Ithaca, NY Launches its Own Digital Currency to Boost Local Economy


“The currency developed by economist Silvio Gesell called “stamp scrip”  [displayed above], almost saved Europe from fascism. It is explained in Bernard Lietaer’s magnificent book, The Future of Money. In its original form, stamp scrip was a piece of paper on which a number of boxes were printed. The note would lose its validity unless a stamp costing 1% of its value was stuck in one of the boxes every month. In other words, the currency lost value over time, so there was no incentive to hoard it. Stamp scrip projects took off across Germany and Austria after national currencies collapsed in the early 1930s. In 1932, for example, the town of Wörgl was almost broke, unable to finance public works or to support its destitute population, until the mayor heard of Gesell’s proposal. He put up the town’s tiny remaining fund as collateral against the same value of stamp scrip, and used it to pay for a building project. The workers then passed on the currency as quickly as they could. Like the magic pudding, this little pot of money kept circulating, enabling Wörgl to repave the streets, rebuild the water system, construct houses, a bridge and even a ski jump. In the 13 months of the experiment, the 5,500 scrip schillings in circulation were spent 416 times, creating between 12 and 14 times as much employment as the standard currency would have done. Unemployment vanished, and the stamp fees paid for a soup kitchen feeding 220 families. The governments of Germany and Austria, profoundly threatened by the success of these projects, shut them down and employment collapsed once more. When the US economist Irving Fisher examined these experiments he concluded that “the correct application of stamp scrip would solve the depression crisis in the US in three weeks!”  Roosevelt’s government, aware that such currencies could invoke a massive loss of federal power, promptly banned it.” George Monbiot

“The Argentine-German economist Silvio Gesell (1862-1930) wished to introduce “debt-free money.”  Margrit Kennedy relates in her book Interest and Inflation Free Money (1988) how adherents to Gesell’s theory of a free economy in the 1930s made several attempts with interest-free currency in various countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the United States. Particularly successful was the model used in the small town of Woergl in the Tirol in Austria. In 1932 the ideas described in Gesell’s book Die natwerlicke Wirtschaftsordnung (The Natural Economic Order, 1916) were introduced. In August 1932 the town council of Woergl issued their own bank notes, called work certificates, to a value of 32,000 schillings. Backed by an equivalent amount of ordinary schillings in the bank, the town put 12,600 work certificates into circulation. The fee on the use of the money was 1 percent per month or 12 percent per year. This fee had to be paid by the person who had the banknote at the end of the month, in the form of a stamp worth 1 percent of the note glued to its back. The town paid for wages and building materials with this money. A ski-slope was built; streets were renewed as well as the canal system. They built bridges, improved roads and public services, and paid salaries and for materials with this money, which was accepted by the butcher, the shoemaker, the baker, by everyone. The small fee made everyone put this money into circulation before using one’s “real” money. Within a year 32,000 work certificates had been in circulation 463 times and thus had made possible the exchange of goods and services to value of 14,816,000 schillings. In comparison to the sluggish national currency it circulated eight times as fast. Unemployment was reduced by 25 percent within a year. When, however, 200 communities in Austria began to be interested in adopting this model the Austrian National Bank on September 1, 1933, prohibited the printing of any local currency. Unemployment returned, prosperity disappeared.”  —  Jüri Lina 

“Wörgl’s demonstration was so successful that it was replicated, first in the neighboring city of Kirchbichl in January of 1933.  In June of that year, Unterguggenberger addressed a meeting with representatives of 170 other towns and villages. Soon afterwards 200 townships in Austria wanted to copy it. It was at that point that the central bank panicked and decided to assert its monopoly rights. The people sued the central bank, but lost the case in November 1933.  The case went to the Austrian Supreme Court, but was lost again. After that it became a criminal offence in Austria to issue “emergency currency.” … does it sound familiar?  Only a central authority saviour can help people who are not allowed to help themselves locally.”  —  Bernard Lietaer, The Wörgl Experiment: Austria (1932-1933)


“For every local community currency dollar that was issued, we required the equivalent of a dollar’s worth of work done.”

” As of this summer, you can be broke in Santa Barbara, California, and still afford organic produce from the farmers’ market. You can be dollar-broke, that is—but if you have enough Santa Barbara Missions tokens jangling in your pocket, earned in exchange for helping out at a number of local nonprofits, you’ll be set. Santa Barbara Missions tokens, a new local currency in Santa Barbara, began circulating in July, soon after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law repealing a section of the state’s corporation code that prohibited the issuance of currencies other than the dollar :

The Santa Barbara County Local Community Currency are tokens created for the purpose of monetizing volunteer work of mission-driven organizations in the Santa Barbara community.   Normally volunteerism is a privilege for people whose basic needs are   already cared for.  Our Local Community Currency level the socio-economic landscape by offering people means to meet their basic needs through their volunteer work.

The Santa Barbara  Local Community Currency : 

The Santa Barbara Local Community Currency facilitates creation of a unique parallel economy based on the premise that a service to our community can be a basis for our livelihood. Normally it is a privilege to volunteer for mission-driven organizations whose work inspires us. The SB Mission currency transform the norm by remunerating volunteers for their work with Local Community Currency, thereby enabling anyone to help meet their livelihood needs through service to the community. For example, people who struggle with access to good food can earn local currency working with the Food Co-Op, spend the earned Local Community Currency for produce and meals, while learning valuable life skills and participating in strengthening the food independence of their own community:



Local currencies are one way of ensuring life goes on in hard times.


Just 30 miles from Rosenheim, the birthplace of the chiemgauer, is the Austrian town of Wörgl. In 1932, during the Great Depression, Wörgl issued its own currency – it was so successful that it became known as “das Wunderwaffe von Wörgl”, impressing John Maynard Keynes.

The chiemgauer started as a school project by Christian Gelleri, an economics teacher in southern Germany who wanted to teach a group of 16-year-olds about finance in a novel way – by creating their own money, to be used in local shops and businesses. They called it the “chiemgauer” and eight years on, the project has turned into the world’s most successful alternative currency; it’s off the scale in comparison with others.  The chiemgauer has managed to bring on board local co-operative banks and credit organisations, and it’s even possible to pay in chiemgauer using a debit card, run by Regios, an association of co-operative banks.

What makes the chiemgauer different to conventional currency is that it automatically loses value if you don’t spend it. Unlike traditional money that can be saved, the chiemgauer is only valid for three months – the idea being that it must be spent, thereby boosting the local economy. If the notes aren’t spent, they can be renewed by buying a stamp that costs 2% of the note’s face value – so over a year, the currency depreciates 8%. Notes can be renewed up to seven times. That might sound off-putting, but users are happy with the system. Angela Hamberger from the small town of Trostberg, explains how it works: “You can use the chiemgauer in all sorts of shops – from the hairdresser’s to the baker’s. You just have to register in the scheme and go to a participating bank to change your euro into chiemgauer. It’s worth it to support the community.” When registering, users nominate one of 230 local charities and organisations to receive 3% of their chiemgauer transactions. The chiemgauer, named after a region in Bavaria, is now accepted by more than 600 businesses in the Rosenheim-Traunstein area where it operates. It is estimated that around 2,500 people regularly use the currency and along the way it has also earned more than €100,000 for local non-profit organisations. Since its debut,  14 million euros have been exchanged into the Chiemgauer.

Josh Ryan-Collins, senior researcher in monetary reform at the New Economics Foundation the independent think-tank, says :  

“We need to re-democratise the monetary system, to have a set of alternatives for issuing credit outside the banking oligarchy.”     

Alternative currencies can play a vital role in that, which enable consumers and producers to exchange with each other across a larger area and based upon values other than globalisation.  In a world obsessed with speculation, the chiemgauer has certainly got the Germans thinking again about what money is primarily for — paying people to deliver services and products and creating employment :




Barcelona, Spain:





“After the end of the first World War, Germany began its national credit program by devising a plan of public works. Projects earmarked for funding included flood control, repair of public buildings and private residences, and construction of new buildings, roads, bridges, canals, and port facilities. The projected cost of the various programs was fixed at one billion units of the national currency. One billion no-interest (debt-free) bills of exchange, called Labor Treasury Certificates, were then issued against this cost. Millions of people were put to work on these projects, and German workers were paid with the Treasury Certificates. This government-issued money wasn’t backed by gold, but it was backed by something of real value. It was essentially a receipt for labor and materials delivered to the government — “For every mark that was issued, we required the equivalent of a mark’s worth of work done or goods produced.” The workers then spent the Certificates on other goods and services, creating more jobs for more people:

Within two years, the unemployment problem had been solved and Germany was back on its feet. It had a solid, stable currency, no debt, and no inflation, at a time when millions of people in the United States and other Western countries were still out of work and living on welfare.”




Little Guernsey: 200 Years of Debt-Free Money 

In 1815 Guernsey needed a new market hall. There was no money. Then somebody proposed that the island should avail itself of its ancient prerogative and issue its own interest-free money. At first the proposal was turned down, but as they urgently needed 5,000 pounds and only had 1,000 pounds in hand, the Bailiff Daniel de Lisle Brock in 1816 decided to issue 4,000 pounds in one-pound interest-free Guernsey state notes. This was in addition to the current supply of English pounds, which two main banks were circulating on the island already.

Work was begun on the market hall, everything being paid for with this new money. When the hall was finished, customers arrived, and business was better than expected. By 1822 the market hall was paid for. The 4,000 one-pound notes were destroyed. The first project with the new money was so successful that it was soon followed by others. Next a new road was needed; there was gravel, stone and plenty of labor—but no money to pay for it. In all, the states issued 55,000 pounds’ worth of notes, which paid for the rebuilding of the market. A new school was built, then several more, the whole surroundings of the market hall were renewed, and several other public buildings were constructed, as well as widening of the streets. A new harbor was built along with the best new roads in Europe and sewers. The sum was paid for with taxation, and the notes were again destroyed. All these projects provided employment and economic stimulation.

In 1827 de Lisle Brock was able to speak of “the improvements which are the admiration of visitors and which contribute so much to the joy, the health and well-being of the inhabitants.” Things had certainly improved since 1815. It is significant that the great depression never troubled Guernsey. There was no unemployment, and the income tax was 10 pence on the pound. Things got even better. The import of expensive English flour was reduced. The money supply never exceeded 60,000 pounds. Unemployment was practically nonexistent. Guernsey became a prosperous island community.


Scott Morris was born in Atlanta, GA, and raised in northern Alabama. While studying abroad in Japan during his studies at the University of Alabama, Scott took 5 weeks to backpack around China and SE Asia. It was there that he discovered his passion for helping the economically disempowered and made a commitment to bringing new pathways out of poverty to those who needed them most. He was featured in the powerful documentary “Money & Life” for his work with the volunteerism empowering “HERO Rewards” program he led the design and piloting of in Fairfield, Iowa. Now, he lives in Ithaca, NY, where he has founded the “AmeriQoin Cooperative” as a way for communities to benefit from world-class “community impact currency” technology without having to bear the full financial costs of developing and maintaining it.

AmeriQoin is a North American agency for community currencies. It provides designer currency systems and implementation assistance to existing currencies, grassroots organizations, and local networks for social, environmental, and commercial purposes. AmeriQoin provides currency system engineering expertise, consulting, and implementation assistance to existing community currencies, grassroots organizations, local business networks, and others seeking to create and deploy designer and/or targeted currency programs for social, environmental, and commercial purposes. AmeriQoin is to community currencies as BALLE is to “local first” organizations. CONTACT:

Scott Morris:  “I will share my understanding of the true nature of money as a social construct and agreement that goes largely unexamined. I’ll also stress the importance of combating our econo-cultural myopia by bringing new metrics into the way we evaluate the success of the economy, and of our society on the whole. Finally, I’d like to make an argument and forecast that we’re on the verge of something truly revolutionary in the way we think about and interact with money. We could very well end up not only healing our relationships with one another and the Earth, but actually ushering in a new golden age for humanity.”

Ithaca, NY Launches its Own Digital Currency to Boost Local Economy

A startup local currency has just launched the Ithaca dollar in Ithaca, NY, designed to not only promote investment in local businesses and bring the community together, but to also pick up where one of the most successful alternative currency experiments in the US, the Ithaca HOURs, has left off.

Ithaca Dollars

The new Ithaca dollar is produced by a company called Ithacash, and for the moment is exclusively in digital form. The company founder, Scott Morris, is keen to keep local money within the local community. Local currencies “generate a lot of social and economic wealth,” said Morris to CNYcentral.

The new currency has a one to one parity with the US dollar, although when an individual buys into the scheme they receive 125 Ithaca dollars for their first $100 deposit. This equates to i$100 to spend in the community and i$25, which they can donate to a cause of their choosing “as a thank you for sacrificing the liquidity that you had with those US dollars,” explains Morris.

Over 100 local businesses have so far signed up to the scheme, with some already accepting payments via text message. Paper bills are also planned, although federal law prohibits the use of coins and denominations of a value less than a dollar.

Ithacash founder, Scott Morris

Local sentiment towards the initiative is positive. Tyler Kenney, a student at Ithaca College, said:

“You have locals who are struggling against larger businesses and now you’re willing to help out the little guy, so I think it’s great.”

Another local resident Sarah Schmidlin added:

“It’s gonna support local businesses as opposed to people taking their money elsewhere.”

Ithaca HOURs

In 1991, another alternative currency called the Ithaca HOUR was introduced by a local businessman called Paul Glover. An Ithaca HOUR was valued at US$10 and was recommended as roughly equivalent to payment for one hour’s work. As such, they were produced in denominations of half, quarter and even an eighth of an Ithaca HOUR.

The scheme was a glowing success, with several million dollars worth of HOURs traded between residents and over 500 local businesses in the twenty years following its inception.

However, the shift towards electronic transactions over cash, combined with the founder of (and chief evangelist for) the currency moving out of town, led to a decline in its use. By 2011 few businesses were still accepting HOURs, and those that did couldn’t sustain a healthy flow.

The good news is that residents still holding Ithaca HOURs are being invited by Ithacash to convert them into Ithaca Dollars at a rate of i$17.50 for 1 HOUR (the equivalent of US$10 in 1991) “as a way of honoring that original commitment and to thank those still holding Ithaca HOURs for their continued loyalty to Ithaca’s economic well-being.”

B2B currencies 

B2B currencies aim to create additional revenue for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), by providing businesses a complementary means of financing and payment. By facilitating SMEs to trade with each other using a B2B currency instead of Euro’s or Dollars, such instruments offer SMEs an improved liquidity position and a stronger business performance at the same time. Ultimately, B2B currencies help expand the size of the real economy and safeguard the health of local SMEs.

This type of currencies create added value in the local economy. Businesses using a B2B currency experience several benefits, including:

  • Reduce expenditures in Euro’s, Dollars and other currencies
  • Increase turnover and profitability
  • Gain availability of cheap and fast working capital at interest-free rates
  • Have access to new channels to commercialise own products and services

Which overall allow entrepreneurs to plan and look at the future with confidence.

B2B currencies operate alongside the Euro and other conventional currencies, and are able to reach multiple goals, among which:

  • Build a resilient local economy and strengthen SMEs
  • Drive up sales, liquidity and profits of participating businesses
  • Strengthen local supply chains and value networks

Research has demonstrated that such instruments are counter-cyclical with GDP, meaning they provide residual spending power during recessions, which has positive effects to combat unemployment in small businesses.

B2B currencies are technologically enabled solutions delivering meaningful economic impacts. Transactions are carried out seamlessly via various (electronic) means like web interfaces, mobile app, mobile texts (sms) and NFC technology.

The WIR Bank 

The WIR Bank, formerly the Swiss Economic Circle (Wirtschaftsring-Genossenschaft), or WIR, is an independent complementary currency system in Switzerland that serves businesses in hospitality, construction, manufacturing, retail and professional services. WIR issues and manages a private currency, called the WIR Franc, which is used, in combination with Swiss Franc to generate dual-currency transactions. The WIR Franc is an electronic currency reflected in clients’ trade accounts and there is no paper money. The use of this currency results in increased sales, cash flow and profits for a qualified participant. WIR has perfected the system by creating a credit system which issues credit, in WIR Francs, to its members. The credit lines are secured by members pledging assets. This ensures that the currency is asset-backed. When two members enter into a transaction with both Swiss Francs and WIR Francs it reduces the amount of cash needed by the buyer; the seller does not discount its product or service. WIR was founded in 1934 by businessmen Werner Zimmermann and Paul Enz as a result of currency shortages and global financial instability. A banking license was granted in 1936. Both Zimmermann and Enz had been influenced by German libertarian economist Silvio Gesell; however, the WIR Bank renounced Gesell’s “free money” theory in 1952, opening the door to monetary interest. “WIR” is both an abbreviation of Wirtschaftsring and the word for “we” in German, reminding participants that the economic circle is also a community. According to the cooperative’s statutes, “Its purpose is to encourage participating members to put their buying power at each other’s disposal and keep it circulating within their ranks, thereby providing members with additional sales volume.” Although WIR started with only 16 members, today it has grown to include 62,000. Total assets are approximately 3.0 billion CHF, annual sales in the range of 6.5 billion, as of 2005. As of 1998, assets held by the credit system were 885 million and liabilities of 844 million, i.e. the circulating WIR money, with equity in the system of 44 million. These WIR obligations being interest free have a cost of zero. Income from interest and credit clearing activities were 38 million francs. The currency code is CHW as designated by ISO 4217. The WIR Bank was a not-for-profit entity, although that status changed during the Bank’s expansion. It has a stable history, not prone to failure as the current banking system is. It has remained fully operational during times of general economic crisis. The WIR Bank may even dampen downturns in the business cycle, helping to stabilize the Swiss economy during difficult times.
Making Money for Business: Currencies, Profit, and Long-Term Thinking

Community Credit: The Next Generation of Financial Architecture


In short,  initially I envision simultaneously creating two community currency systems in a single  “local community.” When I say  “local community,”  I mean the size of it must be manageable by means of effective local grass-roots democracy. 

This currency that I call CommonsQoin, by definition is not going to be privately owned, but it should belong to local community’s co-operative monetary organization, naturally belonging in the commons, sort of like free software Ubuntu

First one will be a B2B currency — a mutual credit system modeled  (with modifications)  on the Swiss WIR Bank.

Second one (the so-called conventional counterpart) will be modeled (with modifications) on ,  and on the one in Bavaria, Germany.

Initially, they will function and grow separately. If everything develops well on both sides (as it should), and both sides come to economically sound agreement, there should be no problem to unite both currency systems, since it is essentially the same currency — CommonsQoin, but at the same time it is under strictly local control on either side. However, if in the future anything goes wrong on either side, they can decide to split and to function separately again.

A good hypothetical real life example would be uniting the Swiss WIR b2b currency with the Bavarian community currency, assuming they both were in the same country.

Let’s assume that we achieve the same success in our “local community”,  like in Bavaria, Germany. The next step would be to simply copy and paste that success to as many “local communities” across Canada and the US as possible.

The more “local communities” will adopt this ready out-of-the-box system, the greater the chance that two or more local communities will be in geographic proximity. If two adjacent  “local communities” agree, they may enter into mutual acceptance of their local currencies, and in this way extend the territory of their “local community”, and the territory of mutual trade since it is essentially the same currency — CommonsQoin, but at the same time it is under strictly local control of the most “local community” unit. However, if in the future anything goes wrong they can decide to split and to function separately again, or even fold on either side.

By the same token, for instance, a local B2B currency system could, if desired, split with its conventional counterpart system in one local community and join another B2B, or conventional , or both, in adjacent local community. Full flexibility.

Because “local community” is a relative term (subject to definition) the best case scenario is that we could have Canada and the US as one big  “local community” using one community currency — CommonsQoin. We could even think of it as an alternative bi-national currency.

The most important feature would be that there will be no Central Bank in charge of CommonsQoin system, as the democratic debt-free money creation power will reside with every single, most local community unit of the system.  

Let’s globalize the LOCALIZATION. 

This system is leader-less (centralbank-less), a peer-to-peer network model, so it can not be overtaken “from the top”, nor “assassinated” (from the top), nor infiltrated by rouge, trojan-horse communities (under hidden influence of private banksters), because any such local community can be easily disconnected from the rest of this democratic network, and sued for damages, if needed.

Needless to say, all the prior barter, time-share and community currency systems can, in principle, be easily converted and assimilated intoour local-global CommonsQoin system, should they wish to join our grass-roots local democratic community global monetary revolution. 

This is just the roughest outline, and there are many more strategic details of this system that have great potential for easily creating lots of local jobs.

Let’s create informal think-tank to fully develop this idea — the grass-roots, democratic, local-global  “COMMUNITY CURRENCY System, version 2.0 “,  code named: CommonsQoin ?

Community Currencies of the World,  UNITE !!!



There seems to be a “weak link” in my CommonsQoin system, but I think I’ve just found a reasonable solution to it.  The “weak link” is related to the fact that most often local communities do not geographically overlap with regional B2B networks.

It is not difficult to imagine that, for example, the Swiss b2b WIR currency system may not be enthusiastic about monetary union with other local community currency systems.

Therefore, we need something in-between to facilitate this strategically important monetary union. Such monetary “interface” should be a hybrid that is half  “community”, and half  “business”  by its very nature. Good news is that we already have it — worker co-ops :


More precisely, in order for a community currency system to enter into monetary union with a B2B network, such community should start by developing new community worker co-ops that by definition must be bi-currency from the start, with emphasis on community currency, of course.

Obvious question is where do we get the money to invest in creation of such a new community worker co-op?  A part of the capital, in a form of the national currency, should ideally come from the community currency “bank” (credit union?) that naturally exchanges national currency for community currency.

The rest of the capital (human capital), could come from people in community contributing, in semi-volunteer fashion, their time, effort, and skills to getting this new community worker co-op up and running in exchange for credit denominated in community currency. The emphasis in “semi-volunteer” is on “volunteer”, because community build this for long-term future community’s economic benefit, and everyone who contributes to the start of this new local democratic economy will be honestly compensated, even if they have to wait a bit to be paid.

Once a community worker co-op is ready to do business, initially, interested people could work for only 2 hours a day, quarter-time, and not even everyday, as there are more and more unemployed and under-employed people, and be paid in community currency for their semi-volunteer effort — democratic community currency money creation power: “For every local community currency dollar that was issued, we required the equivalent of a dollar’s worth of work done.”

Later, at the point when a community worker co-op is going steady and full-steam, mostly full-time jobs would be created, that could be paid in community currency that could be partially exchanged into national currency, if needed.

Let’s imagine that our community has a worker co-op in a form of a chain of Supermarket stores for locally produced foods and goods from the related regional B2B network.

And let’s imagine that our community also has an Affordable Housing worker co-op.  So, for example, a worker from a community Supermarket co-op could pay rent to community housing co-op in community currency.  

Please, excuse me that all of this is very sketchy, therefore I do need you to fill in the important tactical and technical details.


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