Economies into Ecosystems

December 25, 2019

 

This is one of 6 locations around Kenya using Community Inclusion Currencies (CICs). Here you can see the trading between the 1,877 most-active users in the Mnyenzeni area of Kwale, Kenya (a chronically food-insecure area) over the last 2 months – November and December 2019. Their total amount of trade together was 5,476,805 tokens locally worth about $50,000 USD. To put this in context: Each user represents a family of ~5 living on ~50 USD a month – while they continue to spend that 50 USD they are now spending an additional 30 USD of CICs. Hence CIC spending could average around 38% of their spending – this is an increase of 1.6 times their consumption. That is roughly 1.6 times the children going to school regularly, 1.6 more meals being eaten and so on.

 

Rather than simply give out national currency as in typical aid programs the idea here is to seed the reserves of Community Inclusion Currencies (CICs).  The CICs leverage their reserve into 4x the amount of local credit available. CIC are essentially shares of both underlying reserves as well as social capital (community acceptance). People can use them to pull out the national currency in reserve over time or trade them with each other – acting as a medium of exchange when national currency is scarce.

This $50,000 USD of trade acts as a sustainable buffer system that is resilient to shocks that cause National Currency to vanish and stall markets. It is filling a gap left by a lack of medium of exchange. The 50,000 USD of trade shown here was done using roughly 10,000 tokens (CICs) each given an initial local value of about $1 USD. The reserve behind these tokens, the actual aid funding, was about $2.5k USD).

This means that $2,500 USD of Aid funds created 10,000 tokens (CICs) which were treated as shares and given a value of $10,000 USD – which was used to facilitate $50,000 USD of trade – this is an impact multiplier of 20x!

 

What is exciting about CICs is that any community could decide to take some capital and treat it as a commons and leverage it into a local credit system – and integrate with other credit systems. Those 1,877 users above are using 3 distinct Community Inclusion Currencies backed by different groups of businesses and their own reserves.

 

So how did these 3 currencies get started in the Mnyenzeni area of Kenya? Reserves in Kenyan Shillings were added by donors and the CICs were minted based on that collateral. The Chief, elders, and women’s groups all came together for training from other communities already using CICs and began using a feature phone-based (button phone = no need for internet or smart phone) platform to trade with each other, each having received an air-drop of 400 CICs (worth about $4 USD). Here in Kenya the injection of seed capital from Humanitarian Aid into the reserves of these systems is the jump start (bootstrap) that gets everyone involved and builds trust in the system. Most importantly the marketplace starts with a few groups (mostly savings and loan women’s groups) and foundational businesses or cooperatives that agree to accepting CICs. They give users a reason to continually refill the reserve and increase the value of the CICs.

 

What most excites me about 2020 is that these tools are being piloted and made available on an open source platform and could be available via Red Cross worldwide in the next few years. This means a lot for humanitarian aid, for poverty and for humanity.

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