The Map – How To Out Your Local Economy
In my last post Local Currency – an update I described a little of my personal journey through local currency world over the last 20 years. I began to wonder whether we had all focussed too much on currency and not enough on the local economy and how it functions, with or without a local currency.
Local currencies fail to sustain themselves for many reasons: poor governance or management, personality conflicts, bad design, failure to recover their own running costs, poor publicity etc. Another more important reason for lack of sustain-ability is probably critical mass. Most local currencies do not attract enough participants and therefore diversity of goods and services to be useful to most people. And a reason behind this is that we fail to map where the needs and resources are that a local currency could potentially help to connect up.
I interviewed forty local currency leaders from around the world for the People Money book and asked them all the same question: did you map your local economy before you launched a local currency? None of them had done this in any detail and maybe did it half-heartedly after launch. It is as though we are launching new currencies into a vacuum and hoping they will fly just because we designed them with good intentions: ethical, interest-free, focussed on worthy goals etc. But many of them don’t fly or crash soon after launch because they are not supported by a firm updraft of local resources.
These reflections led me to publish a new pamphlet called The Map – How To Out Your Local Economy. Following is a summary of its contents.
I believe that Austerity is an unfounded, unnecessary and dangerous idea. It has no economic or moral basis. You don’t have to believe me on that. Listen to Ivy League professor Mark Blyth tell the story in this five minute video. There is lots more from him on You Tube.
Researchers at the New Economics Foundation have also deconstructed the ‘well-framed story’ behind Austerity. Another word for it is economic or political propaganda. We need a new story and The Map is my attempt to create a different story.
But Austerity is not going away any time soon so we have to deal with the reality it has created: record numbers of people reliant on food banks for instance.
On the other side of Austerity is Sustain-Ability, our ability to sustain an abundant life for all. We need to pool our collective resources and do more with what we have.
Too much of our existing local economy remains invisible, unknown and not working at capacity. It needs ‘outing’. The ‘sharing’ or ‘collaborative’ economy shows us one way to do this. New websites pop up every week offering a platform for you to buy, sell, barter, gift, share, hire, rent, lend or swap.
Most of these sites are limited to exchanges between consumers and businesses and do not focus on single regions. The Map described here unlocks the whole regional economy with all its players: individuals, businesses, voluntary groups and local government.
Imagine an online map of your region that shows households, businesses, voluntary organisations and government agencies. It shows what they need and what they want to share.
Imagine Google Search plus Google Maps meets Facebook, with eBay mashed up with Kickstarter and Loyalty Points, available online and on the move, all focussed on your home region. It is a social and economic network that can scale down to a single postcode and up to regional level.
Although it doesn’t yet exist as described here, it is called The Map.
Imagine you’re looking for a babysitter. You log on to the Map App on your smartphone that connects you to The Map. It quickly shows you where the babysitters are in your area.
Imagine your small business is looking for part-time help. The Map App helps you find reliable workers when you need them.
Imagine you are an amateur football club looking for coaches. You can find volunteers via the Map App.
The rest of the pamphlet goes on to describe a possible strategy for making The Map happen in your own region. It describes how to get all of the four main economic players – individuals, businesses, voluntary groups and local government agencies – to share their unmet needs and underused assets.
It then discusses the introduction of a regional currency as a secondary and optional strategy to unlock the deeper power inherent in The Map. That currency could be sterling-backed like Bristol Pound, a mutual credit system or a new kind of regional crypto-currency using the blockchain technology that drives Bitcoin and its many imitators, but based on transparency rather than anonymity.
So far with the theory. This is just my view about a more sensible strategy for making local currencies really realise their potential to help millions of people rather than the tiny few they currently serve. Bringing the best of the Web 2.0 tools together under one roof focussed on a single regional economy could unlock all kinds of currently hidden or wasted potential.
The only real test is practice.
In the next months I will be experimenting here in the region of Main-Kinzig Kreis in Germany where I live to see how we can grow The Map from the ground up whilst attracting some top-down resources to make it happen.
The first step of my learning curve is to investigate what mapping software already exists that we could potentially adapt to create The Map in this region. These are the ones I have looked at so far:
Open Street Map
I hope to report back from time to time about this experiment as the story unfolds.
Please share your thoughts on this strategy and tell us about any similar initiatives you are involved in to ‘out’ your local economy.