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Google 10 to the power 100


I just submitted my application to Google's 10 to the power 100 project to identify projects which would impact on the greatest number of people (in the opinion of the web-oriented voters).

Your idea's name (maximum 50 characters):
At last, local money support for the web!

Describe your idea in more depth. (maximum 300 words)
Money is very poorly understood; how it creates scarcity from surplus, how banks create money practically ex nihilo, by lending it, and how they then reap interest on all money in circulation. Money floats to the top of 'society' where elected and non-elected plutocrats arbitrate its allocation. Interest mechanisms lock the global economy into a consumption spiral, which only resource shortages will slow. This system draws the very producers into debt, drives the consumer society, and distorts and is distorted by government.

The insecure public are now calling for financial reform, but power-down activists like Transition Towns also push for localisation of goods and services, development advocates want the informal economy recognised and thousands of groups are already using their own, sustainable money.

Complementary currencies have proven themselves very successful in revitalising communities, utilising under-used resources and stimulating local economies, especially when national economies fail. They are also widespread in Japan; WIR Bank has thrived in Switzerland since the 30s; RegioGeld currencies multiply in Germany; Time Banks have helped revitalise inner-cities in US.

Some schemes issue paper, such as the Totnes Pound, Ithaca Hours, and Berkshares. Most use cheques or account books a few use a more on-line banking model.

Few schemes have the resources or patience to adopt existing web applications which are written from scratch, inflexible, and poorly supported. Both theory and practice show much more variation in multiple currency implementations, gift economics, and demurrage mechanisms, than any software can model.

My idea is to support these activities on the FOSS platform, Drupal, to make it easy to install and configure, and offer it as a service. Consulting with key people, I have developed such a module and the first beneficiary will be the 'SEL du Lac' scheme in Geneva, Switzerland.

What problem or issue does your idea address? (maximum 150 words)
Local Exchange is php/mysql application written once and redeployed occasionally. Cyclos is a serious java application but constrained by its own architecture; it is hard to configure, skin, or integrate. Neither has a platform-based architecture. Ripple and Regenerosity are experimental niches, unlikely to reach critical mass of users to become relevant.

Communities lack the resources and expertise to identify, install and configure such options, let alone to collaborate on generic, usable software. Relying on spreadsheets and photocopying, many expend precious resources on laborious, centralised accounting. Until now, the movement has been losing momentum, failing to communicate its relevance, failing to reach out to wider communities, and failing to attract young people.

Absent from the web, the movement is unable to step up and preach its economic message of localisation, sustainability, empowerment and altruism, just when we need them to step into the breach caused by failed value systems.

If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (maximum 150 words)
A technology or social movement at the right time can have immeasurable ramifications. Alternative economics is likely to bring economic and social benefit first to those who have been failed by conventional money, the poor.

With the right software, more communities would reduce their dependence on debt-based currencies and increase their resilience to recession/collapse. South Africa New Economics Network has proven how online systems can foster prosperity even in the developing world.

There would be indirect benefits to everyone from a parallel economic system; environmental benefits stemming from the localisation of trade, and a re-evaluation of energy and resource usage would be more possible and likely with a new money. Doubters of globalisation will see less taxes frittered away in a centralised void, and stronger local governments.

NOW is the moment for local money to provide a democratic and just alternative.

What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (maximum 150 words)
The idea is already off the ground; the module is released and gaining traction. Next:
*We should take advice, and draw up a business model. It might involve a strategic non-profit consultancy, deriving income from managed hosting and customisation
* A communication strategy should identify key players and inform them, perhaps individually, that software is within the reach of their communities.
*Communities participation should be solicited to discover how they need the software to work?
*One or more drupal installations and hosted solutions should be prepared.
*Continuous module development is needed, particularly on multiple currency systems, 'leakage' mechanisms for taxation or tithng, and translations beyond French, German and Spanish.
*Lessons need to be learned in the form of documentation and help.
*A social network will need seeding for implementers to learn from each other. It would be the first where members have any real incentive or common ground to collaborate.

Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (maximum 150 words)

I seek to transform complementary currencies from an arcane middle class hobby to a tool which adds resilience to small economies, from the grass roots.

Impact would be measured with the following indicators:
-number of systems set up
-number of hosted packages installed
-number of other deployments (though harder to count)
-total membership
-transaction volumes
-contributed code

Appropriate software would also facilitate experimentation in different currency models, and a mutual support network would be established around the main platform.

But this project should go beyond Drupal, firstly to facebook and the new generation of mobile phones. The world should start to move towards forms of currency more appropriate to a century of globalisation, resource shortages, decentralisation and social justice. Communities would be shielded from economic mismanagement of governments. Economies would be greener, local variety would flourish in place of multinational uniformity. We would usher in the Star Trek Society!

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