International Alliance for Localization: update

In December 2015 this blog reported Local Futures’ 2014 launch of a cross-cultural, North-South network of thinkers, activists and NGOs – the International Alliance for Localization (IAL) – with members from over 30 countries who meet online and/or in person – a few pictured below.

Localise West Midlands later became one of the member organisations. Last July’s LWM blog – gave news of some very interesting localising ventures.

Local Futures have collaborated with organizations worldwide which are helping to forge a grassroots path to a new economy:

  • In Japan, Local Futures has helped to forge a broad-based Economics of Happiness/localization movement.
  • In South Korea, it collaborates with a group of 37 mayors who have formed a Social Economy Forum.
  • In Italy, it is in dialogue with the Five Star movement (M5S), an environmentally-minded people’s party that is channelling half of their MPs’ (member of parliament) salaries into a microcredit bank that provides funding for small businesses. They have raised more than €10 million so far.

Community Solutions’ 2017 Arthur Morgan Award was given by the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions to Local Futures’ co-founder and director Helena Norberg-Hodge, “in recognition of her tireless advocacy for communities across the planet”.

The award is bestowed annually to honour those who are passionate about – and committed to – community and democracy.

Community Solutions is perhaps best known for their inspiring 2006 film The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.

It described how organic farming, urban agriculture – and of course community – enabled Cuba to survive the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent loss of almost all its oil and food imports.

Read more about founder Arthur Morgan’s work here.

In the UK, the small Somerset town of Frome, where Local Futures film The Economics of Happiness was screened in 2011, has revolutionized rural politics.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-a-democratic-revolution-in-the-somerset-town-of-frome-could-teach-our-political-class-8312163.html

Over the last few years, representatives of Independents for Frome have gradually won all the seats on the local council. Their platform is about sustainability, inclusivity and rebuilding the local economy from the ground up. Read more about their achievements here.

In 2017, Helena hosted four live webinars in The Global to Local Webinar Series. In January she was joined by Christian Felber, founder of Economy for the Common Good and the final webinar of the year was with Shaun Chamberlin, author of The Transition Timeline and managing director of the Fleming Policy Centre. It focused on the late David Fleming’s work, his book Surviving the Future, and his contribution to the localization movement

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Read more in the latest Local Futures Newsletter.

 

 

 

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‘Local Liquidity: From Ineffective Demand to Community Currencies’

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molly scott cato 3Dr Molly Scott Cato opens her Green House paper, which may be downloaded here, by asking how our ongoing financial and economic crisis is to be understood and resolved.

The mainstream view is that we need economic growth – and austerity – because of the vast government deficit and stagnant economy.

Others say that we must invest and borrow more now in order to resume growth. Both sides are assuming ‘growthism’ as an unquestioned dogma.

She continues:

“The aim of the Green House Post-Growth project is to challenge the common-sense that assumes that it is ‘bad news’ when the economy doesn’t grow and to analyse what it is about the structure of our economic system that means growth must always be prioritised. We need to set out an attractive, attainable vision of what one country would look like, once we deliberately gave up growth-mania – and of how to get there. And we need to find ways of communicating this to people that make sense, and that motivate change”.

Attempts to restart economic growth have been unsuccessful; local economies are suffering from the large-scale withdrawal of liquidity that the public spending cuts represent. Local currencies across the world offer a different type of liquidity, “but one that has suffered from lack of credibility and from an absence of political support”.

Scott Cato recommends local authorities to generate truly ‘effective demand’ in their communities

This can be done by introducing local currencies into their fiscal administration on a staged basis, beginning with local services, as partial payment of local tax, and eventually for the payment of staff – note the voluntary example of the mayor of Bristol.

Her verdict on ‘queasing’:

“The government’s creation of money through its quantitative easing programme has only created ‘ineffective demand’ because it has been sucked into banking debts; by contrast money spent into the local economy as a local currency could help to revive local economies and build resilient communities and thus constitute genuinely effective demand”.

Community currencies exist in Brazil, USA, Argentina, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands and the UK

Across the world, community currencies exist in countries with widely contrasting economies and levels of wealth ‘as conventionally measured’. Citizens are taking control of the medium of exchange and issuing their own money in Brazil, USA, Argentina, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK. Scott Cato notes:

“Local currencies have provided a way for people to work and make a contribution to their local community even when conventional jobs paid in the national currency are not available. In this way many social needs have been met that would otherwise have been left unresolved”.

She looks at community currencies used in the past and those currently used in other countries. Two examples are summarised here:

“The Chiemgauer was launched in the Salzburg town of Chiemgau in 2003 and is accepted by around 150 shops and service providers including the optician and pizzeria. Chiemgauers to the value of €60,000 were spent in the first year of the scheme, which was started by a local economics teacher. To add credibility the currency is effectively backed one-for-one by euros, since the money is bought directly in exchange for the European currency, which is deposited in a local bank before Chiemgauers are issued. They can be exchanged back but for a 5% fee”.

The Chimegauer has an initial validity of three months, after which its value can only be extended by purchasing a stamp costing 2% of its value. Since it earns no interest there is no incentive to hoard or invest, meaning that the currency will instead be spent, increasing economic activity.

“The Chiemgauer is now very widely used. It has 600 shops participating in the scheme, 1800 consumer members and 200 charitable associations who receive donations every time the local currency is purchased. Around 430,000 Chiemgauers are in circulation, generating a transaction volume value of more than €4m”.

She notes that Japanese local currencies are also time limited:

“(They) tend to be designed as coupons which are received in return for voluntary work and can then be spent in local shops. They have a long history and are widespread. The first Japanese currencies were organised as ‘voluntary labour banks’ similar to time dollars. In 2001 these were joined by ‘eco-money’ designed by former MITI employee Toshiharu Kato.

A few points from Dr Scott Cato’s conclusion

“From a green perspective, the building of a sustainable society requires a transition towards a system of self-reliant local economies, where the majority of our needs are met from genuinely local production.

“Green economists see the lengthy supply chains of the global economy as wasteful of energy, as well as leaving us vulnerable in the face of rising fuel prices and more unpredictable weather resulting from climate change.

“Rather than increasing growth for the sake of it, local currencies can shift economic activity out of the globalised economy and into the local economies on which we will all come to rely.

“In a globalised economy local authorities often feel powerless to act to support the economies which support their citizenry, but they are not. Local authorities across the world have the power to support local currencies and enable them to underpin struggling local economies of both production and distribution”.

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A resource centre of papers on complementary currencies from around the world is available here: http://complementarycurrency.org/materials.php

 

Localisation: local government listens to citizens and neighbours – in Japan

A week after Japan switched off its last nuclear power plant in response to the disaster in Fukushima, the rural town council of Oi approved the restart of two reactors under its jurisdiction.

Oi is heavily dependent on the taxes, jobs and subsidies that the industry provides.

“A prolonged shutdown would diminish tax revenues and impact the local economy,” Japanese media quoted one councillor as saying.

Oi’s decision does not mean the two reactors will immediately be turned back on: Fukui prefecture must also agree to restart them, while leaders of other cities and prefectures in the region have expressed concerns or, in some cases, outright opposition and the sensitive nature of the nuclear debate means national officials and power companies are reluctant to override their objections and search for a consensus.

The utility and the government have warned that western cities such as Osaka might have to endure mandatory limits on usage this summer, but Toru Hashimoto, Osaka’s mayor,  leader of the anti-nuclear lobby in the region, believes official estimates of supply shortfalls are exaggerated, and says the city could get through the summer with smaller, voluntary savings by citizens.

Local government leaders in the Kansai region have now voiced their opposition to restarting the reactors, despite calls from central government officials asking for their support.

East Asia Forum reports that an Asahi Shimbun public opinion poll on 11 March 2012, showed that 57% oppose restarting nuclear reactors and 80% do not trust the government’s safety measures.