The Garden City community issued its own community currency in 2008. The basic idea is for people to keep economic activity within the community.
The permaculture concept includes the use of local currencies. Ithaca, New York, for example, introduced its own local currency in the 1970s.
A local currency, (also called "community currency") is printed and issued at the local level, and can be used to purchase goods and services. The underlying spirit, however, is very different.
The Garden City community in New Taipei City's Xindian District began issuing a community currency on May 20, 2008 at the suggestion of resident Lai Jiren, an active participant in community affairs. They call it "flower money," and the idea is for people to help each other through activities supported by use of the currency. The organization running the scheme calls itself the Flower Money Club (hua qian bang), a pun with a second meaning: "spend money to help."
Upon joining the club, each member receives 200 basic spending points. To spend the flower money, the parties to a transaction need to agree on how to deliver payment. They are not subject to the expectations, practices, or prices of mainstream society.
Club members provide courses in photography, yoga, composting, haircutting, babysitting, computer repair, and exchanges of second-hand goods. Hanging out another family's bedding to air in the sun has even been sold as a service.
One of the currency's promoters, Jiang Huiyi, remarks: "The purpose of a community currency is to create demand, and encourage community residents to start up new businesses or take advantage of special skills. It's also a way of getting residents who weren't ever in the habit of calling on others for help, to change their habits."
Wang Peijun gives yoga classes, for which she accepts tuition payment in the form of both community currency and barter arrangements. "Holding the class in the community reduces my carbon footprint, and a longing to return to nature can be triggered by what the course brings them in contact with." The dozen or more types of plants she grows on her tiny balcony, the rainwater collection system on her roof, and a rack in her kitchen, were all bought with flower money.
However, the Flower Money Club has hit some bottlenecks in its two-plus years of existence. Jiang Huiyi reports that most people still shop with regular money, and sometimes a club member who is willing to spend flower money can't purchase a particular service at a time of his or her convenience, or the service provided is of subpar quality. Differences in the way goods or services are exchanged "for a consideration" have triggered many a dispute between individuals with conflicting values. Another fly in the ointment is the fact that a large percentage of the community residents pursue careers involving cultural or artistic pursuits, so the similarity in their backgrounds limits the variety of services that people there can offer.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that the Flower Money Club is growing but slowly, it does in fact serve as a catalyst for cultural transformation. Especially now that their community currency scheme has received media attention, many community colleges and private-sector firms have come to ask about the feasibility of their doing something similar. A farmers' market in Taichung called Hope Market, for example, has begun promoting a community currency of its own. It features a "time bank," which employs something akin to stored-value cards. Volunteers with special skills can provide services to farmers and build up points on their "time bank" cards, which they can then use to buy products from farmers at a preferential price.
By spurring mutual self-help, community currencies enable residents to consume outside the community less often. "Small and beautiful" economic activities are retained within the community, trust among residents is strengthened, feelings of well-being are reinforced, and community cohesiveness is strengthened.