And so, we now have ready access to bitcoin right here in the ’hood. Yup, on your way home from the Chocolate Messenger you can make a quick stop at the Jug & Milk and voilà, your bitcoin fix is satiated. I spoke to Sam, the forward-thinking proprietor on the day his bitcoin ATM was installed and he confirmed there had already been two users. If you already have a wallet to store your cryptocurrencies, then you’re good to go…you’ve probably also got an account with one of the growing number of cryptocurrency exchanges too.
For the uninitiated, bitcoin was the first digital currency, and should you wish to buy some, or any of the other cryptocurrencies such as ethereum or ripple from the growing list, you would need a special kind of wallet to store them. Technically speaking, since bitcoins and the like do not exist in any physical shape or form, they cannot actually be stored anywhere. Instead, you use your private key to access your public bitcoin address and authorize transactions that are then securely stored. A combination of the recipient’s public key and your private key is what makes a cryptocurrency transaction possible. What really makes this all possible is the advent of the technology known as blockchain.
Enter the Leaside dollar
In theory, blockchain is a shared, distributed ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking tangible or intangible assets in a network. Virtually anything of value can be securely and reliably tracked and/or traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk, creating transparency, and cutting costs for all involved. My purpose here is not ‘cryptocurrency 101’, rather it is to suggest that there are readily available technologies that can underpin a truly transformative community initiative with the power to benefit all of us living in Leaside. As proactive an investor as I like to think I am, I’ll leave bitcoin for the more adventurous. I prefer to invest my money where it will make the most difference for our family. Yes, I’m talking about the Leaside dollar.
Complementary or community currencies are a medium of exchange that is a growing worldwide trend. Many local communities around the world have created their own. The time for a Leaside dollar has arrived. In towns, counties and communities around the world, local residents have come up with alternatives to the usual way of paying for goods and services. Instead of dollars, pounds, francs or yen, they are spending these privately developed alternatives at local participating businesses and institutions that mutually agree to do trade using this particular payment form. The “International Journal of Community Currency Research” identifies four main purposes: to promote local economic development; to build social capital; to nurture more sustainable lifestyles; and to meet needs that the national currencies seemingly do not.
Community currencies encourage spending at local businesses where a loyal two-way relationship can generate a number of benefits for both customers and suppliers once the program becomes well embedded in the local economic and social ecosystems. Think for example, if local business leaders like Andy at Grilltime, Mike at Horticultural Design, or David at M&S Auto, or incoming entrepreneurs Ryan and Dave of Green Canoe, and countless others were to jump on board, while at the same time our community embraced the idea and began to ‘vote’ with our Leaside dollars. Could we as customers supporting local business be more directly rewarded for our loyalty?
Leaside dollars would be created and administered locally. Its programs designed to benefit those who live, work and invest in our community. If we build the system on blockchain we could track data to prove that our collective choice to promote local business and social initiatives for the benefit of Leaside can truly make a difference for all concerned. Perhaps a small portion of our continued patronage with Leaside dollars could be set aside for locally beneficial uses such as: sponsorship of local youth sports teams (a growing problem that the Councillor recently brought to my attention), funds to support impassioned causes like Cheryl Vanderburg’s noble effort to beautify Leaside one empty Timmies cup at a time, or how about a bit of ‘love’ for our Leaside Property Owner’s Association as they struggle day in day out searching for reasonable compromise against the scourge of ‘intensification’ at our doorsteps?
I have always been drawn to the simple idea: what gets rewarded gets done. Perhaps Leaside dollars could be used to pay our ambitious and enterprising youth who provide strategically directed community service work. I wondered, as I read Muriel Wissell’s letter in our April issue confirming the challenge of Leaside’s growing volunteer problem, if Leaside dollars could be a possible solution? Encouragingly she wrote, “this (challenge) is driving innovation within churches…” Having our own currency just might be innovative enough to help.
There is obviously a lot more detail that I would love to cover if not for a word limit (e.g. ways we would fund the currency, the inclusion of the time element as a currency, how we would win local business support, etc). The key point here is that it is really up to us as a community to decide whether the Leaside dollar would be an initiative worth pursuing. I truly believe that we as an active community with a shared purpose can really make a difference by taking ownership of things that are collectively important to us. I would invest in Leaside dollars over bitcoin any day of the week. In this instance, with an innovative vision and good old Leaside pride, the idea of a Leaside dollar is worth exploring. We can do this. Do you think we should? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leasider Glenn Asano is a partner and principal consultant for the strategy and business development practice at Centred Performance. He is also an Instructor with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.