Economic Sustainability of CNs (v1)
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This deliverable introduces Community Currencies (CCs) as a novel strategy toward economic sustainability of Community Networks (CNs). It does so by developing an analogy between community networks and community currencies as two separate local action and self-organization schemes that have evolved in parallel until today. We define 6 key characteristics of CNs and CCs that allow the identification of important differences and similarities between the two models. Based on this comparison, we describe in more detail two success stories of each domain as a case study, i.e. Guifi.net and Sardex.net, which will empower the design of interesting combinations between the two models. Such combinations will provide opportunities for local businesses to become part of a local economy that can give them direct access to local customers, but also help sustain the CN infrastructure on which this activity takes place. At this stage, we propose four possible areas of research and action: 1. The design of a community currency for an existing CN, combining ideas from the design of Sardex.net and a novel commons-based currency, the District Currency, with focus on Guifi.net as our main target case study; 2. The design of a process that will allow a CN, again with focus on Guifi.net, to become part of a wider local economy run through a community currency compatible with the current efforts of the municipality of Barcelona toward this end; 3. The design and implementation of suitable educational games that will help the dissemination of some core ideas behind the envisioned approach both to practitioners and the wider public; 4. The development of suitable models and tools that will facilitate the design process and demonstrate the possible positive effects of combining CNs and CCs. In this context, we analyse a set of important challenges that we need to address to this end: the lack of understanding of the reasons behind the need to separate between Internet access and local services offered in a CN; the sometimes undesirable quantification of voluntary activities implied by certain CCs and their unpredictable effect on paid work and economic sustainability; the hype of cryptocurrencies that shift the focus from the hard work required to build trust and community to magic solutions brought by technology; and finally the significant amount of human resources required to make such systems successful - systems that are difficult for the protagonists to take the risk and engage in the long-term process, combining mechanisms complex to understand and difficult to implement in practice. We conclude with a few concrete steps, the most important being our presence in the International Conference on Social and Complementary Currencies in Barcelona in May 2017, titled “Money, Awareness and Values for the Social Change”. A great opportunity to open the discussion in a city whose municipality has recently decided to move forward with a plan to introduce its own currency.