Plan to create a Santa Cruz currency takes hold
Thanks to the efforts of one local organization, Santa Cruzans may soon find themselves in possession of a unique local dollar.
The organization in question, New Earth Exchange, hopes to create a network of currency that would promote sustainable local businesses. In addition to New Earth Exchange, Transition Santa Cruz and Transition San Lorenzo Valley are official sponsors of the program. The yet-to-be-named program would band together a group of local businesses that would exchange credits in an attempt to create a network not dependent upon the flailing contemporary U.S. economy and the domination of large corporate retailers.
These local businesses would be bound by a system of mutual exchanges and benefits for the customers, according to Langdon Roberts, New Earth Exchange organizer and the director of the Center for Transformative Neurological Physiology. “The economy is very complex and the design is really not that efficient,” says Roberts. “But it’s the best people have been able to come up with, at least until now.”
According to Roberts, the local currency plans are being modeled after GoLocal, a program in Sonoma County that was implemented earlier this year. GoLocal organizes local businesses and connects them to local consumers through a network that would use a special paper currency. The exchange of this currency would generate what Roberts describes as rewards, which would give customers benefits. He notes that the currency aspect of the program is secondary to the program’s primary focus: customer rewards and customer loyalty.
This system is similar to systems in place at many large retailers and grocery stores: the customer spends money and receives rewards points, which help ensure that the customer will return to that business. The Santa Cruz version uses this approach but does not limit customers to spending the rewards at one location. After they shop at a participating business, customers “have these rewards in their pocket that can be spent at any other business in the network,” says Roberts. “And that’s what makes it different. That simple difference is very, very powerful because now my business is supporting every other locally-owned business in Santa Cruz County and vice versa.”
He reports that a number of businesses are already on board, including healthcare providers, food-related businesses, service professionals and some retailers.
With the flow of the rewards points (which will not be dependent on the strength of the U.S. dollar), Roberts anticipates that local Santa Cruz businesses will be somewhat emancipated from the pressures of the national economy.
Participants in Sonoma’s GoLocal program have seen success thus far, according to Roberts. “They’ve developed all the technology and done all the groundwork for it and we’re just making some modifications to more closely fit the nature of Santa Cruz,” he says. These alterations will place a stronger emphasis on micro business and will also add ecological responsibility requirements for participating businesses. GoLocal Sonoma calls their rewards “spendable rewards,” but Roberts hopes to develop a title for the Santa Cruz currency that will capture the town’s quirky essence. He also encourages members of the community to submit designs or concepts so that the aesthetics of the currency will be uniquely Santa Cruz.
The paper tender for the program should launch by February of this upcoming year. Roberts plans to have en electronic rewards system for some of the businesses in the program within the next year and a half, but for the meantime, he hopes that consumers realize the implications of the program in Santa Cruz.
“We want to change people’s consciousness around money and we want people to be aware that every time they’re spending their money, they’re giving feedback to a business,” he says. In the long run, “the consumer has all the power.”