What if a currency had caring for the community built right into its structure? What if, by design, a currency were based on generosity rather than greed?
Meet the Community Way! This is the invention of Michael Linton who designed the Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) over 30 years ago.
Michael and his friends, Ernie Yacub and Pieter Vorster came to Nelson to demonstrate this model to us this past Saturday, October 30th. It’s tricky to wrap your mind around, but worth the mental exertion.
First, businesses donate Community Way currency to a local charity. $1,000 per employee is the recommended amount. As soon as the business does this, it qualifies to receive a federal tax deduction, which it receives from the charity. This act of giving is shown as a debit in the account of the business and a credit in the account of the local charity. No hard cash is given by the business, just a promise to honour Community Way currency as a portion of the purchase price of the goods or services that it sells to its customers.
Second, the local charity calls the Community Way administrator to report the transaction and to ask for the actual currency. When members of the public make a donation to the charity, they’re asked if they would prefer a tax receipt OR the same amount of money in Community Way dollars. This way the charity receives Canadian dollars and the donor doesn’t lose spending power. In effect, a person, who exchanges Canadian dollars for Community Way dollars, gets to spend the same dollar twice. Once to support a charity and once to purchase goods with Community Way dollars.
Members of the public now go to local businesses who have donated currency and can pay a percentage of the price of goods or services sold in Community Way dollars. The percentage is determined by the business. The business knows that the Community Way dollars will be spent in the community, and members of the public get to support local charities without loss of spending power. If their employees consent, local businesses can pay their employees partly in Community Way dollars, give bonuses in the local currency, and make, exchange or sell more Community Way dollars.
Since these dollars are only good in Kootenay communities, they stay in the community, increase everyone’s spending power, encourage charitable giving and stimulate participating businesses. So far, Fernie and Kimberley are also looking seriously at creating their own local currencies, and we’re all discussing how we can link our systems together.
We plan to roll this new currency out in January, 2011, and hope you will join us, whether you’re a business, non-profit, charity or citizen. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Transition Nelson gratefully acknowledges the financial contributions of Columbia Basin Trust and other private donors who helped to fund this event.
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