Calderdale Green Currency History

1998 - a group of Calderdale people get together to discuss the creation of a complementary paper-based currency. The aim is to improve local economic and social condition. The group considers various options, including expanding the existing Calderdale LETs scheme (Local Exchange Trading scheme).

July 1999 - Ground Floor Project, a Hebden Bridge-based charity, agree to local support, subsequently expanding to the whole of Calderdale. The group is named 'Calderdale Green Currency'.

November 1999 - LETs states a wish to retain close links with the group.

December 1999 - the group set up as a separate voluntary organisation in order to release the local currency independently and to oversee distribution and marketing. Although small, it was felt that Hebden Bridge was well placed to be the initial starting point (a user network of 85% of LETs members already based in the Upper Valley).

March 2000 - Calderdale Community Foundation donates £500 towards the cost of the first print run. The task of redesigning the note is given to the in-house team who produced the current design. (see: Note design)

April 2000 - The scheme is launched with £3,000 worth of local currency printed (but not stamped) and £1,000 put into circulation. The scheme draws media attention from around the country and several local shops (most of whom were already struggling financially) agree to 'test-drive' the scheme.

January 2001 - Most of the original group had now left and the scheme is being run solely by volunteers and staff from one of the partner groups, The Ground Floor Project. The scheme has a regular trading magazine which it hand-delivered to every household in Hebden Bridge (the original launch town) but was starting to run into difficulties delivering it.

Joint barter markets (with Calderdale LETs) had started every three months and local currency was accepted for 50% of the cost of a variety of goods from the scheme's own shop and from the local community printshop. Although there was a great deal of interest in the scheme from local businesses, few were willing to use the currency without having a sterling exchange rate. Were the scheme to launch again, we would apply for grants to ensure that we could have a 1 favour = 1 pound sterling exchange rate set at regular intervals (say every six months initially) to encourage more business participation.

April 2001 - Two of the businesses that had been accepting local currency went bust and closed.

This was not due to participation in the scheme (in fact both agreed that local currency had been what had helped them to keep going so long) but their closure was used as a reason by other businesses to not participate. The scheme needed to grow beyond Hebden Bridge but with so few volunteers this failed to happen.

November 2001 - only two businesses, other than the barter market and printshop, were still accepting local currency, however we still had over £10,000 worth of trading going on in that year (with the 1,500 Favours still in circulation) and we had distributed over 3,000 LETs favours to community groups in the form of grants.

The cost of producing the trade paper meant that without business participation in the scheme, we could no longer afford to produce 3,000 copies every month and hand deliver. We set up delivery points with local shops but only a few would agree to distribute the paper as they didn't want the public thinking that they also accepted local currency.

January 2002 - We could no longer justify our trade paper and it was (reluctantly) retired, though our barter markets continued to be run.

December 2002 - The last Green Currency barter market was run.

April 2003 - Meetings were held to try and resusitate the scheme but reluctantly it was felt to be too little, too late and in November the scheme was closed.

What would we do differently?

  1. Although there was a great deal of support and co-operation, the local LETs (Local Exchange Trading Scheme) remained a separate entity from Green Currency. There was a need for closer links and joint working from the outset and set guidelines as to how the two schemes could work efficiently together rather than the reactive methods that eventually resulted.

    There was much to commend the two types of schemes working together as Local Currency was the more effective way of getting businesses and occasional users involved as they could see the value off a 'you get what you've earned' currency scheme over a chequebook system. One the other hand, LETs had an established user group of skilled people. One of the difficulties we faced was the number of LETs users who'd built up large amounts of LETs favours (primarily traders such as plumbers or therapists) who then wanted to mass exchange them for local currency Favours as they could use their accumulated wealth in shops

    (which in turn risked swamping the shops' ability to absorb that amount of currency) and the reverse was also true, in that many LETs members didn't want to accept local notes even though it was a simple matter to exchange them for LETs favours if they wanted. Attempts to regulate the amount of trade caused occasional bad feelings but was necessary.

  1. A stronger and more varied team of volunteers was needed from the outset. Green Currency suffered when so many of the original group stopped being involved even before the launch.

  1. Businesses would have been more inclined to get involved if the Favours had a sterling exchange rate and knew they could trade them in if there was nothing they wanted at the end of each six month period.

  2. The scheme needed something backing it that everyone could exchange their notes for (such as bread or milk), we used a printshop and trading market (selling new stationary, cosmetics etc. at half Favours/half sterling) which didn't appeal to everyone's needs.

  1. Set up a community enterprise section to encourage new businesses to accept part-payment in local currency from the outset, hopefully by ensuring they got equal value in a commodity they needed.

  2. Make sure that the trade paper had good backing and that we had enough advertisers ready to accept local currency before launch. Also make sure that there are enough articles of local interest to ensure that people read the paper whether they have an interest in local currency or not.

  1. Either set the scheme up with a defined boundary (such as a single town) providing there is enough businesses and users to support it OR make sure that you have an infrastructure in place to allow it to grow and still be supported locally.

We still believe that Calderdale Green Currency was a good idea and would love an opportunity to re-launch it properly.