3. Toward sustainable local development

3.2. Effects of complementary currencies

3.2.2. Democratization and improved service provision

Local governments can use complementary currencies as instruments of public policy. The financial transactions involved in the provision of public services are becoming increasingly predominant and the relationship of the citizen to these services is increasingly reduced to that of a consumer rather than an active citizen, irrespective of the type of service, whether leisure-, education- or health-related. Complementary currencies can alter the dynamics and restore a sense of society to these increasingly monetized relations.

  • Meeting community needs. When people have to get involved, using their own time and resources, to cover services abandoned because of budget cuts, inequality becomes extreme. Complementary currencies foster proactive actions serve to empower people and can be adopted to create more active communities and common spaces. They offer practical answers to a broad spectrum of public policies, endeavouring to make public services more useful and inclusive without trying to replace or reduce them. They enable people to connect with each other in a more active way, while meeting the needs of the community.
  • Co-production. Complementary currencies can have a positive effect on relations between public services and their users, creating a new form of service provision. In the context of the public sector, co-production is increasingly being employed in the design, commissioning and provision of services. Instead of trying to address people’s needs, co-production focuses on people’s resources – their time, skills and expertise – and creates an egalitarian relationship with users, who are both designers and providers of services. This focus is the opposite of the traditional top-to-bottom, centralized public service model which views users as passive receptors of services. Co-production, aided by the use of complementary currencies, has gained political ground as a potential alternative to budget cuts. Complementary currencies provide a tool with which to free the potential of co-production and incentivize the general public to contribute to public services by putting forward new ideas and opportunities for the effective provision of services, reinforcement of independent community initiatives, recognition of talents and activities undervalued by the market economy, and creation of their own dynamics of interaction and exchange.