The Community Currency Role Play

Created by Jeff Powell and Menno Salverda

November 17, 1999


Before You Consider Playing
Target Groups
Introducing the Role Play
How Round 1 is Explained
The Money Lender
End of Round 1 Discussion
How Round 2 is Explained
End of Round 2 Discussion
Possible Adaptations
Evolution of the Community Coupon Role Play


At the first 3-day seminar we organised in Thailand in August 1998, we thought it important to use a participatory (and fun!) method to present Community Currency Systems (CCS). Lectures could be very confusing for people who do not understand economic concepts. Having tried LETSplay!, we felt it did not reflect the realities in so-called ‘Third World’ situations, so we created a CCS role play.

The CCS role play was designed in Thailand and has since been adapted for Indonesia, where, in collaboration with CUSO Indonesia various community currency workshops were organised in which this role play featured.

The role play discussed below is based on the principles of a LETS (Local Employment and Trading System). The role play still functions as a mutual credit system, but unlike LETS, this role play uses coupons or notes while trading. Experienced CCS practitioners should not confuse this with the fiat currency of HOURS-based systems.

The role play is not perfect--it doesn’t attempt to recreate the complexity of a local economy. Nevertheless, it has proven to be a powerful starting point for discussion on various issues related to CCS. We hope it can be of use to other CCS practitioners in their efforts, especially in the Third World. CCS practitioners can adapt the rules however they see fit. We welcome suggestions, criticism and experiences of other practitioners in the field, in order to learn from you and improve our activities.

We start with the objectives of the role play. Next, we explain how to play; and, finally, we will briefly evaluate the role play, based on experiences in the field, as well as suggest some possible adaptations. There is another excel file which you require for this role play.

Print out the following sheets which we will explain and refer to in this document:

Before you consider playing the role play:

Target groups

The role play has been designed for dissemination purposes in rural prosumer communities. The game is, therefore, heavily biased towards rural activities. Nevertheless, we have also played it with middle class groups from Bangkok and from Java and Lombok. It does not require much work to adjust the game by changing the goods and services to be exchanged. The objectives of the game remain the same.

Objectives of the role play:


Introducing the Role Play

Before we start explaining the role play to the participants, usually we define what we mean by ‘community currencies’, by saying something like, "community currencies are a new type of money. They are interest-free and created by the community. They are used together with the national currency. Community currencies encourage locally based production and exchange. By doing this, they help to reduce the amount of national currency that leaves the community." It’s helpful to pass around a few examples of community currency notes or directories from existing CCS worldwide at this point. Following this (and depending on the audience and time constraints), we might explain a little bit of the history of the development and global spread of community currencies. This should help prepare the participants’ frame of mind.

The role play consists of two rounds. In the first round, community members trade their goods and services using only national currency. In the second round, they trade using national currency AND community currency.

The role play imagines a community of 12 members. We found that working in pairs (i.e. each role was played by 2 participants) was also workable, and sometimes even preferable. Every member has a "Member Card" identifying her/his profession, their savings, what goods they offer and at what price, and under what conditions that member plays the role play (see excel file). Some conditions are general, while others are specific to a particular role. For example, the rice farmer can only sell his/her rice to the merchant and can not directly sell to other community members.


How Round 1 is played (facilitator to explain to participants):


The Money Lender

This role needs some further elaboration. As mentioned before, it is advisable that the moneylender be played by a facilitator. The moneylender needs a list of members who are already in debt with him/her, so she can calculate what they owe at the end of each round. The moneylender makes a record of the additional amounts lent and adds new borrowers to his/her list. The member card of the moneylender states that the she has 500,000 Rupiah as savings. This, however, is mainly for presentation purposes only. The moneylender will manage all the money (kind of like the banker in Monopoly) and calculate her final balance by adding all the interest payments (or interest payments still owed) to her initial savings.

Example: A rice farmer who is 50,000 Rupiah in debt at the beginning of Round 1 asks to borrow another 20,000 Rupiah. The Money lender will tell the farmer that at the end of the round, they will have to repay both the principal and ten percent interest. After five purchases, the farmer returns, but only has 10,000 Rupiah cash in hand. The Moneylender calculates an interest payment of 10 % of the outstanding principal of 50,000 and 20,000 Rupiah = 7,000 Rupiah. To arrive at the final balance, it is important to note that only the accumulated interest payments (or interest payments owed) should be recorded. (This means the Moneylender has no costs—admittedly artificial.) The Moneylender should help the farmer calculate his balance. The farmer owes the Moneylender 50,000 + 20,000 (principal)+ 7,000 (interest) = 77,000 Rupiah. However, with cash in hand of 10,000 Rupiah the final balance is -67,000 Rupiah.

The facilitator, when summarising trading, should keep in mind that it is only the interest payments that leave the community, not the principal.


End of Round 1 Discussion

After Round 1 is finished facilitators can opt for a quick investigation of first impressions from all the participants. It is suggested a facilitator writes down on a flipchart some of the points raised as a reference for the general discussion after Round 2 (see discussion). During this quick session facilitators need to collect the money left over from the participants and prepare the Round 2 member cards by attaching the initial savings (same as Round 1).


How Round 2 is Played:


End of Round 2 Discussion

Summarise the trading summary sheet. How much national currency was left in the community at the end of round 1? After round 2? How much community currency was left in the community at the end of round 2?

The ensuing discussion should be led by a facilitator who is familiar with the issues. Most points should be raised by community members themselves. Additional points should be made by the facilitator only when necessary to advance the discussion. As pointed out above, the facilitators could opt to have part of the discussion at the end of round 1.

Possible Adaptations


Evolution of the Community Coupon Role Play

The role play has evolved out of other versions developed in Thailand. We started the role play using accounts where members had to record what they traded (as is the case in a LETS). We adapted the format of the role play from the use of accounts to the use of coupons following the urgings of villagers who had played the game. "Villagers don’t like writing things down." "Villagers aren’t proficient in arithmetic." When we suggested the use of coupons instead, everyone agreed.

Coupons are well known in Thailand; commonly used in food centres or school lunch programmes to replace cash. Understanding and acceptance has been much easier when we present CCS in a ‘coupon format’. Our experiences in Indonesia have confirmed this observation. As it turned out, the use of coupons also greatly simplifies the management of the role play for facilitators.

In practice, we have also chosen to change the term ‘community currency’ to ‘community coupon’. By using the term ‘community currency’, we risked sounding critical of Thailand’s Royal Family. Thais associate their currency, adorned with pictures of the present and past Kings, with the Monarchy. Furthermore, some felt that the notion of an ‘alternative currency’ might be seen as subversive in a country where the ‘Communist threat’ is still fresh in people’s minds. (For general usage in English, we still believe that the use of "Community Currency Systems" is more accurate.) In Indonesia there seemed to be no problems with the word ‘currency’.