Village Vancouver

Vancouver's Leader in Transition toward Strong, Resilient, Complete Communities

Open File: Dunbar set to get its own dollar by Jessica Barrett

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Businesses in Dunbar are about to embark on an economic experiment using local currency. The project aims to increase the purchasing power of residents at independent local businesses and create a more resilient, self-contained economy. Local currency has taken off in smaller communities, such as Salt Spring Island, but can it work in the big city?
What do think? Could the idea of local currency work in your neighbourhood? Tell us below.

As the old saying goes: money makes the world go round. With this in mind, one Vancouver neighbourhood is considering an economic experiment with local currency that would be a city first. The Dunbar Dollar is expected to make its debut in the west side neighbourhood early this summer in a bid to bolster independent businesses and insulate the community against the kind of economic meltdown that recently exposed deep flaws in the global financial system.

“I think many people know there’s something not quite right with the way our economic system is working, and a lot of that is due to the way our monetary system works,” says Jordan Bober, a member of Village Vancouver’s local economy network, the group spearheading the initiative.

Adopting a local currency in a community can strengthen buying power and allow consumers and business owners to opt out of contributing to a globalized economic system that doesn't benefit local economies, says Bober, an economics graduate who wrote his masters thesis on community currencies.

“National money has no predilection to stay in the community, so chances are it won’t,” he explains. “With community currency, it stays in the community and goes round and round and round.”

Members of the local economy network are currently in talks with the Dunbar Residents Association and the Dunbar Village Business Association about phasing in a currency model called Community Way, a business-backed currency that doubles as a fundraising tool for non-profits and community groups. The Community Way currency has been in use in the Comox Valley for more than a year and is slated for introduction in several municipalities in the Columbia Basin, including Fernie, Nelson and Cranbrook, in April. “So they’re kind of blazing the trail for us,” says Bober.

So far, representatives of businesses and residents in Dunbar have shown a lot of interest in the project—although details are still being ironed out, he adds.

Susan Chapman of the Dunbar Residents Association said the local currency initiative is consistent with a larger movement in Dunbar to help the community become “more self-sufficient and resilient in the face of change.”

“The [Village Vancouver] group has been very active in all kinds of ways that promote ‘green’ initiatives in the context of our neighbourhood. Needless to say, we are looking forward to learning more about how the currency will work,” she wrote in an e-mail to OpenFile.

For his part, Bober is convinced that once the community members see the benefits of community currency in action, it will take off in that neighbourhood and others around the city. “I really think it can change the world,” he says.

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