternoon other workshops took place.  Leander Bindewald, UK and Christophe Place, France presented mechanisms for the evaluation of social currencies on the basis of their typology and goals, applying the impact assessment to achieve more funding from the sponsors.  Irene Sotiropoulou from Chania, Greece presented the ups and downs of prices at a LETS in this Cretan city, proving the unstable offer of some basic products and the deflationary tendency of prices.  And Peplluis de la Rosa from Universitat de Girona, Catalonia and of RES Catalunya and James Stodder from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hartford, Connecticut, United States showed his study on the velocity of different social currencies, with further doubts to explain in the future.  And this academic session closed by asking signatures for the Central Bank of Kenya not to punish Will Ruddick, founder of a social currency Bangla-Pesa, because this social currency will help to improve its users’ life quality.

 On Fri, 21st June the second part on “public policies” was held, although most of the workshops were of another character.  On the plenary Bernard Lietaer from Belgium defined that we’re in the ripe information age and that money is an information system.  Edgar Kampers from Qoin, the Netherlands presented two Timebank-style initiatives.  Later a number of simultaneously workshops took place to have a variety of arguments, but personally what surprised me the most were the words pronounced by Dariusz, who has a commercial barter system in Poland, that his business wasn’t banking but “educational”.  Other commercial barter initiatives agreed with this vision, posing the need to reposition these experiences within the theoretical framework of social currencies.  Another interesting vision which was presented in this conference was the workshop on interest-free banking where the experience of JAK bank experiences from Sweden as well as the definition of the Islamic banking were shown.

On Sat, 22nd and Sun, 23rd June the last part of the conference for practitioners took place, discussing different topics in relation with social currencies.  Dozens of spontaneous workshops were organized and their results can be found at the following link.

In this conference I’ve found some keywords: the first phrase which impressed me was that of the Polish commercial barter which accentuated that his business wasn’t banking but “educational”, referring to the need to teach its philosophy member businesses.  Another concept which left an important trace in my mind was the “local development”, said by the Costa Rican technician Erik Brenes which developed different experiences in Central America.  It’s necessary for us to get used to the fact that most people, including politicians and entrepreneurs, don’t understand anything at all or even show their refusal on hearing the word “social currency” and we have to choose an adequate language which should be comprehensible for this sector of people.  What appealed me on top of that was the vision posed by Mike Unrau, of Calgary Dollar, Canada who sees social currencies as “social enterprise”.  Although the definition on social enterprises varies from country to country and that social currency practices aren’t necessarily linked with the job creation for marginalised workers, it will be urgently needed for us to contemplate such a possibility so that social currencies should count with more supports.