Monday, December 28, 2009

Bay Area Community Exchange Newsletter 12/09

Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) is a collaborative network that supports the development of alternative means of exchange in the San Francisco Bay Area. We provide research and development support, incubation of alternative exchange projects, and education to the Bay Area community about economic issues. Through our work with currency projects, we will create an economy that is more sustainable, just, and embedded in healthy community connections.

An Update on BACE

This is BACE’s first newsletter. It has definitely been an interesting 9 months. BACE initially started with a call out to people in the Bay Area interested in starting an alternative currency of some kind. For a few months, we hosted bi-weekly discussions of various alternative currency models. In May 2009, we held a strategic planning meeting where it was decided that some group members would focus on developing an online LETS-like system, while BACE as an umbrella organization would continue functioning as a collaborative network of currency projects that would support each other.

Part of making new currencies work is getting the general public to understand them so we held several public education events this year –a screening of the “Money Fix” and discussion of alternative currencies with the director, and two presentations on alternative currencies by world expert, Miguel Hirota from Japan. We created a power point presentation on currencies for communities thinking about starting a currency project. This presentation has already been delivered to a permaculture and an ecoliteracy class, has been requested by other groups. It will eventually be part of a currency toolkit for communities through the Solidarity Economy Network and the US Social Forum. Any groups interested in hosting this free presentation for their community or group should contact mira(at)

To develop BACE as an organization and stabilize it, we formed a steering committee and got nonprofit fiscal sponsorship through the International Society for Ecology and Culture. We set up a wiki and a website, with a great introductory education section on currencies, as well as discussion listservs to share information about currency theory and practice. We were hosting 2 thinktank meetings/month which dove into the nuts and bolts practice and theory of currencies, as well as a social mixer/project roundtable which was more informal, social, and great for newcomers. We may decide to consolidate these meetings in the new year.

For 2010, BACE is planning an Ignite Currency Conference/Mixer in early March, most likely March 3 in San Francisco, along with a screening of the “Double Face of Money” and/or the “Money Fix”. We are looking for financial sponsors and a location. We have also been asked to help coordinate the currency section of the US Social Forum in June in Detroit.

Below are updates of projects that have been supported by BACE. Please contact BACE or the projects if you would like to help out. Have a great New Year and celebrate the new economy!

Timebank from Mira Luna (formerly Heather)

After many months of trying to decide on a project to initiate through BACE, some of us chose to focus on an online time exchange. We found a programmer who is developing open source time exchange platforms out of Austin, named Tom Brown. Tom developed Austin Time Exchange and Columbia Circle Exchange. Along with our timebank, Tom is tailoring his platform to these three communities needs as a volunteer. Another option was to go with Timebanks USA, but they charge for their service on an ongoing basis and you can’t tailor the platform. There are some other programs out there, but Tom’s is pretty far along and he has been great to work with.

The timebank planning committee, a group of about 6 of us, have been working on this project and using it, along with other volunteers who agreed to use it and give us feedback. Then last month, we held a site tester launch party and orientation. The attendees gave us a lot of good feedback, and we got a chance to practice our orientation before we do a public launch. We are now doing a survey of other similar systems to figure out how to make the best time exchange before we go public. Other plans for future include helping timebank members to host their own timebank potluck/swap meet/orientations and involving organizations or specific groups of people that already have identified needs and communities of trust. We are also considering drawing down on accounts to issue paper hours that can be more easily exchanged, especially for people without regular computer access.

We hope to get a physical space for people to be able to come in and use a computer when they need it and talk to a volunteer coordinator or mail their time credits/debits in. Eventually, many of are excited about the prospect of hosting a time-based store, café and community center where people can exchange time credits for food, other goods, and services, all without money. A tentative name is Time for Change. If you are interested in helping with this project, please contact mira (at)
If you are interested in helping with the timebank in general, please contact Amy Johnson at timebankinfo (at) or join the timebank as a user/tester at

Marc Armstrong on his multiple currency projects

Sonoma Farmers Market currency – Marc is developing a "Sonoma Local Currency Addendum" for the 3-4 organizations that are proposing to manage the Farmers Market to use as part of their proposal. Proposals are due end of December with decision in January. The currency system is dollar based so the currency can be exchanged in the market or at a local community bank. One unique aspect of the currency is to have 3 versions, each representing a certain local cause (environmental sustainability, music/arts, civic health & well being), so that the people behind each cause are motivated to use "their" currency. Revenues from the sale of mint proofs go towards funding nonprofits associated with each cause.

Vintage currency – Marc is still designing the system, but essentially this is currency that would be guaranteed with wine production. He’s not sure if it would be by appellation or by another type of region, nor does he know if something like this is legal because of the restrictions on alcohol advertisement /trade/consumption, but he believes there would be yearly editions of the currency and the currency would somehow be guaranteed by that year's production. Marc is currently looking for a sponsoring organization here in Sonoma County or Napa County.

TouchPoint Software – Marc is looking for a development partner to fund this software so that it may be implemented. This balance and businesses that can go either positive or negative), a marketplace similar to Craigslist, an accounting application to keep track of member transactions and balances, and a payment subsystem.

Bernal Bucks from Guillaume Le Bleu

Bernal Bucks is a San Francisco-based local money initiative supporting the neighborhood economy and non-profits. Bernal Bucks are regular 5 or 10 Dollar bills tagged with a “Bernal” sticker. The tag stickers can be obtained at the Neighborhood Center and some stores like Cole Hardware and Heartfelt. They are given as acknowledgments when people donate to local causes, like the Neighborhood Center or the Library Campaign. Since the stickers are easily removable, they are not considered an alteration of money.

Holders of Bernal Bucks essentially pledge to spend the money in the neighborhood, thus supporting the local economy. “The goal: keeping the tagged dollars circulating in the neighborhood as long as possible” explains Bernal resident Guillaume Lebleu, one of the initiators. Those who want to follow the journey of the Bernal Bucks, can use the unique identifier on each tag to log them on the website. Door signs at participating businesses, like Good Life Grocery, announce special bonuses for customers who pay with Bernal Bucks. They range from nice goodies like an apple to attractive discounts, acknowledging both the loyalty to local businesses and the donations to neighborhood causes. “Wow! I am really excited about this.” says Ken Shelf, owner of Four Star Video.

The initiative welcomes the participation of all Bernal businesses and plans to benefit more nonprofits in the community. Since Bernal Bucks is the first initiative of its kind, everybody involved is in a learning mode about how to best use the localized money. In 2010, the initiative plans to introduce Bernal Bucks for card payments. Updates:

Reciprocity Inc. from Ken Lynch

Reciprocity has launched and is continuing development of the SCCBank environmental currency project with Platform Recipro, a company sustainability rewards system. Reciprocity is a software innovation start-up, develops reward and recognition systems, and is currently focused on the Sustainable Industry. The rewards used in Platform Recipro are backed by sustainable resources, fully traceable and trackable, have monetary value, and encourage participation in corporate sustainability programs. Platform Recipro enables corporations and individuals to reward positive impact, and share those achievements with customers. Based in San Francisco, Reciprocity has grown with the help of the BACE network, and several Reciprocity people are involved in other BACE projects. We are currently recruiting Sustainability Consultants. If interested, please contact ken (at)

Oakland Acorn from Wilson Riles

Wilson Riles and Orlando Johnson of Oakland have been pursuing a local currency, called Acorns, to be attached to the City’s municipal ID program, along with a debit card function. The City of Oakland staff is reviewing the final draft of the RFP, and an outside expert attorney on banking is reviewing the RFP to protect against risk and liability associated with the City backing a debit card system. There is still some input from the City's IT department that is forthcoming. It appears it will be March before the Council has bidder responses to choose from but there are already high quality bidders that are interested in the RFP. This new interest from the City in finding "quality" bidders is an indication that the City administration has now "bought in" to the initiative even though it did not come from them. The Coalition has not yet seen the final draft of the RFP and is hoping that there is not anything put in or left out of the RFP that they would have to protest about. After more than a year and 1/2 of work on this, the Coalition has the true experts on this initiative. For more info see, or contact Wilson at wriles (at)

Get Involved!

Come be a part of a movement towards a more sustainable, cooperative and caring economy. Whatever your talent or interest, we can find a place for you in BACE or one of its projects. If you already have a currency project, we can help nurture your currency idea into fruition and provide a large, friendly network of others who are interested in or are developing currencies. You can also attend one of our monthly meetings. All meetings are listed on our calendar ( If you are not sure where to start, feel free to contact mira (at)

Support Us

BACE is an all-volunteer organization with no overhead so your donations will go a long way towards supporting our work in helping educate the public and assisting development of currency projects. To make a financial or in-kind contribution to BACE, please contact mira (at) or make a donation online on our fiscal sponsor’s website at and enter “Bay Area Community Exchange” on the designation line. All donations are tax deductible. We need volunteers and student interns to help with projects, education and outreach, grant writing, and website work; monetary donations for educational events and nonprofit project support; and funding for or in-kind offer of space for office and meetings near public transit in San Francisco, Oakland or Berkeley.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome news, reprinted on our blogs. We'd like to use this in the next issue.