Community Matters: A Look at Alternative Economies_Featured_, Economy Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
It’s pretty clear the status quo has some problems.
THE OTHER DAY I negotiated my first ever service exchange or, as Joy called it, “energy exchange.” Joy is the director of the yoga studio that I go to here in Nelson, BC. I approached her about volunteering in exchange for yoga classes. We agreed on exchanging my writing services for her yoga.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of communal living. A small community that’s self-sustained, where the participants did things for each other and everyone had what they needed. Of course, this is the way things used to be, perhaps going all the way back to the beginning of humanity.
These days, most of us equate our time with money. Depending on how much education, experience, and skill we have, we consider our time worth a certain amount of money. This amount depends on the market; in other words, how much money can we demand? This in turn deems some people’s time as “more important” than others.
With the way our economy at large is set up, I don’t know if there’s any way around that, but within small communities there is opportunity for alternatives. When selfishness and greed are taken out of the equation, when the common good of the community is serviced, we will all be better off.
Community Way Dollars
What if you could donate money to local charitable organizations yet still have the same buying power? This is the goal of Community Way dollars (CW$). In a nutshell, local businesses donate CW$ to its choice of local charities. The businesses don’t actually hand over any hard currency, what they are giving is the promise to accept CW$ as a form of currency to buy its goods and services. Some businesses might accept 100% payment in CW$, others will accept a percentage (with the rest made up in federal dollars) per transaction.
When a member of the local community makes a cash donation to a participating charity, they receive the same amount back in CW$, which they will be free to spend in the local economy. This way one can donate money for a good cause that will help locals (e.g. fighting homelessness) and still have the same buying power to purchase goods and services they need from local businesses.
People can also acquire CW$ from volunteering at the local charities and, in some cases, where employers and employees agree to pay and receive CW$ as a form of payment for work. Participating businesses can also trade between themselves with CW$. It’s a win-win-win situation: non-profits get financial support to keep running, the public gets to donate without losing buying power, and businesses benefit from creating stronger connections with their customers, keeping money within the local community. Check out this video for a more detailed explanation.