What’s the New Systems Hub all about?

Did you ever think there’s something wrong in the world when “planned obsolescence” is standard practice?  When governments like Australia’s rejoice at the historic climate agreements in Paris, and promptly go home to approve Australia’s biggest coal mine project[1]?  Have you ever wished you could do something to change all this, but the problem seemed too big and you didn’t know where to start?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.  The first thing you should know is that we’re not alone.  Millions of people around the world are acting to make it a better place.  Whether building intentional communities, buying solar panels or removing factory farmed meat from their diets, steps are being taken everywhere.  We are not alone, and together, we can shift some of the global systems which create growing homelessness, environmental destruction, and wars around the world.

The 2008 Bank bail-outs created an unprecedented world-wide movement in Occupy (Wall Street).  For a moment, we got a glimpse of the man behind the curtain of this economy, and people around the world rose up to express anger at the economic systems in place.  Ironically, governments reached for taxpayer funds to protect the interests of the banks with police battalions, as they had done to repossess homes on behalf of the banks during the bail outs which contributed to the rise of the movement in the first place.  The lesson to draw here is that we cannot fight the old system from within, with violence.  Governments are doing what they can to alleviate poverty and homelessness, but since these are the logical result of the way government and banking are set up, we cannot simply expect government to solve our problems for us.  Instead, it falls to all of us to create better systems, new ways of organising that serve all our needs without destroying the planet we live on.

After the bank-initiated financial meltdown spread to Europe, there has been a groundswell of initiatives springing up to replace systems based on extraction and competition with ones encouraging cooperation and contribution.  Since the austerity measures in Greece destroyed the livelihoods and the ability of many Greeks to work, dozens of grassroots initiatives have been established to meet the needs of the people.  There are a whole range of new community currencies in Greece, allowing people to work and trade with each other when the national currency has failed.

[1] I’m referring here to the $21 Billion Adani Carmichael mine and rail project, approved shortly after the Paris agreement: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-03/mning-leases-approved-carmichael-mine-qld-galilee-basin-adani/7295188

What are intentional communities?

An intentional community is a planned residential community designed by it’s founding members to enhance social bonds and teamwork. The members of an intentional community usually share a common vision and ideals as to how people should relate to one another and often follow an alternative lifestyle.  They typically share responsibilities and resources.

You may have heard of some types of Intentional communities, like ashrams, kibbutzim, monasteries, cohousing communities, ecovillages, or even amish towns.  These communities are the laboratories testing out ways of living together that may hold some real answers for us all.

What are community currencies?

Money and currency are social (and sometimes legal) agreements.  Community currencies are currencies a community has agreed to use to try to answer specific societal needs.  On this hub, there will be many references to currency related terms, so here’s a quick ‘cheat-sheet’ for those of you who are not familiar with some of these terms:

Alternative currency:  Any form of money that’s not the one issued by the countries’ dominant government-supported banking oligopoly.  You’ve probably used store gift cards, prepaid transport cards, or casino chips, all of which are alternative currencies, not issued by banks.  All the other terms below are different forms of alternative currency.

Complementary currency: A currency designed to supplement the national currency – these usually meet a specific need.  You may be familiar with stamps, air points, air miles, or different forms of time banking currencies or LETS (see Local Exchange Trading System, below).

Community currencies try to answer specific societal needs. Community currencies are complementary currencies limited to a specific community. This could be geographical (in which case they are local currencies, supporting local businesses like the Brixton Pound does for Brixton), but also business-based or even online. They are designed to meet social or financial challenges of their community.  The idea behind these types of currency is usually to design money to better meet the needs of society and the environment.  They can be a cost-effective tool for engaging the members of a community with solving the problems their community faces.  These types of currencies tend to spring up wherever the national currency collapses and fails to meet the needs of particular communities (there are dozens of new grassroots movements including community currencies in Greece).

Local Exchange Trading Systems:  One popular community currency system you may have heard of are LETS.  LETS networks facilitate exchange between members by providing a directory of offers (and wants) and by allowing each a line of interest-free credit to each (. Members’ IOUs are logged in a centralised accounting system which publishes a directory and balances visible to all members. In case of a default, the loss of value or units is absorbed equally by all members.  A member may earn credit by doing childcare for one person and spend it later on carpentry with another person in the same network, or they may spend first and earn later.