“New Monetary and Financial Models for New Economies”

On 28 March 2019, in Barcelona, the workshop “New Monetary and Financial Models for New Economies” was held, organized by Novact with the collaboration of the Municipality of Barcelona, Finance Watch, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Rec – Moneda Ciutadana, Bin-Italia and Commonfare.

It was an opportunity to present three welfare and social innovation projects: in addition to the project Commonfare.net, whose main features and objectives were illustrated by Andrea Fumagalli, it was very interesting to hear by Bru Lain the experimentation of a minimum income in some neighborhoods north of Barcelona with high poverty and the experimentation of complementary currency REC in two districts of the city, by Susana Martin and Marti Olivella (REC) and Alvaro Porro (Barcelona City Hall).

Really stimulating is the link between these two measures. In order to facilitate the circulation of the new city currency, a positive synergy has been created with the introduction of the minimum income (about 400 euros per month). In fact, the 25% of minimum income is paid to the beneficiaries in REC, thus promoting its wider dissemination and a lower burden on the municipal budget. The first data, after 6 months of use, show that the number of merchants who accepted the new currency in the concerned districts has grown, allowing an increase in revenue, able to counteract the closure of small shops and increasing consumption of proximity, promoting sociality. With regard to the effect on labour supply, however, the first data (the duration of the experiment is 2 years) show that there has not been a stimulating effect on the labour market, probably due to the “poverty trap” that makes it unattractive to accept jobs characterized by high insecurity and low pay, also in light of the social characteristics of the beneficiary population.

The presentation of the three projects was followed in the afternoon by three workshops on the relationship between these experiences and public institutions, the forms of sharing and cooperation between the various experiments and, finally, the impact of these experiences on the common and social life of citizens.

In this debate, it is worth highlighting another complementary currency experiment: the Grama project of the municipality of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, north of Barcelona. It is a municipal currency, established by the municipality, which can be accessed by about 120,000 inhabitants, through a digital recording, for the benefit of local trade and the solidarity economy. This is the first experiment in Spain and it is giving positive results, above all to increase the degree of social cohesion. The municipality issues money to pay part of the wages, public subsidies through digital payments. This sum is in addition to the sum already in circulation in Euros. In this way, the greater purchasing power favours the local economy. This experience is complementary to the REC but at the same time different. The first is in fact not a municipal currency but a city currency, unlike the second, and its introduction into society takes place through the provision of minimum income. These are two of the many possible examples of experimentation with new forms of welfare from below and alternative monetary circuits, which can facilitate its operation.

The Commonfare.net platform was just created to network these good practices.