Rolling in dough: Community currencies gaining traction

Lucas Rochette-Berlon holding “la pêche”, introduced by his organisation, Une Monnaie Pour Paris (A Currency for Paris) in May this year.
Lucas Rochette-Berlon holding “la pêche”, introduced by his organisation, Une Monnaie Pour Paris (A Currency for Paris) in May this year. PHOTO: LUCAS ROCHETTE-BERLON

FRANCE • As he pays for his drink in a Paris bar with a currency that he launched just days before, 20-year-old economics student Lucas Rochette-Berlon is cool.

So how hard is it exactly to invent an entire new monetary system, design and print the notes, and persuade hundreds of small businesses and Parisians themselves to adopt it?

"Fairly difficult," he said, with a smile, "but not insurmountable."

The new money is called La peche, a reference to a historic network of peach trees in Paris.

La peche went live in Paris on May 12, after a successful and ongoing rollout in the suburbs in 2014.

Like hundreds of other community currencies gaining influence worldwide, it is pegged to, and operates alongside, the official national money.

One euro (S$1.57) buys you one Parisian peche. And €100 gives you 103 peches, with the purchaser then free to pocket the extra three, donate them to the charity of his or her choice, or put them back into the pot as "community peches" which can then be given freely to anyone in need.

 

For Mr Rochette-Berlon, even in this digital age of bitcoin and blockchain, having paper money that you can physically touch and exchange is vital as "it allows those who do not have access to that technology or even to banks, such as the homeless, immigrants or other disadvantaged groups, to benefit from the system, and remain part of society".

As La peche continues to grow, Paris is set to be the first major capital with its own citywide alternative currency.

A year ago, East London got in on the act with an entirely digital local pound - the fourth launch for the Israeli start-up Colu, which is successfully running community currency projects in Tel Aviv, Haifa and the English port city of Liverpool, and handling some US$2 million (S$2.7 million) in transactions every month.

In less than two years of operations, Colu co-founder and CEO Amos Meiri, 33, has witnessed a consumer revolution taking off: "We see people becoming more aware of their consumption patterns and of the circulation (or waste) of money in their community."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'Rolling in dough: Community currencies gaining traction'. Print Edition | Subscribe