Community Currency

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What is a community currency?

Davis Dollars is a community currency for the city of Davis in California. A community currency can help stimulate a local economy by “unlocking” goods and services that could be bought and sold by community members, but which aren’t supplied or demanded by the US Dollar economy.  The fact is that although many people could provide services (bike repair, babysitting, car washing, tutoring, haircuts, lawn care, etc), it is difficult to sell these services to people who need to save their limited income for necessary expenses such as rent, gasoline, and insurance.  The solution is to give people more money, so they can feel comfortable buying and selling services within the community.

Of course, it isn’t possible to grant people more US Dollars, but it is possible to start a community currency.  In at least two ways, a community currency is a better solution than handing out US cash.  First, it encourages (requires, in fact) local spending, so that the extra money stays in the community rather than being spent on internet purchases.  Second, the development of a community currency encourages people to consider what services they might offer, and to hone the skills they already have.  Not only does the currency unlock services that are underutilized by our current economy, it pushes people to create entirely new services.

Frequently Asked Questions

See general questions below, or see the Business FAQs for business-related questions.

Where can I buy Davis Dollars? Where are you guys located, anyway?

You can buy Davis Dollars at our booth at the farmers market, every Saturday. You can also buy Davis Dollars at the Davis Food Co-op or buy them right now on our website.

Has anyone documented the positive effect that community currencies have on communities?

There have been lots of studies of the effect community currencies have on communities.Quite a few studies have shown that local businesses keep much more of their revenue in the local economy (by spending it on other local businesses) than big-box stores do. We like to point out that if a big-box store keeps 14% of the money local, and local businesses keep 45% of the money local, you can keep 100% of the money local by spending Davis Dollars.

Here are some other studies and pages that document the impact of a community currency:

How do you prevent counterfeiting?

Like any bill (including US dollars), we can’t make Davis Dollars impossible to counterfeit. We just make it hard enough to do that it really isn’t worth it. How do we do this? It’s printed on an expensive, high-quality paper. It has a lot of colors so it’s expensive to photocopy, and each bill has a serial number on it. The serial numbers are printed in a metallic color, which is difficult to copy or reproduce, even digitally.

We also keep track of every single bill that is in circulation, using each bill’s serial number. We ask each business to contact us if someone pays for something using an unusually large number of bills, so we can check right away whether all those serial numbers are actually in circulation.

Hey, hasn’t someone launched (or talked about launching) a community currency in Davis before?

We speak to a lot of people around town who mention various attempts at different times to start community currencies – it’s obviously an idea that’s in the air. Good to know lots of people are thinking about it!

We’ve actually had difficulty getting in contact with anyone who has actually worked on one of these past currency projects, though. If you have, or you know someone who has, contact us and let us know! We’d love to talk.