Thursday, October 28, 2010

Keys to Successful Community Currencies

by Mira Luna

Last night seven currency practitioners and theoreticians got together to share our strategies for success. Here are some key ideas:

-Be willing to change direction. Don't get stuck on one particular idea of exactly what the currency should look like. Your target community may push for changes and you should be willing to listen and respond or find a new target. Learn from your mistakes.

-Find a good match for your currency project. The target community must actually need currency to provide a solution to a problem, like local governments going into bankruptcy. It is often helpful that this community is already a community with some existing network of relationships and trust, like a local business network, a group of parents that need low cost childcare and already share babysitting or senior centers.

-Utilize unused capacity. Until the dollar crashes, community currencies need to open a flow of untapped resources in new ways that the dollar has not been able to do. However, these systems may serve as models for life support when the dollar does crash.

-Some ways currencies can provide usefulness that the dollar doesn't is to: make people feel good, reward good behavior and the creation of real value, build community resiliency, provide needed information that the transfer of numbers does not convey such as reputation.

-Take small steps first, don't try to take over the whole economy at once. It won't work. You need to get people used to the idea of using these systems at a low risk level and then increase scope as the system proves itself and trust builds. Think training wheels.

-Make something easy to use, fun and understandable by the general public like rewards/loyalty programs, unlike mutual credit. Even if it is mutual credit, you can pitch it as something more familiar, popular and up to date. Utilize the idea of a game to draw people in and get them hooked on using it.

-If you are not a good marketer or salesperson, find a partner who can fill this role. Often currency designers are not the best salespeople, even for free projects.

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