Value for Money in Sysmä

On the 28th of November Arvosakomo coop organized a local currency workshop that gathered around 15 people in the idyllic Sysmä Theater House. The workshop was an event adjunct to Sysmä’s plan to launch a local coin in 2018. It was hosted together with the municipality of Sysmä. The local currency experiment will start with a project grant from a joint municipalities council.

Arvotakomo was introduced to Sysmä’s local money project by Kuntavelho consultancy. On behalf of Arvotakomo, the workshop included Jenni Huttunen and Tommi Elo.

 

The purpose of the workshop was to provide the participants with a rich view on what community and local money can stand for. Arvotakomo aims to support the Sysmä residents with the alternative economy knowledge for developing a communal, parallel currency that would correspond to the municipal goals for revitalizing the locality’s economy.

In general terms, local currency can support, for example, economic diversity and the economic activity of the given community. Parallel currency often improves liquidity, i.e. the ability to make purchases. Value co-operative cooperative is also interested in the value of the proceeds, also with traditional monetary indicators; social, cultural and ecological considerations.

One of the most important boundary conditions for a functioning currency is sufficient cash flow. Achieving adequate flow can be particularly challenging in small localities, such as Sysmä, where the amount of people and businesses is scarce.

Local currency development is approached through experiments because the complexity involved with the monetary system. The situation, the environment and the needs of the community are different in every community, so it is difficult to predict how a particular local currency model behaves when it is placed to another environment. Money serves a wide range of tasks within the communities. The viability of local currency is based on strongly functioning networks. These networks consist of its members: people and businesses, and therefore make the local money somewhat different in every. 

 

Sysmä is a municipality of about 3900 inhabitants in central Finland. The municipality is known of its beautiful lake-side landscapes and cultural heritage. It belongs to the group of municipalities that, heavily depend on summer residents for economic success: vacationers triple the number of residents during holiday months. The municipality’s strength lays in it’s energetic inhabitants and the small size of the municipality; everyone knows everyone.

 

Finland has seen relatively few parallel currency solutions. There are already many hundreds of local and community funds in Europe, of which the WIR in Switzerland and the many applications of the British cities are the best known examples. For this reason, examples from Finland are interesting also for research purposes.

Thanks to the active participants, the Arvotakomo found new perspectives on the local money issue. The two most important findings were the involvement of wage and labour unions in the monetary system in society; as this we had not thought of as yet.

The three-hour event started with examples of successful and significant parallel currencies, as well as a general understanding of how coexisting currencies can respond to current challenges. Participants were given the opportunity to get involved in the development work through a role play. The aim was also to orientate the development of local money model towards the real needs and aspirations of the actors in the region.

Most participants reflected on the roles and functions of local money with interest. Several ideas that benefit both summer residents and permanent residents, surfaced amongst participants. Conversations included, among other things, introducing the Sysmä currency to different users as a gift from a municipality or entrepreneurs. However, there are still a lot of questions that require attention from the citizens and the municipality side. Different functions of the local currency may be contradictory and even overturn the good effects of each other in the implementation.

 

The exchange rates for converting the main currency to Sysmä’s new currency (yet unnamed) and vice versa, were recognised crucial for the success of the experiment. The course has a significant impact on how the various groups adopt money, rely on their currency and commit themselves to it’s day-to-day use in the long run. Entrepreneurs were worried on the exchange rates hindering their business setting. They suggested that there should be a threshold to exchange rates in order to allow entrepreneurs to switch larger sums into euros without exchange rates, which is a good example of the importance of selected exchange rates for the success of the project.

 

One of the important topics was the role of the Sysmä municipality as a “bank” in the project. The idea was that Sysmä’s money would be managed centrally on behalf of the municipality. The residents also questioned if the municipality had sufficient resources to maintain, for example, money exchange operations, as previously planned.

Some participants noted that Sysmä’s money was given a role of a souvenir for collectors and as a straightforward tool for promoting local tourism marketing. During the evening, many business ideas conserning cottage and equipment renting, food baskets and the activation of the unemployed and use of empty spaces were also discussed.

 

The next step in developing local money is to look at the features together, adjusting the negligence of the hairs. Balance between various aspects; the versatility and scale of the local money networks, the ease of use of the money in daily activities, and the short-term and long-term goal-oriented work. The money’s viability would be enforced by developing money to meet the genuine needs. The experiment may not, especially in the first year, solve all local challenges in the local community, but the careful preparation of the project will bring the project to provide “value for money”.

In practice, development work should continue, e.g. through the visualization of the service journey. Each phase should be carefully considered together with the municipality and the locals. In the review, special attention should be paid to the various functions, and compatibility, and motives behind money model. Designing a service path can help all actors involved to understand the process as a whole, as well as, to communicate the local money model a wider audience.

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Big thanks to the participants for active participation!