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Community currencies and sustainable development:
A systematic review
Arnaud Michel
, Marek Hudon
SBS-EM, Université Libre de Bruxelles (U.L.B.), Belgium
CEB (SBS-EM), Université Libre de Bruxelles (U.L.B.), CERMi, 42 Avenue Roosevelt, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 27 November 2014
Received in revised form 23 April 2015
Accepted 26 April 2015
Available online xxxx
Community currency
Sustainable development
Compleme ntary currency
Local exc hange systems
Systemic review
Community or complementary currency systems have spread all around the world. Most often, they have been
promoted as tools to foster sustainable development albeit they differ in terms of specic objectives. While
many case studies have tried to assess the actual impact of these systems, there has been no global analysis sum-
marizing their global impact.
This paper aims to ll the gap by exploring whether complementary currencies contribute to the three pillars of
sustainable development. We use the systematic review methodology on an original dataset gathering most ac-
ademic publications on the topic in English, French and Spanish. Our main ndings suggest that community cur-
rencies mostly contribute to social sustainability, and that their economic benets are somewhat limited due to
their small scale and the lack of awareness on their scope. Moreover, very few studies explicitly identify environ-
mental outcomes. Finally, this review reveals some limits regarding current methods for impact assessment in
this eld. Therefore it encourages more standardization to provide greater accuracyand strengthen the legitima-
cy of community currencies in order to foster their continued development.
© 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Over the last few decades, a growing number of social movements
have turned their attentions to the challenges of globalization in terms
of sustainable development. Concerns have been raised about the con-
ventional monetary system notably that sucha system is unsustainable
because of the constant drain of nancial resources going from poor to
rich segments of the population, and the obsession for economic growth
as main economic philosophy (Seyfang and Longhurst, 2013; Lietaer
et al., 2012; North, 2007). All of these result in the amplication of eco-
nomic disparities and the decline of local economies (Robertson, 1999;
Strange and Bayley, 2008) and even frequently the depletion of natural
resource (Jackson, 2009). In response, a few new economicapproaches
argue thatwe need to revise priorities away from the principal objective
of economic growth and more oriented towards the well-being of soci-
ety and community-level sustainable development (Seyfang and Smith,
2007; Ekins, 1993; Frankova et al., 2014). They argue that all three pil-
lars of sustainability need to be addressed and given some importance.
In parallel with this approach, and frequently inspired by green
movements, community currencies have been developing all around
the world by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-protorga-
nizations (NPOs) and informal groups. The motivations to create such
systems vary. Some of them were established in response to crisis situ-
ations to protect local livelihoods. For instance, Conill et al. (2012)argue
that community currencies were part of community economic alterna-
tives that have spread throughout Catalonia due to the recent crisis.
Many recent community currencies are now emerging more and more
deliberately as grassroots innovations with the aim of promoting sus-
tainable development (Colacelli and Blackburn, 2005; Douthwaite,
1996; Meechuen, 2008; Seyfang, 2001a,b). More specically, these cur-
rencies could, for instance, ease the transition to a lower-energy econo-
my (Douthwaite, 2012; Joachain and Klopfert, 2014). Over the last
decades, the number of community currency projects has experienced
dramatic growth around the world (see Lietaer, 2001) and during one
of their studies, Seyfang and Longhurst (2013) recorded more than
3000 clusters of projects across 23 countries and 6 continents.
However, within the large amount of papers studying this move-
ment, the terminology of these new forms of exchange remains confus-
ing and contested (Seyfang and Longhurst, 2013). Among others, they
are alternately called local currencies, alternative currencies, parallel
currencies, community currencies or complementary currencies
(Blanc, 2011). However, for reasons of clarity, only the terms commu-
nity currency (CC)and community currencies (CCs)will be used in
this paper.
Typically, CCs design the broad family of currency systems that
exist alongside conventional currencies, circulate within a dened
geographic region or community, and arbitrate exchanges of goods
and services without bearing interest (Lietaer, 2001). Some of the
Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (A. Michel),
(M. Hudon).
0921-8009/© 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Ecological Economics
journal homepage:
most famous examples of CCs are Time banks, Ithaca HOURS, Local
Exchange Trading Systems (LETS),
WIR and the Red de Trueque.
They vary impressively in their design, with some using physical
paper-based currencies while others are only recorded as debit and
credit lines in registers or electronic databases (Evans, 2009). They
also differ in scale and objectives and a typology will be presented
in a later section of this paper.
The CC eld is currently on its way to develop itself as a solid dis-
cipline with an increasing amount of studies discussing the matter
(Place and Bindewald, 2015). However, while the existing works
have deeply searched and highlighted the diversity, the motivations
and the potentials of community currencies, few have presently
evaluated their concrete impact. Moreover, publications assessing
outcomes of these systems consist generally of individual studies of
one particular CC project (e.g., Jacob et al., 2004; Pacione, 1997)or
national studies evaluating similar exchange systems (e.g., Birch
and Liesch, 1997; Seyfang, 2002). To date, it would seem that almost
no studies have comprehensively assessed the global impact of com-
munity currencies. The only exception we are aware of is Dittmer
(2013), who reviews English academic research about local
Still, impact evaluation and proof of positive outcomes are need-
ed for different reasons. Firstly, as DeMeulenaere (2008) discovered
in his study that CCs rely mostly on external nancing, convincing
governments and nancial institutions could help to get more sup-
port. Secondly, while CCs are generally small-scale systems,
McBurnie (2012) found a positive correlation between the aware-
ness of community and environmental benets and the willingness
of non-members to start using the currency. As a result, more people
and businesses would possibly join CC systems if evidence of positive
impacts is correctly demonstrated.
For these reasons, this research attempts to draw a global picture
of the actual impact of community currencies and assess how suc-
cessfully they achieve sustainable development. With this aim, a sys-
tematic review of the most comprehensive and available literature
has been conducted. Following Seyfang and Longhurst (2013),the
CCs analyzed were categorized in four main types according to
their objectives and the extent to which these objectives correlated
with actual outcomes of each type was also evaluated.
The remaining part of the paper proceeds as follows: the next sec-
tion describes the theoretical context for the review, describing the
link between the three pillars of sustainable development and com-
munity currencies, and presenting the typology used for the analysis.
Following this, the particular methodology of this research is ex-
plained. Next we present the ndings, including the characteristics
of the analyzed studies and the observed impacts. A discussion of
these ndings is then provided. Finally, we conclude with some im-
plications of this study for the future.
2. Theoretical Framework
2.1. Community Currencies and Sustainable Development
According to Robertson (1999) the current monetary system
challenges sustainable development for two main reasons. Firstly,
resources are systematically relocated from poor to wealthy seg-
ments of the population. Kennedy (2001) referred to it as the fair-
ness misconception, stipulating that everyone is in fact not treated
equally in our monetary system. In her study comparing the interest
paid and received by German households, she found that the mech-
anism of interest only beneted a small minority of rich people,
while the majority (80%) paid almost twice as much as they receive.
Secondly, Robertson (1999) denounces constantly higher levels of
production, consumption and investment resulting from the
money-must-grow imperative.
The basic vision of sustainable development stipulates that our
decisionsshould bear in mind the interconnection of the economic,
social and environmental spheres. With the aim to realize these ob-
jectives, new economics organizations and academics attempt to
create new institutions or parallel infrastructures that comprise
more sustainable systems of production and consumption
(Douthwaite, 1996). The development of new monetary systems
through the establishment of community currencies systems is one
such example.
Without question, the fundamental basis of community currencies is
the rejection of the credit-money foundation of the capitalist system,
and more specically how conventional money is created. CC advocates
criticizehow the creation of money, by engendering debt and the repay-
ment of credits with interest, leads to an ever-expanding monetary sys-
tem (Rowbotham, 1998). As Kennedy (2001) states: Interest leads to
compound interest. Compound interest leads to exponential growth. And
exponential growth in turn wherever it cannot be transformed is unsus-
tainable.(Kennedy, 2001:1).
While the general objective is to create more resilience in the
monetary system, CCs are generally promoted to make sure that a
bigger part of savings and local income circulate within the local
community. Community currencies have commonly been supported
by practitioners of green and political economy movements as tools
to stimulate sustainable development (Douthwaite, 1996; Greco,
2001; Robertson, 1999). They are considered as grassroots innova-
tions that introduce bottom-up solutions for sustainable develop-
ment by responding to the local situation and the interests of the
communities involved, focusing on the social economy rather than
the market economy, and offsetting the loss of local autonomy at
the expense of the global market (Seyfang and Smith, 2007).
This paper aims to examine the impact of CCs and also the ways in
which they can effectively foster sustainable development. Before
entering into the subject in more detail, let's rst explore the numer-
ous theoretical ways in which CCs could potentially contribute to
sustainable development and classify them according to economic,
social and economic sustainability.
Economic sustainability is grounded in the recognition that natu-
ral resources are being depleted on an increasingly large scale by the
economic system. CC advocates frequently argue that CCs can con-
tribute to sustainability rst of all because they can promote locali za-
tion or foster local economic activity by preventing global outows
of wealth and increase the circulation of money in the community
(Douthwaite, 1996; Collom, 2005). When the usage of the currency
remains local, it is safe to assume that the money will circulate faster
and in larger proportion, thereby stimulating the local economic
multiplier and increasing local incomes (DeMeulenaere, 1998).
Moreover, CCs can help to recognize informal work and value skills
that are not valued by the formal labour market (Aldridge et al.,
2001; Hudon and Lietaer, 2006; Scott-Cato, 2006). Through local im-
port substitution, local businesses are provided with a market ad-
vantage that helps sustain their activity. Additionally, CCs may
incite the establishment of small enterprises and stimulate an entre-
preneurial spirit, with lower nancial risk.
Social sustainability is the second dimension. It implies the main-
tenance of social capital, the promotion of cooperation, trust, and co-
hesion within the community for the benetofall(Kahn, 1995). By
creating small circuits of exchange, CCs have the propensity to foster
community building, through increasing trust and stronger relation-
ships between businesses and users (Collom, 2005; Jacob et al.,
2004).Through the exchange of goods and services, people are able
to expand their social networks and make new connections
(Thorne, 1996). Another objective of these systems of exchange is
tackle social exclusion (Lietaer, 2004). Plus, they can boost the self-
esteem and condence of such socially or economically excluded
LETS are also sometimes called Local Exchange Trading Schemes.
161A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171
groups by acknowledging that everyone's time and skills are equally
valued (Gomez and Helmsing, 2008). Ultimately, recognizing infor-
mal work of women is an opportunity to address gender inequalities
(Raddon, 2003).
Finally, the environmental dimension of sustainability translates
into sustainable consumption, taking into account the biophysical
limitations of the environment. It also stresses that that natural re-
sources used for human needs must be regenerated faster than
they may be consumed, and that the environment can properly as-
similate waste (Kahn, 1995). With respect to CCs, localization can
potentially moderate the environmental effects of global ows with
import substitution and the reduction of transportation costs
(Douthwaite, 1996). Additionally, CCs represent potential vehicles
for raising people's awareness about environmental issues and
tools to promote eco-friendly behaviour (Seyfang and Longhurst,
2.2. Typology of Community Currencies
Since the 1980s, the rapid multiplication of community curren-
cies has also been accompanied by an important process of differen-
tiation, or fragmentation, that has led to signicant contrasts in
terms of their design, scale and objectives.
Despite this great diversity, several attempts have been made
over the past ten years to categorize and establish a typology of
these systems (Blanc, 2011; Kennedy and Lietaer, 2008;
Martignoni, 2012; Seyfang and Longhurst, 2013). However, the pres-
ent paper will only consider the classication proposed by Seyfang
and Longhurst (2013) as it categorizes CCs according to their objec-
tives but more importantly because it is divided along the economic,
social and environmental dimensions that we have just mentioned.
However, it should be noted that this typology remains a simplica-
tion of the full range of activities and motivations in existence
(Seyfang and Longhurst, 2013: 69). Moreover, the authors (Seyfang
and Longhurst, 2013) excluded some emerging new models of CCs
and also the projects of STRO,
which did not easily t into the
main types.
Essentially, four main types of CCs can be identied
Credits; Mutual Exchange; Local Currencies; and Barter Markets.
Firstly, Service Credits such as Time Banks represent the most
common type (50.2% of the clusters identied by Seyfang and
Longhurst (2013)) and are grounded on the idea that everyone's
time has the same value with a time-based currency. Members re-
ceive a time credit for each hour they provide a service to someone
else and they can use this credit to benet a service from another
member. They target building social capital, cohesion and inclusion.
Secondly, Mutual Exchange currencies such as LETS comprise
41.3% of total projects in the sample of Seyfang and Longhurst
(2013). Their value can either be linked to a national currency, be
time-based or even a mix of the two. As two members exchange
goods and services, one account is credited and the other is debited
of the same amount. The sum of all accounts is always zero and the
value of the currency is preserved by the trust the participants
have in each other to meet their respective obligations. Moreover,
they aim to provide access to additional liquidity and interest-free
credit, and to encourage import substitution. Yet, they usually tend
to balance between social and economic goals.
The third category, accounting for 7.1% of the systems, are Local
Currencies. They are paper-based currencies sometimes convertible
to national currencies and circulate within a geographically conned
region. Some of the better-known examples of this type are Ithaca
Hours in the USA, Regiogeld in Germany and Community Banks in
Brazil. Their purpose is to complement the national currency, in-
crease the local economic activity and support local businesses.
Lastly, Barter Markets that constitute a hybrid between a mutual
exchange and a local currency represent only 1.4% of the reported
projects. The most popular example of this category is the Argentin-
ean barter clubs. Participants usually join a club and receive then
some local currency, basically an interest-free loan. These currencies
are not convertible and are utilized to exchange goods and services
at regular market events. They mostly aim to foster solidarity econo-
my but they also sometimes incentive the re-use of goods for envi-
ronmental reasons.
Table 1 resumes the purposes of these four types. Accordingly, this
paper will evaluate if the observed impacts reect the stated objectives.
3. Methodology
To assess the impact of community currencies, we conducted a
systematic review by following guidelines of the PRISMA Group
(Moher et al., 2009)andLittell et al. (2008). The challenge consisted
in collecting and evaluating the most comprehensive evidence of im-
pact assessment frameworks available in the literature. With this
purpose, a variety of sources and strategies were used to capture as
many relevant studies as possible. To be clear, this involved gather-
ing and making sense of existing studies, not directly studying any
particular CC.
Fig. 1 below summarizes the methodology used for this review and
the next sub-sections will explain the framework used in more detail.
3.1. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria
The following criteriahave been used to consider relevant studies for
this review:
any studies assessing any impact of community currencies systems
were eligible for the review;
papers referring indirectly to outcomes without directly evaluating
them were judged as irrelevant;
both individual cases about specic CC projects as well as national
studies of a specic type were included;
studies assessing projects of a limited time-related scope with only
short-term objectives were excluded as this paper focuses on impact
for long-term sustainability;
only sources written in English, French and Spanish were included or
neither time nor geographical restrictions were applied;
newspaper articles and web articles were excluded;
peer-reviewed studies, as wellas unpublished materials fromthe grey
literature judged reliable, were included in order to extent the scope
of the analysis.
STRO is a Dutch NGO that developed some innovative currency projects in the
Netherlands and South America.
Seyfang& Longhurst identiedthose four main categories from a totalof 3418 clusters
of projects across 23 countries and 6 continents.
Table 1
Categories of community currencies and their stated objectives.
Type of CC Objectives
Service Credits Build social capital, cohesion and inclusion
Mutual Exchange Provide additional liquidity; ease access to interest-free
credit; encourage import-substitution
Local Currencies Increase local economic activity; support local businesses
Barter Markets Foster a solidarity economy; encourage environmental
PRISMA stands for Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-
162 A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171
3.2. Search Methods and Strategies
The rst step of this review consisted in grouping the widest
array of publications dealing with community currencies as possible.
With this aim, a total of three search methods were explored.
Firstly, we searched the online database of the eld, namely the
bibliography of community currency research, also called cc-
and a total of 782 papers were identied.
Secondly, the online library named cc-library was consulted on
the Complementary Currency Resource Center website,
where 443
publications were accessible.
Finally, a total of 357 papers were identied through personal en-
quiry, including research on search engines and on-line publication
databases (CIBLE+, Proquest, and Google), and the consultation of
reference lists of papers dealing with CCs. Consequently, a total of
1582 records were identied for screening and after removing the
duplicates, 1175 references remained to be examined further.
The second step was to determine whether the papers were eligi-
ble for the analysis. Different aspects of the reports were then exam-
ined. The titles and abstracts were rst checked for relevance, and
701 records could be excluded on that basis. Next, the full texts of
the identied papers were collected when available and were
assessed to select those that tted the inclusion criteria. In particular,
with short-term goals, whereas CCs are generally implemented for
the long term. As suggested in the systematic review methodology,
two authors reviewed the set of papers to validate the selection.
Thus, after assessment, a total of 76 records were judged relevant
and were selected for the analysis. However, this list should not be
considered exhaustive as 245 papers have not been able to be
Relevant data was extracted from the selected studies using a
data extraction template that was developed and adapted to
Microsoft Excel, so that data from the different studies could be eas-
ily compared. This data extraction template, available in Appendix A,
included: reference information, characteristics of the CC systems
studied, the objective of the study, the data collection methods, peri-
od of the study, member characteristics, impacts, and a quality score.
During the data extraction, some papers were evaluating the out-
comes of several CCs. When they did it separately in a clear manner,
they were considered as several separate studies. Similarly, when
different publications were studying the same CC, using the same
data and getting to similar conclusions, only one was conserved.
However, when the same CC was evaluated by various studies
made by different authors, at different periods of time and using dif-
ferent data, each study was identied separately.
Taking these considerations into account, the amount of papers
analyzed was reduced to 61 papers for a total of 65 studies.
As stud-
ies vary greatly in quality, and in order to select the most reliable
sources, I assessed the reliability of the studies by using an identical
quality appraisal tool, as McHugh et al. (2014), that was adapted
Papers not analyzed included papers that I couldn't nd or that were not available.
It should be noted that the amount of papers and studies differs because one paper
could account for several studies.
Total records selected for screening
(including removal of duplicates)
Records not analysed (i.e. not found or not
Total records analysed
Records excluded at title and abstract stage
Full text records assessed for eligibility
Records excluded after full-text assessment
Final sample of studies reviewed
Initial sample of studies included
(after data extraction)
Studies excluded after quality assessment
Records identified through
Records identified through
Records identified through
reference and Internet searching
Fig. 1. Methodological approach.
163A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171
from Popay (2006) and Downs and Black (1998). Accordingly, stud-
ies were issued with a score out of 14, corresponding to the following
seven criteria: aims and objectives clearly stated; description of con-
text; description of the sample; description of the intervention; de-
scription of methods used to collect and analyze data; attempts to
establish the reliability of analysis; inclusion of sufcient data to me-
diate between evidence and interpretation. Each criterion was issued
with a score of 0, 1 or 2, meaning respectively weak, moderate or
strong. To distinguish between papers of different quality, those
that scored less than 5 were given a Low qualityscore; those scor-
ing between 5 and 9 were considered of Reasonable qualityscore;
and papers with a score above 9 were considered High quality.
Consequently, only high quality scores were retained and 17
studies were excluded at this stage, leaving a total of 48 studies to
be analyzed.
Finally, the observed impacts of the CCs were collected and clas-
sied among the three dimensions of economic, social and environ-
mental sustainability explained before. Additionally, they were
divided according to the four types of CC systems. However, one
study (Groppa, 2013) assessed outcomes of a CC project developed
by STRO, which Seyfang and Longhurst (2013) excluded from their
typology. Therefore, it was only used to assess the general results
and was not included in any category of CCs.
4. Findings
4.1. Characteristics of the Final Sample (48 Studies)
After going through the most comprehensive literature available
on the subject, the nal sample of studies evaluating the impact of
CCs and respecting the inclusion criteria amounted to 48 studies.
To begin with, the publications were issued between 1993 and
2013. However, most studies were conducted before 2004 and in-
volved CCs implemented mostly before that date.
In terms of their geographical scope, the sample shows some con-
trast. On the one hand, the different sources contain 43 individual
studies of specic CC projects. On the other hand, it also includes 5
national investigations assessing particular CC systems at the nation-
al level like for instance, Time Banks in the UK or LETS in Australia.
The CCs studied differ also in terms of their scale. For instance, the
sample shows respectively 35, 135, 220, 642, 800, or about 2500
members; but the majority counts between 100 and 350 members.
With regard now to their localization, the CCs surveyed are dis-
persed across 17 countries over 6 continents, with an impressive ma-
jority of studies of European-based systems, accounting for 37% of
the total projects. However, this is largely due to the great amount
of studies in the UK about LETS or Time banks (27% of total). The sec-
ond most reviewed continent is North America with 27% of the sam-
ple, including 8 studies in the United States and 4 in Canada. Africa is
the less reported region with only 2 studies in South Africa and
Kenya. This repartition seems consistent with the ndings of
Seyfang and Longhurst (2013) that reported only 0.9% of total inter-
national projects in Africa, and 68.3% in Europe.
Moreover, the number of studies per type of CC can be summa-
rized as follows: 19 (or 40%) Mutual Exchanges, 14 (30%) Service
Credits, 10 (21%) Local Currencies and 4 (9%) Barter Markets.
Heterogeneity in the studies' objectives also characterizes this
sample. Indeed, while some aim to report specicoutcomesbyeval-
uating the effects of CCs on human health, wellbeing (Wheatley,
2006), unemployment (Seyfang, 2001a,b), social exclusion, gender
relations (Walker, 2009), or on the stability of the local economy
(Stodder, 2009); others are targeting more generally the social or
economic impact of CCs; and others just evaluate if CCs achieve
their stated goals (Seyfang, 1997). Furthermore, no single study
aims to directly assess environmental effects, and few clearly aim
to evaluate both economic and social outcomes.
Despite this heterogeneity in studies' objectives, a total of 42, 39
and 5 studies are reporting economic, social and environmental im-
pacts respectively. Firstly, the 42 studies of economic impact in-
clude: all the studies dealing with Barter Markets (n = 4) and Local
Currencies (n = 10), almost all Mutual Exchanges studies (n = 18)
and half of the Service Credits reports (n = 9). Secondly, with re-
spect to the analysis of social impacts, the majority analyze Mutual
Exchanges (n = 17) and Service Credits (n = 13); followed by
sample that addresses environmental impact contains only 3 studies
of Service Credits, 1 of Mutual Exchanges, and 1 of Local Currencies.
The next section will present these methodologies used to analyze
impacts in greater detail.
4.2. Methodologies of Impact Assessment
The methodologies of CCs' impact evaluation included in the nal
sample vary signicantly. First, the 48 studies do not always use the
same strategies to collect their data. While a majority of 69% (n =
33) use a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches, 27% (n =
13) just use quantitative methods and 4% (n = 2) use qualitative
methods only (Cfr. Appendix D). The most frequently used qualita-
tive methods are interviews (in n = 34 studies), focus groups
(n = 13) and participants' observation (n = 12), while the majority
of quantitative papers are restricted to descriptive analysis (n = 30)
and 13 of them apply more elaborate statistical or econometric
methodologies. A social network analysis was conducted by four
studies (Collom, 2008; Nakazato and Hiramoto, 2012; Panther,
2012) to quantitatively scrutinize transactional relationships, and
measure the density of social networks. In fact, this methodology
makes it possible to analyze who transacts with whom and to deter-
mine, for instance, whether or not the majority of exchanges transact
only within a minority of members. On the other hand, surveys and
transaction records represent the principal quantitative approaches,
used by 39 and 17 studies respectively. Other evaluation methods in-
cluded social auditing (Seyfang, 1997), action research (Gregory,
2012; Jelen, 2008; Hui, 2004) or phenomenology (Berthold, 2000).
Only three papers (Powell, 2002; Kyriacou and Blech, 2003; Richey,
2007) perform a matching procedure with control groups to evalu-
ate the average causal effect of being member of a CC system.
Which, as a consequence, makes it easier to determine if the effects
are actually caused by implementing the CC or not.
Second, regarding the study period, the majority of the studies
have been conducted over a short period of one or two years. More-
over, only six papers conduct a multi-phase evaluation study or lon-
gitudinal study that give insights into how lasting the impacts are
and that make it possible to monitor these impacts. For instance, in
their study, Gomez and Helmsing (2008) conducted eldwork
twice in 2004 and 2006. On the whole, most papers lack discussions
about the limitations or their research design and methodology and
how error or bias may have arisen during the research period.
4.3. Presentation of the Results
4.3.1. Economic Sustainability
The different impacts of CCs in terms of economic sustainability are
summarized in Table 2 below.
Alistofthestudiesincludedinthenal sample is provided in Appendix B and a table
summarizing the main characteristics of the studies is provided in Appendix C.
The characteristics of the initial sample of 65 studies globally present the same con-
trasts as the nal sample.
164 A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171 General Results. Surprisingly, the most striking result to
that the economic activity of CCs is too low and not signicant in
macro-economic terms. For instance, Colacelli and Blackburn
(2005) found that the implementation of the Red de Trueque had
an added value to Argentina's GDP of just 0.6% while this system is
considered as one of the most successful. Pacione (1997) also discov-
ered that LETS activity in Scotland only represented a tiny proportion
of GNP, while Williams et al. (2001a,b) referred to just £70 per per-
son per year as average LETS trading levels in the UK. Furthermore,
the studies of Birch and Liesch (1997),Seyfang (1997),andFare
(2012) of LETS in Australia, British LETS, and the French SOL revealed
that the levels of trading were too low to have a meaningful impact
on the local economy. However, 9 of these 21 studies observe that,
despite this overall limited impact, it was signicant for marginal-
ized segments of the population. The second most visible impact,
with almost 40% (n = 15) of the sample, indicates that the imple-
mentation of CCs benets the community by recognizing informal
work and valuating skills usually not valued by the formal labour
Furthermore, according to a signicant number of studies (n =
15), CCs appear to improve employability either directly by creating
jobs (n = 3), either indirectly by the development of new skills (n =
8) and the expansion of social networks (n = 5). Still, 5 studies
downplay this claim by describing that CC systems do not directly
act as bridges into formal employment and that the development
of skills through these systems remains limited. For instance,
Seyfang's study (2001a,b) of the two LETS nds that only 3 out of
45 people coped with unemployment and 2 acquired skills useful
in the mainstream labour market.
Next, a third of the studies (n = 13) highlight that CCs promote
local economic activity, of which half (n = 7) precise that CCs stim-
ulated local consumption and increased the economic multiplier.
Among these, a survey of 97 members of the French SOL indicated
that 60.8% respondents consume more locally (Fare, 2012). Results
from the program Punto Transacciones in El Salvador also support
this statement: with about 500 businesses and 100 individuals, the
operations of the scheme had generated the equivalent of nearly $
2.2 million during the year 2012 and engendered an increase in the
spending multiplier (Groppa, 2013).
About 29% (n = 12) of the sample reports that CCs are effective
ways to give access to goods and services otherwise not affordable,
and this nding was conrmed by respectively 41%, 58.5% and
41.8% survey respondents taking part in two studies on the Ithaca
HOURS (Jacob et al., 2004; Wheatley, 2006), the Calgary Dollars,
and the Accorderie (Fare, 2012). Furthermore, a study on LETS in
the UK found that 27.4% of the goods and services would not have
been acquired in the absence of LETS (Williams et al., 2001a,b).
At the same time, about 24% of the surveys (n = 10) observe that
CCs help people to increase their income. Aligned with the previous
result, 10 studies report that CCs increase the quality of life of partic-
ipants through the accumulation of tangible benets and improve-
ment in standards of living. Additionally, several studies (Powell,
2002; de Franca Filho et al., 2012) indicate that it is even more the
case for marginalized groups.
According to 8 studies, CCs also support local businesses, by in-
creasing consumption and sales and giving them access to free-
interest credits. Next, 12% of the studied sample (n = 5) reports
that CCs act as cushions against external economic shocks during
economic recessions. Among these, Stodder (2009) reported the
counter-cyclical relation between the circulation of the WIR with
GDP and period of high unemployment in Switzerland; demonstrat-
ing that the WIR had stabilizing effects on the national economy by
notably securing employments. Finally , another minority of 5 studies
indicate that CCs enhance the creation of small enterprises. Results of the Typology. The analysis now turns to the extent of
economic impact each one of the categories of CCs have had so far.
Beginning with Barter Markets (BMs), 3 studies of the Red de
Trueque clubs observe an increase in members' income; and 2 out
of the 4 highlight the stabilizing effect of CCs, the recognition of in-
formal skills, and the promotion of localization. However the study
of Gomez and Helmsing (2008) reports that the positive effects dis-
appeared in period of stability.
With regard to Local Currencies (LCs), of the 10 papers studying
this type, 6 are stating that LCs improve living conditions and 5 de-
scribe LCs as tools to promote localization. However, 4 studies also
nd no signicant impact on the economy. Moreover, 5 studies eval-
uate that LCs support local businesses, improve employability, in-
crease incomes and give access to unaffordable goods and services.
Regarding Mutual Exchanges (MEs), a majority of 13 studies out
of the 18 indicate no signicant impact although 4 report signicant
impacts for excluded groups. However, respectively 8 and 6 studies
consider that MEs benet the economy by valuing informal work,
and improve employability mainly through the development of
new skills (in 5 studies).
Next, with respect to Service Credits (SCs), the most reported im-
pacts are improved employability, easier access to goods and ser-
vices and localization of economic activity; each reported by 4
studies out of the 10 dealing with SC. Furthermore, the improvement
of living standards and the increase in members' income are each
identied by 2 studies.
4.3.2. Social Sustainability
Among the total sample analyzed, 33 studies are identifying social
outcomes (described in Table 3).
Table 2
Summary of economic impact assessment.
Rank Economic impact # of studies
(N = 42) Typology
BM (N = 4) LC (N = 10) ME (N = 18) SC (N = 9)
1 No signicant impact on local economy 21 (50%) 2 5 13 1
2 Recognize and value informal work 15 (36%) 2 3 8 2
Improve employability 15 (36%) / 4 6 5
4 Promote local economic activity 13 (31%) 2 5 2 3
5 Access to goods and services otherwise unaffordable 12 (29%) 1 4 3 4
6 Increase member income 10 (24%) 3 4 1 2
Improve quality of life in terms of standard of living 10 (24%) / 6 2 2
8 Support local businesses 8 (19%) 1 4 1 1
9 Cushion external economic shocks 5 (12%) 2 1 1 /
Business incubator for small enterprises 5 (12%) 1 / 3 /
Number of studies identifying each impact and, in parenthesis, the corresponding percentage of the total sample (N = 42) assessing economic impacts.
Number of studies for each category (excluding the case of Punto Transacciones): Barter Markets (BMs), Local Currencies (LCs), Mutual Exchanges (MEs), Social Credits (SCs).
165A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171 General Results. Notably, a rst observation emerging from
Table 3 is that a strong majority of the sample (77%; n = 30) reports
that CCs build community and social capital in various different
ways. About 31% of the studies (n = 12) identify an increase of
trust in the community, 26% (n = 10) observe better relationships
and greater friendship, and more importantly, 54% (n = 21) indicate
that CCs enable people to expand their social networks and meet
new people.
Next, a third of the studies (n = 12) assessed CCs as tools to tackle
social exclusion by empowering marginalized groups, allowing the
participation of all. Moreover, the recognition of informal work and
giving access to goods and services otherwise not accessible for -
nancially excluded people as explained in the section of economic
impacts, are ways to address social exclusion (Fare, 2012; Jacob
et al., 2004; Seyfang, 2004; Wheatley, 2006). The groups that benet
this social inclusion are the unemployed (Seyfang, 2001a,b; Gomez
and Helmsing, 2008; Williams et al., 2001a,b), the low-income
(Collom, 2007; Fare, 2012; Jackson, 1993; Williams, 1996a,b)and
the elderly (Collom, 2008; Kyriacou and Blech, 2003). On the other
hand, only one study clearly examines CCs as offering a way to read-
dress gender inequities.
Along with the previous statement, 31% (n = 12) of the studies
highlight that CCs also have psychological impacts. Notably, surveys
of members of Ithaca HOURS (Jacob et al., 2004), LETS in Australia
(Birch and Liesch, 1997), in New-Zealand (Jackson, 1993)orinthe
UK (Pacione, 1997) found that CCs boost people self-esteem and con-
dence, by valuing their work and skills otherwise not recognized.
Another result, more general, indicates that about a quarter (n =
9) of the sample considers that CCs contribute to improve the quality
of life in terms of general well-being.
Finally, 3 studies of Time Bank, LETS, Calgary dollars and Ithaca
HOURS report explicitly that despite low economic outcomes, CCs
offer social benets and that the social benets outweigh the eco-
nomic ones (Panther, 2012; Seyfang, 1997; Wheatley, 2006). Results of the Typology. With regard to the different types of CCs,
we now analyze their impact in terms of social sustainability.
Firstly, of the 3 studies assessing social impacts of Barter Markets,
2 report that it allowed people to expand their social networks while
also 2 studies established that CCs helped those nancially excluded.
Secondly, all 6 studies about Local Currencies (LCs) comment that
they foster community building through increase trust (stated 3
times), greater friendship (stated 4 times) and more social connec-
tions (stated 5 times). Boosting self-esteem and improved well-
being were also reported by respectively 3 and 4 studies.
Thirdly, out of the 17 studies identifying social outcomes from
Mutual Exchanges (MEs), a majority of 13 highlight that MEs build
social capital, and 8 report that they allow meeting new people. Ac-
cording to the results, 5 studies also describe MEs as tools for social
inclusion and 5 other note that they boost self-condence.
Finally, 9 out of 13 studies of Service Credits (SCs) identify that
SCs build social capital, of which 5 report an increase in trust
among the community. SCs also help tackling social exclusion ac-
cording to 6 other studies. Moreover, according to 5 studies, CCs im-
prove general well-being and notably provide health benets to
elderly people with specic Time Banks projects.
4.3.3. Environmental Sustainability General Results. Only 5 studies explicitly identied environmen-
tal outcomes for CCs. First, the study of the Bow Chinook Barter Com-
munity (former version of Calgary Dollars) by Berthold (2000)
identies CCs as tools for recycling, reducing pollution and fostering
environmental education. Second, Caldwell (2000) nds that LETS
help to sustain the environment by keeping resources local and en-
couraging environmentally friendly attitudes. Third, a study of the
Accorderie surveying members, demonstrates that the majority of
respondents consumed more respectfully towards the environment
andalsoconsumedlessthanbefore(Fare, 2012). Fourth, Fare
(2012) also describes in her study of the SOL that the majority mem-
bership consumed in a more ethically and respectful way towards
the environment. Finally, Ruddick (2011) observed an environmen-
tal impact through waste removal and tree planting using the Eco-
pesa local currency in Kenya (Table 4).
Table 4
Summary of environmental impact assessment.
Rank Environmental impact # of studies
(N = 5) Typology
BM (N = 0) LC (N = 1) ME (N = 1) SC (N = 3)
1 Encourage environment-friendly behaviour 5 / 1 1 3
2 Reduce ecological footprint 2 / / / 2
Number of studies identifying each impact (4 in total).
Number of studies for each category: Barter Markets (BMs), Local Currencies (LCs), Mutual Exchanges (MEs), Social Credits (SCs).
Table 3
Summary of social impact assessment.
Rank Social impact # of studies
(N = 39)
(N = 3)
(N = 6)
(N = 17)
(N = 13)
1 Foster community building build social capital 30 (77%) 2 6 13 9
Expand social networks 21 (54%) 2 5 8 6
Increase trust 12 (31%) 1 3 2 6
Improve relationships 10 (26%) 1 4 3 2
2 Tackle social exclusion 12 (31%) 2 / 5 5
Boost self-condence 12 (31%) / 3 5 4
4 Improve quality of life in terms of well-being 9 (23%) / 3 1 5
5 Act as social support 6 (15%) / 2 3 1
6 Enjoy greater social than economic benets 3 (8%) / / 1 2
Number of studies identifying each impact and, in parenthesis, the corresponding percentage of the total sample (N = 33) assessing social impacts.
Number of studies for each category: Barter Markets (BMs), Local Currencies (LCs), Mutual Exchanges (MEs), Social Credits (SCs).
166 A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171 Results of the Typology. Of the 5 studies identifying environmen-
tal outcomes, 3 highlight Service Credits (Berthold, 2000; Fare, 2012), 1
mentions Mutual Exchange systems (Caldwell, 2000) and 1 deals with a
Local Currency (Ruddick, 2011).
5. Discussion
5.1. Community Currencies' Achievements for Sustainable Development
This review aimed to evaluate the impact of CCs and explore
whether they contribute to sustainable development by focusing
on the three pillars of economic, social and environmental sustain-
ability. With regard to the economic dimension, it should be noted
that although there is some evidence that CCs promote localization
and support local businesses, the results of the analysis demonstrate
that CCs' impact on the overall economic activity remains marginal.
In addition, their impact seems greater in period of instability as
was the case in Argentina with the RT, Switzerland with the WIR or
El Salvador with Punto Transacciones. In fact, with the exception of
the case of the Argentinean barter clubs that helped a large number
of people to meet their subsistence needs during period of nancial
instability, the economic benets of CCs tend to remain marginal
outside of the context of crisis. One reason generally outlined in the
literature and conrmed during the data extraction process regards
the small scale of CC systems, and the low number of transactions
per member. With such small scales, CCs are thus creating relatively
small local economic circuits of exchange, and only a small propor-
tion of wealth remains local.
Moreover, the studies included in the review suggested that one
reason for the low participation rate is the lack of awareness on
CCs. In fact, either people don't know that CCs exist or what they
are, either they are not fully conscious of their potential. One study
in particular revealed that improved mindfulness leads to increased
participation, which in turn provides greater benets (Wheatley,
2006). Moreover, McBurnie (2012) found a positive correlation be-
tween the awareness of benets and the willingness of non-
members to start using the CC. Therefore, more support is needed
to promote CC projects as valuable experiments, as was the intention
of this review.
Nevertheless, at the micro-level, the ndings indicate that CCs'
contribution is signicant for a small but substantial part of the pop-
ulation, namely the marginalized groups of the population that are
also the most in need. Actually, by recognizing informal work and
skills commonly not valued, improving employability through the
expansion of social networks or the development of skills, and by
giving access to goods and services otherwise not affordable in the
formal market, CCs help a small but signicant proportion of mem-
bers that are usually excluded from society or trapped in poverty.
Moving on to another dimension, the argument is made that CCs
achieve positive impact for social sustainability. There is strong evi-
dence that they build social capital by increasing trust, expanding so-
cial networks and improving relationships among the community.
Moreover, CCs foster social inclusion by recognizing informal work
and stimulating the participation of all without considering their sit-
uation in the formal economy. CCs thus contribute to more equitable
and ethical relations of exchange away from the primary objective of
economic growth.
Concerning the third dimension, the limited number of studies
assessing environmental impact makes it difcult to come to any
conclusion. This result is in line with Kennedy et al. (2012) who
also suggest that there are a small number of projects with specic
environmental aims. Our results suggest that there is little explicit
evidence that CCs promote environmental sustainability. There is,
however, some evidence that CCs stimulate local economic activity,
which could reduce the need to import products from other regions
or countries and could impact environmental sustainability by re-
ducing transport costs and pollution.
CCs thus appear to have a greater social dimension of sustainability
than on the economic and environmental ones.
5.2. Confronting Goals and Impacts of Community Currencies' Categories
The sample of studies covered all four types of CC as denedby
Seyfang and Longhurst (2013) and described in the theoretical sec-
tion. Our attention now turns to whether the observed outcomes of
each category reect its stated goals.
Based on 3 studies on the Argentinean Red de Trueque clubs, ev-
idence suggests that Barter Markets have a stabilizing effect on the
economy, and that it indeed fosters the emergence of a more inclu-
sive economy by helping people otherwise trapped in poverty, to
recognize their skills, and expand their social networks.
As regards Local Currencies, there is some evidence that they
achieve their objectives to increase local economic activity and sup-
port local businesses. Moreover, the results strongly suggest that
they foster community building by developing social networks and
promoting relations of trust.
Considering Mutual Exchange systems, although they are mainly
claimed to support the local economy with interest-free credits and
encourage import-substitution, there is more evidence that they
benet the community by recognizing informal work and improving
employability through the development of new skills. Moreover, the
results suggest positive outcomes in the social sphere, revealing that
these schemes build social capital by expanding social networks. Ac-
tually, this insight is consistent with the view of Seyfang and
Longhurst (2013) that Mutual Exchange systems lie on a continuum
between economic and social objectives(Seyfang and Longhurst,
2013: 73).
Finally, the observed impacts for Service Credits are reecting
quite well their social oriented objectives. As a matter of fact, the
evaluation presented above has revealed that they are successful in
building social capital and increase trust among the community.
Moreover, they tend to tackle social exclusion by helping excluded
groups and offering easier access to goods and services that would
otherwise not be accessible.
Accordingly, whereas Service Credits are the only category of CCs
focusing on social objectives, Local Currencies and Mutual Exchanges
also appear successful at building social capital. Otherwise, apart
from Mutual Exchanges that do not appear to achieve their economic
objectives, there is some evidence that the different CC's types tend
to realize their desired outcomes.
5.3. Impact Assessment in the Community Currency Field
Our results exposed should be considered with caution as more
research is needed to draw denite conclusions. In fact, the limited
number of studies evaluating CC's impact represents a rst
Moreover, most of the CC schemes studied have existed
for a long period of time and thus the evaluation doesn't consider the
development of more recent hybrid types of CC such as the project of
Punto Transacciones that seems to offer modern and great solutions
for sustainability.
Additionally, this research has demonstrated some limitations re-
garding the current state of development of impact assessment
frameworks in the CC eld. We have two main recommendations.
First, the present studies are using a wide range of different frame-
works, methodologies to collect and analyze data, and performance
indicators to assess CCs' outcomes. Thus it is hard to make a compre-
hensive comparison. Moreover, in the high diversity in their
Furthermore, the non-exhaustivity of the sample used forthis review should be taken
into account.
167A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171
objectives and in the type of impacts they evaluate, the impact as-
sessments may ignore existing butnon-observedoutcomes.Forin-
stance, by focusing on social benets, the analysis of economic
outcomes may have been neglected, limiting in turn the global im-
pact evaluation of CCs on the economy. Besides, they frequently
focus solely on one aspect of sustainable development and rarely
consider all three dimensions together.
Therefore, we encourage the development of a standardized as-
sessment tool that has to be balanced, coherent and comparable
across different currency models on one hand, and sufciently exi-
ble to mirror the specicities of the initiative on the other hand
(Place and Bindewald, 2015:7). In this vein, Place and Bindewald
(2015) recently proposed an Impact Assessment Matrix prototype
to collect and analyze data on the effectiveness and efciency of CC
systems. This prototype is based on goals and objectives with ve di-
mensions: culture, governance, economic, social and environment. It
also integrates monitoring and evaluation methodologies for CCs'
impacts by breaking outcomes into concrete components and pre-
senting clear qualitative and/or quantitative indicators for each
Using such standardized indicators repeatedly to evaluate numerous
CC projects could ease comparability across studies and legitimate the
impact of CCs and their role in sustainable development.
Second, although using a mix of qualitative and quantitative
methods favours triangulation of the results and improves their va-
lidity, most studies are not irreproachable from the latter perspec-
tive. For instance, only a few studies carry out a matching
procedure by enrolling control groups to eliminate confounding var-
iables and biases. One may therefore question whether some out-
comes observed through the analysis are actually attributable to
the project itself and not to external conditions. The most obvious
methodologies to deal with on this issue is the difference in differ-
encemethodology or randomized control trials, since they include
control groups and can also deal with selection biases. Nevertheless,
there is no perfect methodology. Recent debates related to the ran-
domized control trials highlight some of the limitations of this meth-
odology and show that qualitative research should at least be
conducted alongside randomized approaches to explain the mecha-
nisms at stake (Morvant-Roux et al., 2014).
6. Conclusion
Community currencies have arisen in many communities with
the purpose of affecting structural change and mitigating harmful ef-
fects caused by globalization and our current economic system. This
paper aims to contribute to t he eld of community curre ncies by pro-
viding an overall examination of their impact. Based on a systematic
review of the most comprehensive and available evidence of impact
assessment analysis in the literature, this paper explores whether
CCs contribute to sustainable development on three dimensions:
economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Although the results of the analysis provide some evidence of
economic benets on employability, informal work and localiza-
tion, one of the more signicant ndings to emerge from this
study is that CCs do not seem to have a signicant impact on local
economic activity. Moreover, their implementation generally
seems to only benet a minority and, to a greater extent, groups
that are excluded from the formal labour market or society. How-
ever, there is more evidence to suggest that CCs do have an impact
on social sustainability by building communities of trust, support
and stronger relationships on the one hand, and by fostering social
inclusion of excluded groups on the other hand. Concerning the
third dimension, the lack of assessment of environmental out-
comes makes it difcult to make any denite conclusions and
thus gives little support to the argument that CCs already contrib-
ute to environmental sustainability.
This paper also aims to verify whether the different types of CCs
achieved their stated goals. With the exception of Mutual Exchanges
that do not appear to full their objective of supporting local econo-
mies, there is some evidence that the other CC's types do tend to re-
alize their desired outcomes. Furthermore, whereas it is not the
primary goal for all of them, Local Currencies, Mutual Exchanges
and Service Credits seem to be successful at building social capital.
Taken together, these results suggest that the most positive con-
tribution of CCs is their social benets, and that the economic bene-
ts are somewhat diminished by the small scale of these systems and
the lack of awareness on their scope, making it difcult for them to
have a signicant impact on the local economy. Therefore, their im-
pact on sustainable development remains relatively small for now.
This is in line with Dittmer (2013), according to whom existing re-
search suggests that CCs only weakly support the potential of local
currencies as a tool for purposive degrowth. However, more research
is needed to assess the impact of more recent types of CC systems
that have emerged over the last years, as they seem to have learned
from previous experiences. For instance, a few new CCs with envi-
ronmental aims have been initiated recently.
Additionally, one should take these results with caution before
drawing any denite conclusions, as this review has also demon-
strated some limits regarding the current impact assessment meth-
odologies applied in the eld. Indeed, the examination was limited
by the high diversity in methodologies used by the different studies
analyzed, which might narrow the observed results. More standard-
ization would help to provide a better overview of the evaluation
data, facilitate a comparison of the different systems, draw greater
general conclusions, and thus establish a greater degree of accuracy.
Therefore, to further evaluate the impacts of existing and emerging
CC types, this paper encourages the use by future studies of common
frameworks such as the Impact Assessment Matrixprototype pro-
posed by Place and Bindewald (2015), which assesses CCs' contribu-
tion to all three pillars of sustainable development. Such an
extensive evaluation, it is hoped, would strengthen the legitimacy
of CCs and foster their development.
We thank Max Bentinck for his support. Marek Hudon has carried
out this research in the framework of an Interuniversity Attraction
Pole by the Belgian Science Policy Ofce: If not for Prot, for What
and How?
Study info Reference:
Date of publication:
Date of the study:
Type of study:
CC info CC studied:
CC type:
CC location:
Date of CC implementation:
Number of members:
Methods of data collection Qualitative methods used:
Quantitative methods used:
Characteristics of the sample studied:
Objectives Objectives of the study:
Observed impact Economic sustainability:
Social sustainability:
Environmental sustainability:
Quality Quality score:
Other Additional notes:
Source: Personal work.
Appendix A. Data Extraction Template
168 A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171
Appendix B. List of the Final Sample of 48 Studies
# Author(s) and date of
Title CC studied Location(s)
1Aldridge et al. (2003) Trading places: geography and the role of local exchange trading
schemes in local sustainable development
Stroud LETS UK
2Aldridge et al. (2003) Trading places: geography and the role of local exchange trading
schemes in local sustainable development
Hounslow LETS UK
3Berthold (2000) Participation in the bow chinook barter community: members
Bow chinook barter community Canada
4Birch and Liesch (1997) Moneyless exchange: attitudes of participants in Australian community
barter systems
LETS in Australia Australia
5Colacelli and Blackburn (2006) Secondary currency: an empirical analysis Crédito (Red de Trueque) Argentina
6Burke (2012) Para que cambiemos/so we can (ex)change: economic activism and
socio-cultural change in the barter systems of Medellín
Medellín's barter systems Colombia
7Caldwell (2000) Why do people join local exchange trading systems? North Herts LETS UK
8Carneiro da Silva (2005) Rubem Berta's Complementary Currency: An Evaluation of the Initial
Stage of the Experience of a Southern Brazilian Local Community on
Implementing its Own complementary currency
Rubi Brazil
9Coetzee (2010) Local Exchange Through Community Currency in an Alternative Gift
Economy: An Anthropological Analysis of the Cape Town talent
Exchange, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch
CTTE: cape town talent exchange (part of
the community exchange system, CES)
South Africa
10 Collom (2007) The motivations, engagement, satisfaction, outcomes and demographics
of time bank participants: survey ndings from a U.S. system
US Time Bank USA
11 Collom (2008) Engagement of the elderly in time banking: the potential for social
capital generation in an ageing society
US Time Bank USA
12 de Franca Filho et al. (2012) L'enjeu de l'usage des monnaies sociales dans les banques
communautaires de developpement au Brésil: Etude du cas de la Banque
Banco Palmas Brazil
13 Fare (2012) Les apports de deux dispositifs de monnaies sociales, le SOL et
l'Accorderie, au regard des enjeux du developpement local soutenable
SOL France
14 Fare (2012) Les apports de deux dispositifs de monnaies sociales, le SOL et
l'Accorderie, au regard des enjeux du developpement local soutenable
Accorderie Canada
15 Gomez and Helmsing (2008) Selective spatial closure and local economic development: what do we
learn from the argentine local currency systems?
Crédito (Red de Trueque) Argentina
16 Gregory (2012) Improving health through participation: time banks as a site for
Welsh Time Bank UK
17 Groppa (2013) Complementary currency and its impact on the economy Punto Transacciones El Salvador
18 Hui (2004) In search of a communal economic subject: reections on the
community currency project in Hong Kong
Community Oriented Mutual Economy
(COME) project
19 Jackson (1993) Helping ourselves: New Zealand's Green Dollar Exchange Wellidun Exchange and Barter System
New Zealand
20 Jackson (1993) Helping ourselves: New Zealand's Green Dollar Exchange Pounaumu Exchange and Barter System
New Zealand
21 Jacob et al. (2004) The social and cultural capital of community currency: an Ithaca HOURS
case study survey
Ithaca Hours USA
22 Jelen (2008) Evaluating the Viability of Community Currency as a Tool for Sustainable
Development: A Case Study of the Humboldt Exchange Community
Currency Project
Humboldt exchange community
currency project
23 Krohn and Snyder (2008) An economic analysis of contemporary local currencies in the united
Local paper currencies in the USA USA
24 Kyriacou and Blech (2003) An Evaluation of Elderplan's Time Dollar Model Elderplan time dollars USA
25 Lasker et al. (2011) Time banking and health: the role of a community currency organization
in enhancing well-being
Hospital-afliated time bank USA
26 Meyer (2012) Les nances solidaires comme biens communs durables: étude de cas de
la Banque communautaire de développement Palmas (Brésil)
Banco Palmas Brazil
27 Molnar (2011) Time is of the essence: the challenges and achievements of a Swedish
time banking initiative
TidsNätverket i Bergsjön (TNB) Sweden
28 Nakazato and Hiramoto
An empirical study of the social effects of community currencies Ichi-Muraoka Japan
29 Nakazato and Hiramoto
An empirical study of the social effects of community currencies Bytesring Stockholm (BYTS) Sweden
30 Ozanne (2010) Learning to exchange time: benets and obstacles to time banking Lyttelton Time Bank New Zealand
31 Pacione (1997) Local exchange trading systems as a response to the globalisation of
32 Panther (2012) It Ain't What you do (it's the way That you do it): Reciprocity,
Co-operation and Spheres of Exchange in two Community Currency
Systems in the North of England
Stealwear Time Bank UK
33 Powell (2002) Petty capitalism, perfecting capitalism or post-capitalism? Lessons from
the Argentinean barter experiments
Crédito (Red de Trueque) Argentina
34 Richey (2007) Manufacturing trust: community currencies and the creation of social
Tekona community currency program Japan
35 Ruddick (2011) Eco-pesa: an evaluation of a complementary currency programme in
Kenya's informal settlements
Eco-pesa Kenya
36 Seyfang (1997) Examining local currency systems: a social audit approach Diss LETS UK
37 Seyfang (2001a,b) Working for the Fenland Dollar: An Evaluation of Local Exchange
Trading Schemes (LETS) as an Informal Employment Strategy to Tackle
Social Exclusion
King's Lynn LETS and West Norfolk LETS UK
38 Seyfang (2001a,b) Spending time, building communities: Evaluating time banks and Time Banks in the UK UK
(continued on next page)
169A. Michel, M. Hudon / Ecological Economics 116 (2015) 160171
# Author(s) and date of
Title CC studied Location(s)
mutual volunteering as a tool to tackle social exclusion
39 Seyfang (2004) Time banks: rewarding community self-help in the inner city? Gorbals Time Bank UK
40 Seyfang (2005) Community currencies and social inclusion: a critical evaluation Stonehouse fair shares UK
41 Soder (2008) Community currency: an approach to economic sustainability in our
local bioregion
Humboldt exchange community
currency project
42 Stodder (2009) Complementary credit networks and macro-economic stability:
Switzerland's Wirtschaftsring
WIR Switzerland
43 Wheatley (2006) Complementary currency and quality of life: social and economic capital
effects on subjective well-being
Calgary dollars & Ithaca Hours Canada & USA
44 Wheatley et al. (2011) Calgary dollars: economic and social capital benets Calgary dollars (former Bow Chinook
Barter Community)
45 Williams (1996a) The new barter economy: An appraisal of Local Exchange and Trading
Systems (LETS)
Totnes LETS UK
46 Williams (1996b) Informal sector responses to unemployment: an evaluation of the
potential of LETS
LETS in Australia Australia
47 Williams et al. (2001a,b) Bridges into work: an evaluation of Local Exchange Trading Schemes
LETS in the UK (26 systems) UK
48 Ying (2004) When poverty comes with globalization: How does community
currency empower individuals?
Community Oriented Mutual Economy
(COME) project
Source: Personal work.
Appendix B (continued)
Appendix C. Summary of the Characteristics of the Initial and
Final Samples
Initial sample Final sample
Sample size Total studies 65 48
Type of studies Individual studies 56 43
National studies 9 5
Methods used Qualitative 9 (14%) 2 (4%)
Quantitative 16 (25%) 13 (27%)
Qualitative &
39 (60%) 33 (69%)
Timing Date of publication 19932013 19932013
Date of CC
19342008 19342008
Location Countries, continents 21 countries, 6
17 countries, 6
Europe 28 (42%) 18 (37%)
North America 22 (33%) 13 (27%)
South America 9 (13%) 7 (14%)
Asia 13 (19%) 4 (8%)
Oceania 10 (15%) 5 (10%)
Africa 2 (3%) 2 (4%)
Type of CC
Mutual Exchange 23 (35%) 19 (40%)
Service Credit 22 (34%) 14 (30%)
Local Currency 14 (22%) 10 (21%)
Barter Market 5 (8%) 4 (9%)
Other 1 (2%) 1 (2%)
Type of impact
Economic 54 42
Social 51 39
Environmental 6 5
Source: Personal work.
Appendix D. Methodology Analysis
Methods used to collect data 48 100%
Qualitative 35 73%
Focus groups 13 27%
Interviews 34 71%
Participants observation 12 25%
Document analysis 3 6%
Quantitative 46 96%
Survey 39 81%
Transaction records 17 35%
Mix of qualitative and quantitative 33 69%
Survey + interviews 27 56%
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... It can be argued that these are transformative actions as they can potentially alter the configuration of the IMS regime in its design blocks-particularly regarding the single-currency hegemony and opaque governance. However, they have been limited by their scale, applicability, and other sociopolitical-economic constraints such as lack of proper funding, re-prioritization of goals, and monetary regime resistance to change [94,95]. The potential socioecological impact of sphere two actions is significantly higher than those of sphere one, particularly in the face of constant landscape pressures. ...
... It envisions a fundamentally different monetary architecture based on the EMT building blocks in Figure 2. The sphere of deeply transformative and revolutionary actions leads to profound socioecological impacts on our economies and societies. Due to its disruptive nature, and following the work of Daniel Wahl [95], we call it "regenerative money". It includes new currency ecosystems in development, such as Seeds, which already embodies a whole-systems approach focused on regenerative actions-see Figure 3. ...
... It is mostly a decentralized, heterogeneous, not-for-profit, exchange-focused, and resilience-building social dynamic [98]. This has been an abundant experimental, pioneering movement and field of monetary innovation in all three spheres, particularly in "green money" and "sustainable money" spheres [94,95]. However, its impact on the IMS regime or influence in the transition processes is residual [95,99]. ...
Full-text available
Money is critical for a regenerative future. Transforming it is an unavoidable social, political, and economic endeavor that must be a global priority if we are to prevent future financial crises, reduce economic inequality and adhere to our climate agreements and sustainability goals. For this transition to occur, we urgently need new economic and monetary paradigms that address the root causes of our current unsustainability, offer a new monetary ontology and design, and, more importantly, steer our monetary regime towards the regeneration of our social, economic and ecological landscapes. We need an Ecological Monetary Theory grounded in Ecological Economics and an Ecological Value Theory that lays down the foundations for the conscious democratization, decentralization, and diversification of money. In this work, we revisit and update the missing link between money and sustainability by proposing new ontological avenues and reviewing the design elements and degenerative processes built into the existing system. We also contribute to the development and emergence of an Ecological Monetary Theory by systematizing the ongoing monetary transition toward sustainability and by offering a set of principles drawn from the regenerative economics literature for the conscious design of monetary ecosystems that contribute positively to solving our societal challenges of the 21st century.
... Previous academic research on ACs has been mainly descriptive and focused on issues like the classification of different currencies (Blanc 2018b;Larue 2020a), the motivations of users of ACs (Blanc and Fare 2016;Meyer and Hudon 2017), and ACs' impact on society and the environment (Marshall and O'Neill 2018;Seyfang and Longhurst 2013). Several recent articles have reviewed the empirical literature thoroughly and have highlighted the potential roles that ACs can play in society (Fare and Ould Ahmed 2017;Michel and Hudon 2015). However, there is also a need to situate ACs in a greater ethical and philosophical discussion, to evaluate whether they ultimately are desirable or problematic from a normative societal perspective. ...
... Some proponents make the stronger claim that ACs promote local economic development and thereby reduce poverty and unemployment (Williams 1996;Bowring 1998;Peacock 2000). However, subsequent empirical research has not found any significant development effects in this regard (Michel and Hudon 2015;Marshall and O'Neill 2018). ...
... First, while many proponents of ACs have stressed ACs' high ambitions with regard to environmental sustainability, it is not clear at this point whether they have any real-world impact. The limited number of empirical studies that have been performed in this regard have not yet been able to track any significant impact (Michel and Hudon 2015;Marshall and O'Neill 2018). This is generally explained by ACs' relatively small size and lack of broader recognition. ...
Alternative currencies are means of payment that circulate alongside—as an alternative or complement to—official currencies. While these currencies have existed for a long time, both society and academia have shown a renewed interest in their potential to decentralize the governance of monetary affairs and to bring people and organizations together in more ethical or sustainable ways. This article is a review of the ethical and philosophical implications of these alternative monetary projects. We first discuss various classifications of these currencies before analyzing the ethical challenges linked to the way they tackle social and environmental issues. We also examine the incentive-based and coercive mechanisms used by these currencies from an ethical perspective and debate the promises and perils of monetary decentralization and democracy. We conclude by identifying an agenda for future research.
... I sistemi di scambio reciproco come ad esempio i LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) comprendono oltre il 40% del totale dei progetti censiti nello studio del 2013. Di solito tali sistemi tendono a bilanciare obiettivi sociali ed economici (Michel, Hudon 2015). In tali sistemi di compensazione, il valore della singola unità di conto è visto come una promessa di pagamento temporanea, limitata, definita e controllata socialmente (promise-based). ...
... Cruciale diventa il tema della fiducia, con cui costruire e saldare relazioni sociali ed economiche (Bruni 2020). Anche se per molti CCs non rappresenta l'obiettivo primario, molti di questi sistemi sembrano avere successo soprattutto nella costruzione di capitale sociale (Michel, Hudon 2015). Tali sistemi rappresentano il risultato di movimenti collettivi finalizzati a cambiamenti culturali pensati per produrre soluzioni innovative che partono dagli interessi delle comunità coinvolte, concentrandosi sul carattere sociale dell'economia piuttosto che sull'economia di mercato (Seyfang, Smith 2007). ...
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The role of CCs as tools for rebuilding local economies through communities appears to emerge from the Italian experience. The projects launched in our country range from community of businesses – closed circuits in which members voluntarily exchange goods and services, offsetting debts against credits – to projects characterized by solidarity and participatory systems aimed at strengthening community relations as well as at promoting sustainable development models. These systems lie on the border between formal/informal economic activities. The proximity to existing projects, a certain ability to intercept emerging requests as well as the need to face the effects of the crisis caused by the pandemic has pressured some Regions to include CCs in their legislations as an attempt to move these systems to formal economy. However, the promotion of the complementary currencies is basically an investment in relationships, therefore stimulating trust and a proactive role in community decision-making is an issue that cannot be resolved just through legislation. Consequently, local institutions must rethink and improve their role in order to be able to become themselves pro-active subjects for the development of community initiatives.
... A pénz és fenntarthatóság összefüggései között szinte mindig megjelenik a helyi pénz témája (Michel-Hudon, 2015), mivel jól mutatja, hogy hogyan működhet úgy a pénz, hogy az a közösség célját szolgálja, közösségi kontroll alatt tartja annak működését, és némely esetben megoldást nyújt a kamat által gerjesztett problémákra is. Talán nem véletlen, hogy Daly is "kiegészítő" eszközként tekint a helyi pénzekre, egyszerűen azért, mert éppen helyi jellege az, amely miatt nem felskálázható a gazdaság teljes lefedésére. ...
A hozzászólás a Daly által hangoztatott, a jelenlegi pénzrendszer és a fenntarthatóság ellentmondásainak feloldására irányuló megoldások rövid kritikai áttekintésére vállalkozik. Az alapprobléma tömör ismertetésén túl kitekintést nyújt az ökológiai monetáris elmélet körül kialakult vitákra, főként a pénzteremtés exogén és endogén természete körüli ellentmondásokra. Bemutatja, hogy miért lehet előremutató az állami pénz, és mit jelenthet a modern monetáris elmélet az ökológiai közgazdaságtan számára. Foglalkozik a kriptovaluták, a mögöttük álló blokklánc technológia, valamint a helyi pénzek ökológiai átmenetekben betöltött szerepével.
... To address these questions, we conceptualize local currencies as grassroots innovations, created by civil society actors as tools for advancing sustainable transitions Smith 2007, Smith et al. 2016). According to different authors, the impact of these bottom-up initiatives is often limited (North 2014;Michel and Hudon 2015;Blanc and Fare 2018). Consequently, the questions of their viability and diffusion dynamic are of crucial importance (Hermans et al. 2016;van Lunenburg et al. 2020). ...
Full-text available
This paper investigates the recent local currency initiatives in Switzerland. These currencies are considered by their founders as a tool for a necessary socioecological transition. The study mobilizes the concept of grassroots social innovation and considers alternative currency clusters as a niche within the multi-level perspective of sustainability transitions. To challenge the dominant monetary regime, a local currency niche must acquire a certain strength which can be expressed in diffusion dynamics of four types: replication, scaling up, translation and innovative scope. A framework of these niche dynamics is used to analyze the emergence and diffusion of eight associative local currency schemes. Data for this multiple case study were collected via interviews, documentation and observation. Results show that the local currencies in Switzerland were created independently by small groups of people active in the ecological transition movement and the social and solidarity economy. Founders exchange among each other in a loose network, and more experienced actors support new projects with practical advice. In terms of business members and regular individual users, the currency associations have difficulties to reach a critical mass. What is more, support from public entities and more established actors is rather lukewarm. Despite collective efforts and a lot of enthusiasm, the influence of the currency niche remains therefore limited.
... Often, complementary currencies are associated with social and economic goals and explicitly pro-ecological complementary currencies are rare. As they are not 'green' products by nature, they can be considered as green or eco-innovations fostering practices that lead to responsible and ecological behaviours as shown by Fare (2012), Michel and Hudon (2015), and Seyfang (2006). Regardless of the under-researched ecological aspect of complementary currencies, related findings on the determinants of adoption of green innovations and products may serve as a foundation for analyses in our field. ...
This thesis proposes an analysis of the potential of local complementary currencies (hereafter local currencies) in addressing major problems concerning sustainability and technological innovation at the local level through different perspectives. The first chapter examines the application of an emerging technology, which is the blockchain, to manage local currencies. They are used to promote objectives such as short distribution channels, high quality products, and sustainable behaviours at the local level. The first part of this chapter exposes how the blockchain can help solve traditional issues related to local currencies and how the growing digitalisation trend of the latter calls for better technological solutions to ensure low costs, security, and scalability. We analyse how the model of a blockchain-based local currency would operate from an economic perspective. The choice of a proper governance (consensus) protocol matters in this case, but so do the incentives of agents such as miners and validators to participate in the process. The second part of chapter 1 proposes a theoretical setting to analyse the possibility of implementing a Proof of Work protocol to local currencies. Analytical results evaluate the conditions of sustainability of the system and numerical simulations from the model illustrate the diverse specifications of the trade-offs between the costs and advantages of such system for the population: a management via a PoW protocol is feasible in different stages of development for local currencies. The second chapter explores the potential of local currencies in promoting short distribution channels and in serving as a signalling tool for high quality products. In this regard, local currencies should help consumers and residents of the city adopt new consumption habits, and retailers to switch from selling standard goods to selling higher quality ones. Additionally, the conditions of emergence and spatial distribution of stores selling organic food that are produced locally, in different models of cities are fostered by local currencies. We elaborate on this basis, extensions of the Hotelling spatial setting and consider for different models of cities the possible location of shops capable of proposing organic products. The scenarios of cities are studied with and without the presence of a local currency. Reconversion of local currencies to legal tender plays a crucial role in guaranteeing product quality since the conditions and costs to reconvert are the underlying mechanics that ensure the function of signalling effect in our model. The third chapter is devoted to an original empirical study on the intrinsic factors influencing the adoption of a local currency by delving in the case of the city of Cagnes-sur-Mer: the Renoir local currency. Our approach consists in addressing the problem by studying the characteristics and preferences of respondents for some of our variables of interest and establish a model capable of predicting the adoption or not of the currency. Estimation results reveal the importance of factors proper to individuals such as the sense of solidarity, interest in community activities, and experience in alternative economic movements in the adoption of a local currency. Socio-demographic characteristics such as sex, marital status, and income level also seem to play an important role. This exploratory study addresses the subject from the consumer side, provides recommendations for the development of the Renoir, and contributes to the literature on the adoption of social and technological innovations. The findings of this thesis provide novel and stimulating insights on the application of a foundational technology to a specific payment system that is a local currency, on the way the latter can serve as a signalling tool for product quality, and on the studies of its determinants of adoption.
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Urban resilience is an attractive concept among academies and governments with the increasing severity of climate change and relevant disasters in cities. Few studies have been conducted to compare the key elements of attentions for enhancing urban resilience among Asian cities, although resilience is context-dependent. This study aims to compare the key elements of attentions for enhancing urban resilience among Singapore, Hong Kong and Hangzhou. A comprehensive literature review and expert interview validation were used to solicit the preliminary elements of attentions for enhancing urban resilience. Planners and researchers in the field of urban planning were surveyed to assess the significance level of the preliminary elements in the three case cities, as professional knowledge is required in the survey. Statistics were used to identify the key elements of attentions in the three case cities. Results demonstrate that the three cities have various elements of attentions for enhancing urban resilience despite sharing many similarities, which also demonstrate the guidance limitation of the general urban resilience framework. It also provides a reference for other international comparisons.
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Local Currencies, Local Exchange Trading Systems, and Time Banks are all part of a new social movement that aims to restrict money's purchasing power within a certain geographic area, or within a certain community. According to their proponents, these restrictions may contribute to building sustainable local economies, supporting local businesses and creating “warmer” social relations. This article inquires whether the overall enthusiasm that surrounds alternative currencies is justified. It argues that the potential benefits of these currencies are not sufficient to justify the restrictions they impose on money's purchasing power. Turning these currencies into effective channels of change, by increasing their scope and their strength, could severely hinder the pursuit of social justice, in a way that is probably not even necessary for achieving their objectives. The paper concludes that large-scale limitations of money's purchasing power are, therefore, undesirable.
Community currencies are a popular way localities around the world pursue a sustainable economy. However, no studies look at the economic impact of community currencies using modern causal inference methods. We use the synthetic control method to examine the short and long-term effects of the popular community currency BerkShares on the number of businesses, unemployment rate, and per capita income in the county in which it circulates. The results suggest that BerkShares has not had a discernible impact either directly on businesses or indirectly on local economic conditions. Additionally, BerkShares has not impacted business dynamics in a measurable way. Results from the synthetic control method suggest that establishment births, deaths, expansions, and contractions figures following BerkShares are no different than what they would have been without the currency. Given its lack of discernible impact, the results serve as a caution for localities considering community currencies as an economic development strategy.
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This article argues that in the current context of rising unemployment and growing exclusion from the traditional locus of social cohesion and income distribution, a new approach to social policy and employment is required. The scope of informal employment strategies to tackle social exclusion needs to be examined. One such initiative, which has been attracting increasing attention from policy-makers, is the Local Exchange Trading Scheme (LETS) local grassroots community currency which operates as a cashless trading network for members. LETS have been growing throughout the UK in recent years. Findings are presented from a case study of a LETS scheme. LETS was found to be successful at delivering new informal employment opportunities to socially excluded groups, boosting their income, and providing a forum for social interaction and community-building. However, there is scope for much greater participation. LETS's small size restricts its usefulness in the labour market for informal employment, and current state policy towards benefit recipients working on LETS is an obstacle. Possibilities for mainstream incorporation into welfare strategies are limited by the informal, non-commercial and deeply personal value regime enacted within LETS. Yet professionalisation would threaten this nascent socially embedded economic geography. State support for LETS, while highly desirable, should not be considered an unproblematic advocacy issue.