Ithaca hours is one of the most successful community currencies running today. This is largely due to the groundwork and commitment of Paul Glover. We caught up with him in Holland to find out how he sees the CC world.
Leander Bindewald

What are the questions you would most want to explore with fellow movers and shakers in the complementary currency movement?

The comparability of local currencies with digital currency. Systems of intertrade and clearance between all these currencies, with standards of confederation to validate each currency´s integrity and vitality.

What recent developments in the field do you find most exciting?

The variety and volume of innovation. We are in an experimental phase, we are meeting needs that national currencies fail to meet. The greatest excitement for me therefore is the great experimentation, and the basic needs these currencies are starting to meet.

And what do you see as key challenges, obstacles or blind spots which hinder the movement’s success?

Its all about networking: we must have professional networkers so that community currencies become an institution, not a hobby. We've seen so many currencies fail because the people starting them were excellent dedicated volunteers yet they were not able to give it total hands-on attention. Reliably paid Networkers provide constant promotion, facilitation and troubleshooting. This should be an honored profession, paid primarily via community donations of housing, food, health care, transit and recreation.

Where do you see untapped resources and unmet needs within the field of complementary currencies? And do you have any suggestions about how to bridge them?

Today there are so many more collaborative community systems: food coops and CSAs, cooperative healthcare, ecological housing, cooperative banking systems and so-forth. But food people normally only talk about food, the healthcare people only talk about health-care. So local currency is a tool to bring all such systems together and magnify their impact. When I started the health co-op in Ithaca, it didn't only pay for broken bones, stitches and the treatment of burns, but the members actually owned their own free clinic. And new members could join by paying with Ithaca HOURS. And finally the health co-op became a bank making interest-free HOUR loans.

Besides financial support, what would help the acceleration of the monetary shifts that are needed?

Most broadly, we need cultural shifts that inspire creativity and local actions that replace passive consumerism and its culture of obedience to giant companies and big government. These institutions have stood like mommy and daddy promising security. And even when these are bad parents people resist rebellion.

But seemingly impossible changes have happened. The world is getting better and worse and the media hold a lot of power: they tell us the world is getting worse and we all have to be afraid. But imagine media that's dedicated to telling us the world is full of active and very creative people, who care and who are helping, who set examples and you can do it also. If they would tell the stories of the millions of positive initiatives, people would join the fun.

What could bring about a tipping point in the shift from a monopoly of bank debt money toward a monetary ecology? And is the idea of a “tipping point” the best way of thinking about that change?

For the short run, community currencies do not replace national money. They replace lack of national money. But eventually, as the failure of national and global institutions destroys the middle class, regional economies will eclipse them. Immense worldwide human suffering, and confinement of the spirit, suggests that the door is open wide for financial alternatives. By continuing to experiment and work hard, we will make that point tip.

There are those who feel we need to organize ourselves more efficiently (the way the Right has done in the United States), and those who suggest that there is strength in our natural diversity or that networked systems organize themselves. Where do you stand on this question?

I believe both are true. As people continue to experiment, the best of these examples will inform new and even better examples. And as we continue to learn from one another we will gradually develop more efficient systems of collaboration and our ability to connect real economies becomes more powerful.

A lot of valuable community-building initiatives in this movement are done by dedicated people, as a labor of love, but would often highly benefit from actual financial support. if you were given $10,000 to $50,000 to invest in strengthening the currency movement, how would you invest these funds?

We will need an online intertrade database that enables continual verifiable updates showing comparative strengths of each currency system, so that we can can honor one anthers' currencies in adjacent cities and neighborhoods. System managers would enter data about their currency: years of operation, individuals and retailers enrolled, how many of them provide food, total credits issued by month and year, equivalencies to national money, issued grants and loans, outstanding and repaid, and how much was issued to the system itself. These numbers would translate to color coded graphs. The mere existence of such a system would raise the profile and credibility of community money. And they'd help us learn from one another.

Still, our prime measures are qualitative. I collected 300 "success stories," asking Ithaca traders how they earned HOURS, how they spent them, why they liked them. Each system could post theirs via this master site as well.

I'd emphasize that every community should be able to raise a few thousand dollars from locals who want to stimulate local trade, expand community connections, meet unmet needs, gain control of interest rates and of investment, decrease dependence on the Empire and its fossil fuels.

With the financial meltdown in the US and the accelerated social polarization, is the CC movement ready to step up!

The movement is still a baby, though growing fast. Twenty-five years ago we had no movement, just a few examples, and could hardly ask questions like these, such as how to fill huge gaps in the world economy. Now we have experimented a lot, we have seen bold success and a lot of failure, and have learned.

Today, finally, it is useful to travel the world and ask questions like yours. It helps us to take a deep breath and to reflect. These questions play an important part at this stage of the development. But if the government would put the money they spend on one nuclear bomb or a space-shuttle on local currencies we could hire a lot of networkers who could knock on doors to create catalogs of local capability. And properly promoted these catalogs could become the living heart of a new economy.

  1. Professionalize the management/networking of local currency systems
  2. Connect different local collaborative community systems
  3. Enable intertrading between all kinds of currencies
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