BerkShares

LOCATION: Massachusetts, USA

ORGANIZATION NAME: The Schumacher Center for New Economics

SUMMARY:BerkShares are an experiment in relocalization and economic democracy: a currency that engages citizens in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in supporting and developing local businesses to meet local needs, thereby decreasing reliance on fossil fuel and imports from afar. BerkShares also inspire communities worldwide to create similar local solutions.

PROBLEM SPACE:We are living in the Age of the Anthropocene, and it is becoming widely acknowledged that human activity on this planet is causing increasingly irreversible climate change. We are already starting to see some of the effects of climate change on human health and food security. We also know that these effects will have a disproportionate impact on poor countries, poor regions, and poor people around the world. And yet, with most economic, social and environmental policy made at the national level, very few of us feel that we have the power to make a difference.

People are on the lookout for practical alternatives based on a philosophy of mutual support and trust. They are looking for tools that empower them to make decisions in their own communities about their economic, social, and environmental future. The question we seek to address with BerkShares is: How can citizens help create conditions that foster more self-reliant local economies in a manner that is socially, environmentally, and culturally responsible?

SOLUTION:In her book Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Jane Jacobs suggested that local currencies are an elegant tool for rebuilding regional economies in a sustainable way. She argued that regional currencies encourage import-replacing businesses, which in turn create new jobs, foster technological innovation, retain manufacturing skills, and reinvest regional capital.

BerkShares is the leading North American example of local currency issue. Developed by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics for the Berkshire region, BerkShares were first issued in 2006. The currency is directed by BerkShares, Inc, a place-based, non-profit, democratically structured organization. The currency's sophisticated design celebrates the region's history, geography, culture, and values, while a 95-cents-to-1-BerkShare exchange rate encourages citizens to spend their money with the over 400 locally owned businesses that participate in the program.

Through their design, as well as related storytelling and educational programs, BerkShares are a powerful tool for teaching the public - both locally and internationally - about the proven community benefits of local ownership. And yet, BerkShares have untapped potential to further spur the shift towards a ""growth from within"" economic development strategy in the Berkshires."

CONTACT: [email protected]

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