3. Toward sustainable local development

3.2. Effects of complementary currencies

3.2.4. The battle against inequality and social exclusion

Performing voluntary tasks in the community requires the volunteer to have free time and sufficient money to cover their needs, which not everybody has. Complementary currencies can help to overcome inequalities of free time and money by redistributing resources in a more equitable way.

  • Social participation. The exclusion of certain groups from social life weakens community relations. Complementary currencies can invigorate the social fabric and ensure that all groups of people have the same opportunities to become involved in the community. Complementary currencies alone may not be able to resolve social, economic and political inequalities, which are structural issues requiring structural changes, but they can help in the battle against some of the causes and effects of social exclusion. Volunteering offers many advantages to people from socially excluded and economically disadvantaged groups in the community. Volunteers have the opportunity to create new relationships and develop an appreciation of their own worth. The talents and skills of local residents are mobilized in work which is of great value to the rest of the community.
  • Support for the care economy. Networks and relationships based on trust within a community are the basis of social life and nourish the roots of the formal money economy and money markets. The value of this kind of unpaid work – families helping with child care, neighbours looking out for neighbours, the performance of domestic chores, household accounting – is not generally recognized as part of the formal economy. The care economy consists of all the daily tasks involved in maintaining and feeding society, and all the lives involved in performing those tasks, without which life as we know it would be unsustainable. Much can be done to support and reinforce this economy, for example, by valuing and recognizing the importance of the care economy’s contribution, without having to put a specific price on it. This is another area in which complementary currencies can demonstrate their worth.
  • Inequality and social exclusion. Complementary currencies do not eradicate inequality and social exclusion, but they are a valuable tool in the battle against these issues. One of the most important tools in reducing inequality is empowerment. Complementary currencies can help to achieve the redistribution of certain forms of power. Empowerment and sense of self-worth go hand in hand. Complementary currencies facilitate voluntary activities that allow participants to gain experience motivated by intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, such as self-esteem, and the opportunity to apply skills acquired through paid work and formal education. Complementary currency projects are able to address educational, learning and employment inequalities, allowing the less advantaged to gain skills sought by employers and even achieve equality of condition with the more privileged.
  • Improved individual well-being and health. Well-being takes into account how people feel, function and evaluate their lives. Complementary currencies can contribute significantly to improving personal well-being by providing opportunities for social contact and bolstering self-esteem, in addition to offering socialization and learning opportunities to groups excluded from the world of work. Higher levels of well-being are generally associated with other positive results, such as improved physical health.