Vol. 22 (Summer) Issue 2, pp.16-38

The District Currency: a new currency design for managing the commons

Jens Martignoni

University of Cologne, Germany. Email: jens@nethood.org


Most schemes of complementary currencies developed in the last 50 years are based on the “money as a means of exchange”- concept, which means exchange of individual agents based on their individual needs and offers. The individual person or the individual company is an actor in a network and by establishing a market it is possible to exchange goods and services. Mutual Credit systems LETS or Timebanks e.g. do support mostly this market case and many of them limit common activities to the sole operation of the system itself. Therefore, community currencies today are often currencies operating within a community but not necessary for the community. Interestingly the case of a commons is mostly not recognized as a completely different kind of exchange where needs of a whole group have to be satisfied through offers of individuals and offers of the whole (commons) have to be shared justly among the individual members. Such an exchange asks for different features from a community currency. This was the starting point of a project in Zurich, Switzerland to develop a more suitable and effective currency. The resulting new currency model, called district currency is proposed and analysed in this paper. The district currency is therefore an advanced currency type, which is designed upon the commons idea. It is the needs and tasks of the community, the public (community) goods and common tasks based on the commons, which are the core and drivers of the currency. As a secondary element the traditional individual market-based system complements this commons layer and strengthen its impact. Therefore, it could be seen as a two tiers model.

The paper describes basics, premises and functions of the idea including some historical background and more specifically the case of Wörgel in Austria which has some interesting aspects have that still not widely taken into consideration.  The main features of the district currency model are including the intended and controllable circulation, the democratic decision of the spending and budgeting and the commons-based value system. The currency was developed along a case study in a housing co-operative in Zurich. Experiences with the planning district-currency-game give some important hints for the feasibility and the functioning of such an improved currency model and the open questions remaining to be answered. The development of this model has been a long-term process driven through empirical research and action and the goal of the paper is to engage more researchers and practitioners to contribute towards the needed theoretical foundation and feasibility studies.


Community_Currencies, Co-operatives , Housing_Co-operatives, Special_Purpose_Currencies, Commons, District, Democratic_Decision_Making, Monetary_Theory


Article Martignoni

To cite this article: Martignoni, Jens (2018) ‘The district currency: a new currency design for managing the commons” International Journal of Community Currency Research 2018 Volume 22 (Summer) 16-38 <www.ijccr.net> ISSN 1325-9547. DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.15133/j.ijccr.2018.014