Living Up to Visionary Statements

Photo by Jason Houston

Since its launch in September of 2006, one million fifty-nine thousand BerkShares have been placed in circulation through participating BerkShare banks. This means that citizens have exchanged over $953,000 for BerkShares.

BerkShares are returned to the banks when businesses find they have too many to use for their own purchases. A net amount continues out in circulation, keeping exchanges local and wealth in the community. As of August 15, 2007, the net number of BerkShares in circulation was 192,000.

How does the BerkShares team track these numbers, you ask? Simple. When a new bank signs on to trade in BerkShares, BerkShares, Inc. opens an account at that bank. There are twelve bank locations, and as of next week Lenox National Bank on Main Street in Lenox will join the banks exchanging BerkShares.

When a Berkshire resident goes in to one of the banks and trades federal dollars for BerkShares, the federal dollars are deposited into the BerkShares account at the bank to back the BerkShares This exchange is shown as a deposit to the account. When a business returns to the bank with BerkShares to trade for federal dollars, this is shown as a withdrawal from the account. This system was designed with help from our banking partners. It provides an elegant way of seeing the flow of BerkShares in the community.

In the past year the Schumacher Center has often been in the spotlight of national and international press interested in exploring the BerkShares local currency project. The staff of the Center has been answering questions and ushering press crews around Great Barrington, Massachusetts to demonstrate the effect BerkShares are having on our community. The resulting stories from Reuters, The New York Times, The London Times, ABC World News, CBS, BBC, TF1 (France), NTV (Moscow), Dutch Television, and many others have not only popularized the idea of local currency issue, but also initiated a dialogue around the world on local self-sufficiency and economic independence.

While responding to press inquiries, the Schumacher Center staff has also been busy implementing and further developing this model program. This work is often consuming and sometimes handling the necessary details takes our minds away from the thinking that culminated in the launch of BerkShares. In his 1984 essay, “The Role of Local Currency in Regional Economic Development” Bob Swann wrote:

When a region begins assuming the power to support their own business needs by issuing their own currencies then we will have taken great strides toward regional self-reliance, greater security, full employment, and an economy of permanence.

There is great excitement in watching BerkShares begin living up to these visionary statements. Bob’s dedicated work in solidifying the theory behind implementing a local currency has made the reality of the work at hand a joy to undertake.