CCMag: Big Picture Interview: Stephanie Rearick

This interview appeared in the Community Currency Magazine (archive link), April 2012


While Madison, Wisconsin had been more in the news for their public struggle against right wing legislators last year, Dane County TimeBank has been constantly setting benchmarks for successful currency-led community developments. We talked to its founder, director and senior activist Stephanie Rearick.

by Leander Bindewald

What are the questions you would most want to explore with fellow movers and shakers in the complementary currency movement?

How can we flip things around and start valuing what is abundant and have exchanges around that while creating more abundance through use of CCs. And we need to figure out how to join forces and work together cooperatively to make different types of CC models work in a complementary fashion. Not only currencies though, but all kinds of initiatives that address the social and environmental problems that stem from current monetary and economic models.

What recent developments in the field do you find most exciting?

There is widespread recognition now about what is broken about the dominant economic models and a greater demand from the general public for new ideas and solutions, which is helpful for our work. And despite the still widespread silo thinking and compartmentalization among CC theoreticians and practitioners, there is a lot more communication happening now across the different camps in the CCs field. And some currency systems are starting to combine various complementary models all serving parts of the same goal.

And what do you see as key challenges, obstacles or blind spots which hinder the movement’s success?

It’s still in the silo-thinking and competitiveness. There seems to be a fair number of people in the CC movement who think they can find the magic-bullet-currency-system that works for fixing our whole economy. But I think they might just be replicating the same problems that our current economy has, which is mainly about undervaluing or devaluing whole classes of activities and people.
And we as a movement have been lacking in good outreach and communication strategies and strong policy strategizing. There is loads of that stuff to be done to develop the tools and skills to tackle the really huge and important things.

Where do you see untapped resources and unmet needs within the field of complementary currencies? And do you have any suggestions about how to bridge them?

I think the untapped resources are really to be found in the general public. There are so many people to whom it has never occurred that there is a reason to think about money. They need to understand that the economy they live in can indeed be different. On this intuitive level timebanking for example has huge advantages. People come to us for a very specific needs, like a ride to the doctor but when they get involved they get a new sense of their own value and the value that is all around them in their community.

Besides financial support, what would help the acceleration of the monetary shifts that are needed?

I think working with people at the level of their own communities is what would have the biggest impact. It’s about getting people involved where they are at, which is very seldom in the academic or economics arena. Focusing on working with people to solve problems and achieve goals in their communities is something that I think can be unleashed now. And again, it’s more of a communication and education effort than anything else.

What could bring about a tipping point in the shift from a monopoly of bank debt money toward a monetary ecology? And is the idea of a “tipping point” the best way of thinking about that change?

A lot of people operating in their communities, adapting different models for their own need and spreading outwards from there, reaching out towards each other can ultimately bring about that tipping point.
Of course government could do a lot, positively, by e.g. accepting timebank-credits or other CCs for taxes. But I really see this coming from the ground up. And now the economic crisis is already a factor that is turning things upside down around everywhere.

There are those who feel we need to organize ourselves more efficiently (the way the Right has done in the United States), and those who suggest that there is strength in our natural diversity or that networked systems organize themselves. Where do you stand on this question?

It is important to be organized in terms of strategy and policy development. But it is tricky for me to really think about organizing around the concept of complementary currencies. That is too broad a concept. Complementary currencies are just tools or means to an end. Thinking too much about them as an end in itself is very much like Capitalism and has the same kind of problems. It would be much easier to organize towards a goal not the tools. But I see a constituency for the movement emerging from effective practices in individual communities and I think that will always be the strongest approach anyway.

A lot of valuable community-building initiatives in this movement are done by dedicated people, as a labor of love, but would often highly benefit from actual financial support. if you were given $10,000 to $50,000 to invest in strengthening the currency movement, how would you invest these funds?

I would invest in distributed tools and platforms to share information between the simultaneously experimenting communities around the world which are focused on solving their particular community problems. In this way we could learn from each other very rapidly, build each other’s capacity and start scaling up by replicating success in lots of different places.

This interview appeared in the Community Currency Magazine, April 2012

Living in Madison, Wisconsin which had seen more then economic trouble last year, do you think there is ground again for the world to turn to America for inspiration and change?

Things are very polarized here these day and there is a lot of strong resistance growing against the corporatization and kleptocracy that took over our economy and our government. But it’s still all in early stages and has a long way to go. But it is good to see this politicization taking root again, not only here in Madison. It is important that people realize now that they have to get engaged again. The circumstances are unfortunate but it’s a good trend and people starting to look for creative solutions to the scarcity problem more broadly.

  1. Complementarity instead of competition between CC systems
  2. Outreach to the general public and their everyday needs
  3. Support of local experimentation and learning