In Paris, a local currency gives back economic power to the citizens
The In-Venture team
The "Pêche", a local currency launched in Montreuil in 2014, is now in circulation in 5 districts of the capital. This initiative was led by the association Une Monnaie pour Paris !, created in January 2016 by students from Sciences Po Paris. The association already has more than 300 members committed to supporting the local economy of Paris.
The introduction of a local currency, which supplements the euro, aims to boost the local economy and strengthen the social bond between citizens of the same territory. Retailers and citizens who are members of the network can thus use the local currency as a mean of payment, so as to favor short circuits, reduce the carbon footprint of their consumption and combat tax evasion. There are around fifty local currencies in circulation in France, such as Eusko in the Basque Country, Sol-Violette in Toulouse, Roue in the Vaucluse region…
We interviewed Lucas Rochette-Berlon, co-founder and co-president of the association Une Monnaie Pour Paris!
Can you tell us about your background and what led you to create the association Une Monnaie pour Paris?
When I started my studies at Sciences Po Paris in 2015, I was already very involved in ecology and unionism. I was very much of a contestor, and although it is vital to say what is wrong, I started to think it lacked concrete actions. After the COP 21, which was supposd to be the "treaty of the century" that would solve all of our problems, I understood that the commitments of States did not go far enough and that the civil society had to organize itself, in order to limit the progression of global warming. A dilemma arose: if I embarked on a very concrete project, I risked compartmentalizing myself in one area and not being able to fight all the battles. So I looked for the common denominator. Money turned out to be at the center of many problems ... but also of many solutions. It was necessary to rethink money. In Marseille or Provence, local currencies had already emerged, but these initiatives remained distant from economic realities. In Paris, several attempts had failed. In December 2015, the release of the film Demain triggered a collective awareness. January 24, 2016, the first 7 members of Une Monnaie pour Paris! met for the first time: the association was created in the night. Soon, we were 15 and the first general assembly was held on May 11, 2016. We identified 3 fields of action: raising awareness among the general public (via social networks, field work, participating in alternative festivals, events at Sciences Po ...) co-construction with different stakeholders and prospecting with businesses and citizens. We’ve quickly structured ourselves, recruited new members at events, and we now have members of all ages.
What are the criteria to become a member of the network ?
We made the choice to be very demanding about the members of the association. In June 2017, in a Plenary Assembly, a fairly dense charter was voted, which sets our objectives and our horizon in 17 points. It is built around four pillars: democracy, ecology, solidarity and the local economy. A company which does not fully respect the charter must commit to set goals for 2 years, and the progress are evaluated by the association. We support them by putting them in touch with partners who help them set up local circuits, produce ecologically, use renewable energies, etc. As long as they have not achieved the stated objectives, these companies can not participate in the votes for changes to the statutes or the charter. We have also defined exclusionary criteria: a company that is a member of the association can not be part of a chain or a multinational corporation, since it is not possible to make decisions locally. It can also not be linked to human rights or labor violations, intensive livestock farming or industrial farming.
Was it easy to convince shop owners and citizens to join the network?
Since 2016, we have been contacted by associations wishing to join the network. But that required a lot of prospecting work. Today, we have trainees and an employee who take care of prospection because it takes a lot of time. For 10 meetings, usually only one is conclusive. This is why we have chosen to launch the local currency first in 5 districts, then to expand it progressively.
Technically, how does the conversion between euros and pêches work?
The parity is simple: 1 pêche for 1 euro. We have two permanent currency exchange counters in Paris, the REcyclerie and Aujourd’hui & Demain, as well as mobile counters that we set up in the events in which we participate. No depreciation or fluctuation, we wanted the easiest tool so everyone can access it. We are also working on an electronic money to simplify exchanges between suppliers and shop owners. Another original aspect of our model, we have implemented a bonus mechanism: when we convert euros, we create 3% more pêches. This means that if you exchange 100 €, you will receive 103 pêches, and you will be able to give these 3 additional pêches to an association or participate in the system of "suspended pêches", which will be stored for other people who need it more. Thanks to this type of solidarity mechanism, we try to reach a broader target than the Parisian "bobos", usually the privileged audience of these initiatives.
Are you supported by the Mayor of Paris?
We have been working with the Mayor’s office for 2 years. They are also considering other options but we hope to get their support soon. Meetings are planned to discuss this in the coming months.
In the long term, do you think that this could allow a relocation of the production? Do you hope for further benefits? Which ones?
We are pursuing several objectives with this project: pedagogy and popular education are important aspects, but above all we want to have real economic benefits and a positive impact on the climate. The main purpose of putting the pêche into circulation is to respond to poverty and environmental emergencies. With the scarcity of resources, more and more violent crises will break out in the future. It is necessary to strengthen the social bond to avoid a situation where the law of the strongest is needed. We must also relocate production, including agriculture, energy, but also basic goods and services (furniture, clothing, etc.), in order to be able to survive autonomously in the event of a crisis. For example, in Paris, only 3 days of food savings are currently planned. We want to make Paris a "transition town", or even the entire Ile de France a "transition region", to prepare for the after-oil. This is preparing for the long term. Local consumption leads to a virtuous circle that raises the standard of living, creates jobs and improves working and living conditions for citizens. It makes it possible to put a face and a name on the food producers, and thus by recreating this link, a respect and an understanding settles down. This allows the people to regain power over the economy and rebuild democracy.