August 15, 2012
Making money work
One of the very few positives to come out of the mess created by our banks has been that more people are asking basic questions – like how is money actually created and who does it? (Quick lesson – if a private bank lends you £100, that bank has just created an extra £100!). Understanding how the money system operates has to be a good thing and some communities have been ahead of the game in this respect for a while. The UK’s oldest community currency is Scottish – its 4th issue has just launched.
The Eko is the UK’s oldest community currency, having been in operation since 2002. The fourth issue, which will run until 2017, has just been launched.
Based at the Ecovillage in Findhorn Moray, about £18,000 worth of Ekos are in circulation in denominations of 1s, 5s, 10s and 20s. The currency has provided economic support to a variety of organisations over the years including the community-owned wind turbines, Station House Co-operative and the local Youth Project.
The current issue, which celebrates the community’s 50th year, will be used to support new affordable housing projects.
Ekopia first launched the community currency in May 2002 – the Eko, with the support of the Hygeia Foundation. It is a local currency system designed as a working alternative to £s Sterling in economic transactions and as a complement to LETS.
Community organisations that accept Eko notes include:
• Phoenix Shop
• Findhorn Bay Holiday Park
• Blue Angel Café
• Findhorn Foundation
Since the successful trial, 15-20,000 Ekos have been in permanent circulation.
Total trading turnover of the notes has exceeded £400,000 to date, and several new traders have started accepting the currency. As a result of the surpluses created we have been able to make a grants of £400 each to the community Festivals Group and the Youth Project. The issue is at par with sterling i.e. 1 Eko = £1, and notes are in one, five, ten and twenty denominations. Individuals may not redeem the notes in sterling from Ekopia, although traders may redeem the Eko currency in sterling from Ekopia according to certain set criteria.
From the sale of the notes to community members, Ekopia has made low interest loans to various community organisations. Visitors can receive the notes in a number of ways, including purchasing Ekos from the Findhorn Bay Holiday Park reception and the Visitors Centre.
Aims of the Eko Currency Issue :
1. To provide low cost financing for new projects through low interest loans and surpluses generated by the currency project itself.
2. To enable existing businesses to make savings on bank charges (surprisingly perhaps, this benefit may outweigh the value of the low cost financing), and to stimulate trade amongst community business, residents and visitors.
3. To promote these businesses and projects, and the Ecovillage in general as a place of innovation and sustainable economy
4. To inspire both guests and residents with the demonstration value of a locally based currency, and to get the users thinking about how and where they spend their money.
5. To create gift capital for local projects.