Community Currency Game

This game is a fun and practical simulation to explain how a community currency works and discuss issues surrounding them. It has been in use since 2010 with some modification. It is used in the first stages of implementation - but can be good to do shortened versions (without the barter section) at regular meetings and outreach events.

  • Time: The game should take roughly 1.5 hours.
  • Participants: It is geared as an introduction to community currencies for local businesses (local producers and consumers = prosumers), but could be used with some modification for other interested groups. The game can work with a minimum of 5 businesses and up to 30 businesses comfortably. If the group is much bigger you may break them into smaller groups or choose a set of people to do the game in-front of everyone.
  • Materials: Each participant will need:
    1. A pen or pencil
    2. 10 item cards - these can be blank paper (of a different color than the game currency). For non-business groups you can pre-write goods and services on them (see below)
    3. Colored paper to represent the community currency. Use several denominations 5, 10, 20 and 50. These represent the equivalent in National Currency. These can be as fancy as you like. The participants should be encouraged to think about the physical design and name of the community currency. Each participant should get an equal amount of community currency and it should be enough to satisfy a day to a week of typical purchases in the community. The denominations as well as the amount of currency per participant depends heavily on the area and demographics of the participants.
    4. Flip-chart and chart markers - to keep track of pros and cons and discussion items.
  • Introduction ~15 minutes
    • Each participant should say a little about themselves, what they sell and where they are located.
    • Ideally move people in the room to be situated spatially based on where their business is in relationship to eachother (neighbors sitting by neighbors). The development of a community currency involves a lot of local awareness and interaction in neighborhoods and with neighbors.
  • Barter Exchange ~30 minutes
    • The premise is that one day there is no more money in the community because of some disaster. So what would happen if we had to trade with our gods and services via barter directly?
    • Goals:
      • To get the participants to realize how much abundance there is in the community and also the importance of money.
      • Also to establishing relative value with their goods and services – i.e. the value is in the goods and services – not 'money'.
    • Each participant is given 10 cards to represent their goods and services. (reduce this to 5 cards if time is limited).
    • On each card the participants are to write the name of the good or service - The quantity / amount of that good or service - and the cost for that quantity or amount. Finally their business name or personal name (If the participant is not a businesses and would still like to take part - you can have a set of pre-written goods and services for them to sell)
    • Each card should represent one commonly sold good or services. If someone sells fish by the fish at 10 dollars only, they can have 10 cards that say '$10 fish'.
    • After finishing writing, the participants are given 15 minutes and asked to trade everything they have for goods or services that they want. They are asked to think about the things they need over a week. (or use a theme -see below-)
    • Afterward everyone needs to sit down (this can be hard sometimes, so it is nice to have a timer)
    • Discussion:
      • Each person takes a turn reading off what they have bought and also their experience.
      • Each person is asked to remember who they traded with.
      • What were the benefits and challenges?
      • The importance of trust here is very important. When do people feel comfortable with barter. What about IOUs or layaway?
    • Wrap up: Everyone is asked to return the goods and services they bought. So they end up with their original cards and are ready for the next part.
  • Community Currency ~45 minutes
    • Premise: In the previous exercise we saw some of the challenges we would have without money. What if we wanted to re-create money in this community – and it could only flow between these members?
    • Goal: Simulate a community currency and identify strengths and weaknesses.
    • The group must all agree that they trust each other and are going to form a businesses network (for the purpose of the game) In reality each new member must be guaranteed by at least four other members.
    • Each participant in the room they are 'allocated' X National Currency (we use 400 in Kenya) worth of vouchers for their businesses. It is important to note that this currency is a a voucher for the participants goods and services.
    • Explain that for each of these community currencies / vouchers the businesses uses - they are accepting to redeem them at a later time. (When they use it to buy something, they are also agreeing to sell their goods and services for the vouchers later on.)
    • Each participant is also asked to contribute an amount of vouchers toward a community fund (which will be used later).
    • They are asked again to try and sell all of their goods and services. They are asked to think about the things they need over a week. (or use a theme -see below-)
    • After 5 minutes of trading they are told to stop and vote on a community service that the non-business participants (NBPs) and the regular participants in the room will do. The NBPs are given some of the community fund to do the activity and are then allowed to buy from the shops (they should spend it all). If there are no NBPs the facilitator can act as the group doing the community service work. To avoid a long delay the facilitator can suggest a community activity, or a disaster like a flood that needs community assistance.
    • Trading continues. After 15 minutes they are all told to stop. (Use a timer!)
    • Discussion:
      • Each person takes a turn reading off the goods and services they have bought and also speaking about their experience.
      • If themes or tasks were used (see below) they can be scored by the other participants. (How good was your party? What was missing? etc...)
      • What were the benefits and challenges? Generally most of these items can be touched on time allowing.
  • Take away
    • The implementation team should begin to have an idea of what design choices will make the system work, such as denominations, amounts, guarantors, typical things people sell, amounts and values.
    • The team should have the ability to replicate the exercise as a tool to explain how a community currency works.
    • Business Participants: Have a clear understanding of a community currencies – and also the willingness and security to participate.
    • Often these introductory sessions are a good place to start building a core working group from the business community that will start moving things forward.
  • Options:
    • Themes
      • Each participant can be given a theme or task, that gives them a goal in the game (for both the barter and community currency section).
      • These themes can include, weddings, funerals, a birth, getting kids ready for school, throwing a party, starting a small business. If someone has the wedding card their goal is to barter for or purchase things for a wedding.
      • After the game participants can say if they finished their goal or they still need more items - and where those items could be found. Looking at missing items in the network is important for people to think about building a diverse market.
    • Creating a trading Map
      • Through the trades in the previous exercise the participants should be able to visualize the flows of goods and services.
      • e.g.: Place everyone's name on a printed map of the area and draw arrows between them representing the trades that they recorded.
      • Note the loops and stranded members. Talk about how the interconnections creates resilience, and how to make it more connected.
      • This map can be used again and again at future sessions.
    • A Board/Card Game
      • While it is invaluable for local prosumers to think about what they actually sell and interact with each other in the game - developing a board or card game with pre-printed currencies, trading cards, theme cards, a score list and so on, would make this accessible to non-purely local business groups.