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Expert opinion

Innovating money: From purpose to means

Monday 29 June 2015 | 12:21 PM CET

Roel Wolfert, Qoin: By innovating money, unaddressed needs in society can be met. Money becomes the means again, rather than our objective!

Objectives of local governments, citizens, ngo’s, SME’s and institutes can be glued together by new currencies.

We experience a significant focus on money in today’s society; bonus culture in banks and other industries, government staff expenses more than allowed, people trying to escape the economy by using cryptocurrencies. Next to happiness for the lucky few, this results in increased poverty and raised inequality. This puts society under pressure as elementary needs such as healthcare are increasingly hard to satisfy. Sharing, cooperation and care are essential elements to meet human desires.

Originally, money was designed to make trade happen, but over time money has become the ultimate purpose. Luckily money can be re-designed to address the changing needs in society. By creating complementary currencies, the emerging goals and ambitions of different stakeholders can be aligned. The new (electronic) money acts as the glue for cooperation. It empowers stakeholders, unable to solve the problems alone, to tackle local issues together.

But how does that work in practice? A good example of a community with a currency that aligns objectives of multiple stakeholders is the project ‘SamenDoen’. The problems in the region Tholen and Bergen op Zoom in The Netherlands are multiple, including reduced quality of living, increasing unemployment, reduced SME activity, aging population and increased need for healthcare, reduced real estate prices and a general economic decline.

How can an alternative currency help resolve all these problems? We have worked with all stakeholders to understand their individual objectives and have looked at the interdependencies and commonality of these needs. The big challenge was that a solution for an individual problem could cause greater cost to society that outweighs the benefits of the individual stakeholder. For example, a social housing company struggles with debt collection fees and would like to reduce them. One way would be to make people leave their homes immediately when not paying. This however creates a problem for local government and other institutes because they have to carry the cost of providing help and all sorts of additional support to these families. With our solution, the housing association now rewards its tenants with an alternative currency for paying rent in time. This turns out to be a very interesting (financial) business case.

Another example is a healthcare institute. In the Netherlands, budgets for healthcare are reduced, while quality is supposed to go up at the same time. In ‘SamenDoen’ healthcare is partly done (where possible) by volunteers who are rewarded for their help with an alternative currency. This leads to a situation where more volunteers available to help and each volunteer dedicates more time to support others. This type of care makes the community more interconnected, keeps healthcare quality at a good level but also supports the objectives to reduce cost.

Lastly, people are rewarded for shopping at the local shops in the community and help out other organisations. Everybody earns the alternative currency. The alternative currency can be spent at the participating shops, to reward others when they help you out (with e.g. gardening, washing your car etc), or with other local organisations like the annual contribution of your soccer club. The alternative currency is backed by Euro and payments are done using NFC technology.

During the pilot phase in 2015 ‘SamenDoen’ had over 5.000 active users that could spend the currency at 96 stores and with 30 local charities. Around 9.500 transactions occur every month. The initiative is embraced by the citizens, local retail stores, the municipality, housing cooperatives and health facilities. The currency makes for a more lively local community, it gives people the ability to connect in new ways and organisations the means to reward desired behaviour and provide essential services at lower costs.

By creating money that acts as a means again rather than as the purpose, we have been able to empower people and organisations, so that the essential elements of a healthy and satisfactory life can be taken care of.

About Roel Wolfert

Roel Wolfert is the Chief Marketing & Sales officer @ Qoin. He has 20 years of international experience on the edge of business and technology in retail & transactional banking, payments/cards, retailing, management consulting and venture capital. This includes entrepreneurial, c-level and general management roles in marketing & sales, (strategy) consultancy, software development and change program delivery.

About Qoin

Qoin is a Netherlands-based company providing consultancy, IT and managed services on all aspects of complementary currencies worldwide. Qoin’s mission is to change the world’s financial systems and enrich society in a disruptive way. Since 1998, Qoin assists public authorities, businesses, financial institutions, NGOs and citizens to use complementary currencies as instruments to reach ambitions and fulfil community needs.

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