New research to study the growth and diffusion of complementary currencies (new forms of money) around the world, and produce policy and practice lessons to harness these grassroots innovations for sustainability.
This two year research project is led by Gill Seyfang at UEA and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. It aims to investigate grassroots innovations for sustainability, with a specific focus on complementary currencies.
This project will lead the first international study of ‘complementary currencies’, a wealth of local community-led exchange systems that exist alongside mainstream money. They arise for a variety of reasons, in different forms and contexts, worldwide: the German Regio regional money aims to boost local economic development; in the UK and US, Time Banks strengthen social networks and community cohesion by promoting reciprocal volunteering; a new wave of ‘Transition Currencies’ is launching local money to promote local resilience, and the Dutch NU-Spaarpas incentivises sustainable consumption patterns through a green ‘loyalty card’. However, despite their intrinsic benefits and potential, complementary currencies have remained small and marginal. Little is known about the processes and contexts necessary for mainstreaming them.
The project is underpinned by the recognition that much social innovation for sustainable development takes place in civil society, outside of the institutions that are normally associated with the term ‘innovation’. We aim to better understand the contexts within which such innovation takes place, and how it might be translated to more ‘mainstream’ contexts. The research will gather empirical data on complementary currencies to test the applicability of existing theory of niche sustainable innovations in this new setting, and develop new theory where necessary.
We aim to inform policymakers about how they can support and harness the creative energies and innovative potential of grassroots communities, to help meet sustainable development policy goals.