2. In a complementary currency ecosystem

2.1. Introduction to complementary currencies

2.1.1. The concept of complementarity

The concept of complementary currencies was coined by Bernard Lietaer to refer to:

“monetary systems created outside the confines of a country’s official currencies, and which encourage regional economic, social and environmental initiatives, such as the assignment of value to assets and resources that are unavailable within the ordinary circles or circuits of exchange due to scarcity of the official currency”.

Bernard Lietaer

Complementary currencies are frequently called alternative, community, local, cooperative or social, whether for reasons of tradition or to reflect the objectives of the initiative in which they are used. These qualifiers can be specifically defined as follows.

  • Alternative because they function in place of legal-tender money in certain contexts, providing an alternative.
  • Community because they can function in communities of people or entities who interact directly with each other and wish to establish their own means of exchange.
  • Local because they can circulate in geographically defined areas, whether a town, a borough, etc.
  • Cooperative because they encourage values such as gratitude, mutual assistance and altruism, in other words, cooperation between people.
  • Social because they can be created, issued and controlled by social groups, and encourage the cohesion of societies.

In this COURSE we have opted to use the qualifier complementary” as that which best reflects one of the key characteristics of this type of currencies: their complementarity in relation to the legal tender money, which they have no intention of ever completely replacing. The other qualifiers are implicit in the general notion of complementary currencies, in that they all, to a greater or lesser degree, encourage the alternative, the communitarian, the local, the cooperative and the social.