The Community Way: Re-Thinking Our Money System

There are many areas of our lives where we seek change. Sometimes we seek physical change by exercising more. Sometimes we seek personal growth by attending workshops and seminars. Sometimes we seek to change our communities by volunteering. Sometimes we need to look at the big picture and think about changing the norms and infrastructures that limit the decisions and changes we seek.

  Our money system is one of these infrastructures that guide our social behaviors and patterns. Depending on the characteristics of our money, we can foster systems of greed and competition or encourage abundance and cooperation. Becoming aware of how our money “works” leaves us in a better position to make knowledgeable choices about the money we use and the changes we want to see.

  Currently our entire world, despite its cultural and social diversity, is organized around a common set of economic rules. These rules are created for the single purpose of making money for the sake of making money, while creating a state of scarcity and encouraging competition. One only needs to look around to see how the system values short-term gains and perpetual growth, excluding the communities and people that are of no value to the system, making them economically “irrelevant”. Many times we have seen our community needs set aside in the name of “development” and unchecked growth while Nanaimo has the highest rate of child poverty in all of BC.

  There does not have to be a choice between prosperity and economic irrelevance. There is room within our economy and our community for additional currencies to be created and used alongside traditional money to allow everyone within our communities to prosper. We can have a variety of currencies in place to satisfy the different needs within our community. With this in mind, I invite the community of Nanaimo to join me in creating economic, social and environmental balance in our community by participating in what I am calling the Nanaimo Community Way project.

  Nanaimo Community Way is a simple way for businesses to work together using their excess business capacity to support the community of Nanaimo, while simultaneously increasing business. Community Way starts by businesses monetizing their ability to sell goods and services in the form of a community currency. These “Nanaimo dollars” are then donated to community organizations and projects with the promise to accept them back in exchange for goods and services in the future (at a rate determined by the businesses).

  By donating to community organizations and community projects the money is widely distributed into Nanaimo where it is both providing funds for services that are essential for maintaining a healthy, resilient community and circulating as widely as possible. With this money circulating within Nanaimo, community members are then able to support both community organizations and local businesses by exchanging Canadian dollars for Nanaimo dollars at community organizations and then spending them at participating businesses. Community members create the Nanaimo they want by supporting local businesses and community organizations without losing any purchasing power.

  Community Way unites the needs of the individuals, businesses and community groups in a mutually beneficial cycle of support. It builds on the relationships already in place between Nanaimo businesses and the community they reside in. As these new local, business-backed Nanaimo dollars circulate, economic opportunities are created, stimulating local employment and production within businesses and community organizations. Finally, the best part of this project is that there are no Canadian dollars needed to participate because everything is done in Nanaimo dollars.

  Imagine what could be possible when complimentary economic systems are used in parallel, systems that balance competition and cooperation, central authorities and mutual trust, technology and social interactions. Imagine how communities can shape their own self reliance and empower and re-value those human activities that are considered non-market but are essential to building sustainable communities and ecological economies with alternative systems of production and exchange.

  I am proposing that we, here in Nanaimo, can make this change and create an “open” money system. By changing the way money works I hope to strengthen and support the community I live in. To start this project, we need a mix of 50 businesses to commit to an “I will if they will” agreement. Once these 50 initial businesses are signed on, all accounts will be registered and the Nanaimo dollars will begin circulation. Interested in how you, your business or community organization can get involved or find out who is already participating? Join us on this journey of change.


Chris Strashok has a degree in Chemical Engineering and a Masters in Environment and Management as well as a passion for fostering communities that are self reliant –  where we know who our neighbours and business owners are, and the decisions that affect our community are brought back to the community level.