Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The Sonnenschein Green Initiative had its first meeting on complimentary currencies, Monday February 9, 2009. Myself, Jennifer Dauksha-English, Patrick Gibbs and two members of the local Chamber of Commerce met over tea to discuss transition economics. We first assessed our current situation. Aside from talking about the state of the world's economy, our assessment was mostly over the experimental local 'Chamber Bucks' project that was implemented during the October 2008 Financial Permaculture Course. The ups: it happened; we circulated $4500 with local merchants in five days; new businesses joined the Chamber just so they could use the 'Bucks'; a number of businesses and residents got excited about the idea. The downs: only Chamber members could use the 'Bucks', the businesses were poorly educated about the experiment; some businesses refused to use the 'Bucks'; the majority of businesses took the 'Bucks' directly to the Chamber for reimbursement instead of circulating them in the community; there was also discrepancy around giving Federal notes as change - some businesses were giving change and others weren't. This became especially problematic when one business who gave change then went to use the 'Bucks' at a business who wouldn't give change.

From this evaluation of our active experiment, we determined that the following actions need to happen before we experiment with the 'Bucks' again at another event:
1. The Board of the Chamber of Commerce needs to create criteria for using the 'Bucks'
- for example: that it needs to be worth the face value and that federal notes should be given as change;
2. This criteria needs to be printed on the 'Bucks';
3. The criteria needs to be e-mailed, mailed, delivered by hand and announced at Chamber events to all Chamber businesses;
4. Someone needs to go door-to-door to get businesses educated and excited;
5. We need to educate our local Government and get their endorsement.

One of the ladies from the Chamber said that after reading up on Complimentary Currency, she was inspired by the Ithaca program using 'In Ithaca We Trust' on their Currency. That got us all going on Hohenwald, TN and we all agreed that our 'Bucks' need to read - 'in Hohenwald We Trust'. I wish I had my audio recorder with me that day. Both of the two ladies from the Chamber of Commerce spent most of their lives in Hohenwald. They were telling Patrick and I stories about milking cows, raising gardens and living in a way that took care of one another. One said, "It was just our way of life. It was the way I was raised. We didn't need a high paying job back then." They went on to say that they felt strongly that Hohenwald could return to that way of life it needed, because people weren't that far removed from the basics of living off the land and in community.

After this inspiring 'In Hohenwald We Trust' conversation, the four of us made some decisions that had the following action items:
1. Form a separate working group that would meet once a month. During these monthly meetings we would discuss reading assignments on complimentary currency. None of us felt like we had enough knowledge about the subject to feel comfortable explaining it to others in the community;
2. Invite others, especially a few key bankers to join in this working group - to learn;
3. Host an evening presentation and possibly a world cafe in June or July on complimentary currency and transition economics;
4. Organize a 3-day complimentary currency course September 18-20. We would hire someone from the USA or maybe Germany to teach the course and then have that teacher stay through the Financial Permaculture Course September 22-26 and lead a design on developing a currency for Lewis County;
5. Hope that at least four Hohenwald, Lewis County residents attend this course, just enough to get the seed planted in the community so that a stronger team can continue working on implementing a real local currency within the next five years;
6. Engage the regional sustainability forum that I, Jennifer am a part of organizing. It's a statewide forum but we also have a west, middle and east Tennessee forum. I would love to see that our middle Tennessee forum is engaged in thinking about a regional currency beyond just Hohenwald, Lewis County - I see this as more of a ten year goal;
7. Host another Complimentary Currency Design Course in 2010 or 2011 and have this second design be the real deal. The first design would be more of a teaser and a portal of entry. We could use the results of the first design to educate the public, further experiment with our 'Chamber Bucks' and of course further educate ourselves. By 2010 or 2011 we may have enough people in the community supporting the idea that a real design could be implemented, and I would hope that more members of the community would participate in the design process.

Complimentary Currency is a worthwhile conversation for our community to be having. We've determined though that it's not our priority right now. Our priority now is to educate the community about Permaculture and simple relocalization strategies; to get as many organizations and local Legislators involved; and to increase our communities ability to communicate about these important issues - by creating participatory social learning moments. Although the Complimentary Currency is in the background, completing the action steps outlined above is leap in the right direction. It's possible that more local people will want to join in the process and speed up implementation. It's also possible that new faces will arrive in Lewis County, wanting to live here because of the chance to work on these types of projects and live in a community that values earth care, people care and fair share. One of the ladies at the meeting is also a real estate broker. She said that five different families in the past month were interested in moving to Lewis County because they heard about our efforts to green the county! Yeah, is all I can say!!! Yes, in Hohenwald We do Trust!!