Participatory Learning Tools for

Understanding Community Currency Systems

The following activities are designed to involve participants in understanding how Community Currency Systems (CCS) work, how they benefit the community, and how they can be used to generate discussion on the topic of alternative economics.

This section is divided into three parts. First, we present short activities which can be used as an ice-breaker, brief introduction and for audiences with limited literacy. We then move on to longer and more complex activities.

"One should always bear in mind that nothing is harder to prepare for, harder to succeed in, and as dangerous to execute, than declaring yourself a man dedicated to change. Because he who does, makes enemies of the defenders of the old order and has only lukewarm support among those who might benefit from the new order. A lack of enthusiasm partly born out of fear for the opposition, who have the law on their side, and partly from the distrust of a people who won't believe in change unless they've experienced it"

Niccolo Machiavelli,

The Prince, 1513/1976.)

Activity: Offer and Request Bulletin Board

By: Stephen DeMeulenaere, Indonesia Community Currency Systems (ICCS)

Description: There is much wealth in our community, much more than we know unless we build an inventory of the goods, services, and knowledge of the people in a community.

Purpose: To see what the participants have to offer each other should a community currency system be started in their community.

Time Required: Best used before a workshop starts, and as a wrap up discussion with the participants.

Materials Required: Chalkboard or wall with Post-It Notes or a large sheet of paper and a pen.


1. Put the following sample category headings on the board:

Something you can teach

Something you can make at home

Something you want to learn

Your hobby or craft activity

The work you do

What you spend money on most

Or, organize categories using the following as a guide:

Agriculture, Business, Building Trades, Crafts, Children, Education, Health, Food, Languages, Recreation, Transportation, Volunteers, Miscellaneous

2. As the participants come in, ask them to write at least one line in each category, plus their name.

3. Do any of the other activities in this guide. Following the workshop or during the break, encourage the participants to look over or add to the board with listings that are different than those they can see up on the board.

Activity: Explosion of Interest
By: Anonymous

Description: A quick & easy way to visually show how fast interest grows.

Time Required: A half hour.

Materials required: A chessboard and about 1000 small coins.


1. Place one coin on the first square of the board, two on the second, four on the third, and etc. until all the squares are full.

2. Or, take the rate of interest in your country and demonstrate the rate of growth accordingly.


Activity: 'The Bucket’

By: Menno Salverda and Jeff Powell, Thailand Community Currency Systems (TCCS)

Description: ‘The Bucket’ is a simple, participatory activity that allows participants to understand how and why money flows out of a community using visual reinforcement.

Purpose: To demonstrate that communities become dependent on external sources of income if they do not take steps to ensure sufficient circulation of money within the community.

Time Required: About 15 minutes for the activity and 30 minutes for discussion.

Materials Required: Two plastic buckets, some pieces of tape, a stir stick and some water.

Preparation: Puncture one (1) of the buckets with about 12 holes, then cover the holes with the tape. Allow the second bucket to remain useful. It works well if you fold over a corner of the tape so that it can be removed easily without having to scrape it off with your nail! Test out the size of the holes—if they are too small, water will not be able to flow out; if they are too large, the tape will not hold. Fill the second bucket with water. The activity is best conducted outdoors where water can be splashed about. If it is necessary to do the activity indoors, the empty bucket should first be placed in a large basin or washtub.


1. The facilitator begins with two buckets—one empty and one full. The empty bucket, which represents the local economy, is placed on the ground and participants stand around it. Everyone should have a clear view of the bucket. Ask participants how they earn money in their community. As responses are given, ask that person to pour some water from the full bucket into the empty bucket in the middle. A lot of water denotes a primary income-generating activity; a little water symbolizes a secondary enterprise. If an activity is suggested which involves trading within the community, no additional water should be poured into the bucket—this represents a transfer of money from one community member to the next.

2 Once the community economy bucket is nearing full or participants are out of income generating activities, explain to participants that the goal of community currencies (or any CED activity, for that matter) is to encourage the money to circulate many times within the community. Stir the bucket with your hand or a stick. (Note: you have just explained the ‘multiplier effect’!) Rather than enriching one person and then leaving town, money that circulates many times within the community enriches all.

3. Unfortunately, in our community we also have expenses. Once again ask participants to list their expenses. For each example, it must be decided whether the expense represents money flowing out of the community. If, for example, Mayuree buys vegetables from neighbour Pornpimon, then no money leaves the community. Stir the bucket. If, however, Mayuree buys a new 24-inch colour Sony, ask Mayuree to come forward and peel one of the pieces of tape off of the bucket. Water should rush out.

4. Once all of the holes have been uncovered, or participants have exhausted their list of expenses, ask participants how they can do a better job of ‘keeping their bucket full’. One suggestion will be to pour in more water (income generation). Ask participants how effective this will be if the number of holes and size of holes are continually getting bigger. The other suggestion, of course, will be to plug some of the holes. This can be accomplished in two ways; one, we can reduce our expenses, or, we can purchase local goods and services as substitutes for imported ones. This is an ideal lead-in to, for example, the second round of the community currency simulation.


Activity: Cooperation vs. Competition (Prisoner's Dilemma)

By: Stephen DeMeulenaere, Indonesia Community Currency Systems

Description: A two-group activity in which teams decide which is best for them, to cooperate with others or to compete with them. Competition requires charging interest, cooperation requires not charging interest. The goals are either to get rich at the expense of others, or to have enough for everyone in the community.

Purpose: To demonstrate that cooperation can evolve in the long run even though in the short run it seems better to act selfishly.

Time Required: Game can be played within one hour, with discussion to follow.

Materials Required: The following chart can be put on a flipchart or chalkboard.

Team 1 Choice

Team 2 Choice

Payoff Team 1

Payoff Team 2




This chart can be expanded for as many rounds as the facilitator wants to play, the reasons for this are that teams will likely choose competition in the early rounds, and then realize that cooperation is the better option.


Strategies & Payoffs, Verbal Form

1. The facilitator describes the following to everyone, then separates them into two groups:

"You are the resident of a small community that is still suffering from a long monetary crisis. Everyone is in debt, and needs money badly. You can all pool your money together and lend it to each other interest-free so that you can all eventually pay off your debts. Or, you can lend your money out to your neighbours at interest, knowing that you will get rich quickly as your neighbours get poorer. Your Neighbour also has to choose what to do to pay off their debts."

You have two choices, to charge interest or not. When matched with your neighbour's choices, there are up to four results:

1. If you choose to lend money at interest, and your neighbour does too, you will both get rich very quickly, but only for a very short term, and then poorer because you both become indebted to each other while the community economy collapses around you.

2. If you choose to lend at no interest, and your neighbour does too, you will both have the opportunity to pay off your debts and you will all have enough to survive and the community will prosper for the long term.

3. If you lend money at interest, and your neighbour does not, you will get richer and your neighbour will get poorer. You will get rich in the short term, but will be poorer in the long term as the community economy collapses.

4. If you lend money interest-free, and your neighbour does not, you will have a smaller income in the short term, and no income in the long term when the community collapses, but your neighbour will get rich in the short term until the community economy collapses.


5. The group is separated into two, and moved into separate rooms. The facilitator then asks each group for its choice, which may take some time for discussion.

6. When each group has made its choice, it is recorded on the flipchart, and reported to both groups.

7. The following format is used for recording choices on the flipchart:

Strategies and Payoffs, Table Form

Group 1 (Row)

Group 2 (Column)

Lend Money At Interest

(result: right side of column)

Pool Money Interest-Free

(result: right side of column)

Lend Money at Interest

Rich Quickly / Rich Quickly

But only temporarily.

Rich Quickly / Enough Money

But only temporarily.

Pool Money Interest-Free

Enough Money / Rich Quickly

But only temporarily.

Sustainable Income

For the long term.

5. The game is played until both groups realize that cooperation is the better choice, at which point the facilitator stops the game and brings both groups together for the discussion.


1. What is the best position for you to be in? (one who lends at interest when the other lends interest-free).

2. What is the best overall position? (both agree to lend interest-free).

3. What went through your mind when you chose between X and Y?

4. What did you think was going through the other player's mind?

5. If you could have communicated with the other person, what would you have said?

6. What is the way out of this dilemma? (Neighbours agree to pool their money together and exclude you and anyone who wants to charge interest.)


Activity: Community Currency Theatre
By: Peter Moers, ACTES, El Salvador

Purpose: To explore, using theatrical role play, different solutions to the problem of the scarcity of money.

Materials: Paper hats for three people.


1. Three volunteers are asked to come to the front. Tell them they are the only persons that live in a village and they find themselves in the local market. None of the three brought money to the market, but everybody brought something to sell.

2. Every person receives a paper hat (you know, the once that you fold with a big piece of paper). The first person receives a hat on which is written: "I have cow". The second person receives a hat which says "I have chicken". The third person receives a hat that says "I have corn".

The first person holds a paper in his hands which says "I need corn" (big letters, clearly visible to the public). The second person holds a paper in his hands which says "I need cow". The third person holds a paper in his hands which says "I need chicken".

3. To make the game more realistic, choose products which are common in the region, have more or less the same value and - if possible - make sure the products are physically present (especially important in case of an illiterate public).

Ask the public what the three can do in order to satisfy their needs. Basically there are three possibilities:

1. Direct barter: make the three volunteers exchange their papers so that they all end up with what they want. This is possible but a very inefficient and inflexible way to trade because the traders have to coincide in:

- place

- value of the goods

- time of transaction.

A fourth possibility is to record the initial transaction (in case the 3-way transaction cannot be made right away) and try to clear it later.

It is therefore not probable that many transactions will occur this way.

2. One of the volunteers receives a loan in $: give one of the participants a paper note of 10 pesos (or whatever national currency) and tell him you want 11 pesos back later.

Volunteer #1 uses the note to buy his chicken from #2; #2 buys fish from #3; and #3 buys corn from #1.

Obviously, the problem appears on how #1 will obtain the additional 1 peso. The disadvantages of this alternative are:

- the effect is temporary, because when the loan has been paid back, the situation (monetary scarcity) remains unchanged. Rather the amount of money in the community has reduced, because #1 has to pay interest.

- #1 can use his loan to take the bus to Jakarta, buy a beer and return empty-handed (you can make hilarious scenes out of this option, depending on how much time you have).

3. Emit a loan in community currency to one (or all three) of the volunteers. This alternative has a permanent effect, because: - the loan does not have to be returned (unless the person leaves the community), and the community money cannot flow out of the community


Activity: Service Charge vs. Interest

By: John Turmel

Purpose: The economic system which uses interest decides who wins and who loses, not the person who plays. In the service charge economy, everyone wins.


1. Three types tokens to represent food, shelter and energy, one for each player.

2. Fair chance mechanism like a coin or dice.

3. Tokens to represent currency (11 for round 1, 11 for round 2, for each player).

4. One token for each player to represent collateral.

5. A bowl to represent the bank.


Round One: The Debt Economy

1. Each player pledges their collateral for an 10 token loan. They each had to repay 11 tokens at the end of the game.

2. Each player pays 10 currency tokens to receive their product token.

3. Use fair chance to determine who will successfully market their product. Take two players with identical product tokens and flip a coin to see who wins. The winner returns their token to the bowl, and receives 11 currency tokens.

4. Take the group of losers and flip between them to see who wins, until the currency runs out.

5. When the currency runs out, seize the player's collateral and production token.

6. Explain to the winners how their currency tokens had now inflated (lost value) because now there were less tokens in the economy.

Round Two: The No-Interest Economy

1. In this round, all guests borrow 11 and must repay 11 (No interest). The 11 currency token goes to pay the community bank's service charge.

2. All players pledge their collateral for an 11 token loan.

3. All players spend 10 tokens to purchase their production token from the market bowl and spend their last one into the market to pay for the services of those who facilitated the transactions.

4. Use the coin to determine the winners and losers.

5. As it turns out, there are no losers. Nobody lost their collateral and the bank got paid.

6. Explain to all players that there were enough products and collateral for the currency to retain its original value, unlike in Round one. Everybody sold all their product tokens (100% employment).


In Round One (the Debt Economy), the bank demands payment of money it did not create, whereas in round two we created what we needed to make the economy work. With exactly enough markets to match the volume and prices of goods produced, there can be no such thing as bankruptcy.


Activity: Quota
By: Cooperative Games Handbook

Purpose: We get what we need from each other if we ask.

Materials Required: Deck of cards.

Number of Players: 3 players per group, up to 4 groups.

Time Limit: 15 minutes maximum.


1. The facilitator is the leader, dealing 3 cards to each player.

2. Each group checks their cards and decides between them which pattern to try and get.

3. The players then go to other groups and seek trade with them for the cards they need. Each group must collect one sample from following patterns:

-8 face cards.

-8 of one color

-8 of one suit

-8 in a numerical row

-8 all even numbers, any suit

-8 all odd numbers, any suit

3. When the group gets a pattern, they receive 8 more cards to try and complete another series with. 


Activity: Start an Exchange Club
By: Heloisa Primavera, Argentina Red Global de Trueque

Purpose: To introduce the concept and mechanism of the RGT.

Materials: Photocopied tokens.


1. First meeting: there must be a minimum of 20 persons.

2. Using the bulletin board or going around in a circle, each person says 3 things they would offer if they joined, and one thing they need.

3. Using virtual (photocopied creditos), they go to the person who offers what they want and make a sample negotiation in creditos.

4. Discussion of the program. People are asked to bring goods to trade, or be prepared to negotiate services at the next meeting.

5. At the second meeting, the group is organized. They choose the coordinator, secretary, treasurer, timekeeper, moderator, quality control group (3-4), Price Control Group. Choose receptionist who receives and assists new members, 2-3 for each role to rotate during the market.

6. This groups receives 50 credits each to begin trading. All subsequent members must wait 3 months before they receive theirs. They agree on the next date of the market.

7. The trading begins. During the first market, the coordinators put up the tables, and ensure that particular types of products are concentrated in groups

8. There is some analysis of activity that occurs in the market, by using notes that have blocks on the back that are filled in after each sale.


Activity: The Local Economy Web
By: Bryce Gilroy-Scott, Centro Bartolomé de las Cases, El Salvador

As the participants arrive for the workshop they are asked to individually think of at least one good or service that they can offer and at least one good or service that they need. Participants should be encouraged to list more in either or both categories.

This information is written out on a large piece of paper, or like material, visible to all participants.

This first step is a basic diagnostic of the local community economy, based on the needs and desires of the community participants.

If people cannot write this information down themselves, the workshop/exercise facilitators should expect to assist this process. In non-literate communities, it remains an important part of the workshop process to visually post this information, both for the facilitator and for the participants, as a concretization of the community responses and a visual reinforcement for the next step in the process.

The workshop participants stand in a circle. Either a participant or a facilitator will start (they will be holding a ball of yarn or equivalent material).

They introduce themselves to the circle (name, where they are from, etc.). They then state one of the goods or services they can offer. They then state one of the goods or services they need.

Anyone/everyone who can provide that good or service raises their hand or somwhow signals. The first speaker who is holding the ball of yarn, will throw the yarn to whoever raised their hand or choose among those who did.

The recipient of the ball of yarn then introduces themselves. They re-state the good or service they can provide and they can list new ones. They then state what good or service they need or would like to have. After a person(s) responds, they choose someone to throw the ball of yarn to.

The exercies continues until everyone in the circle has been brought into the 'community web'.

If there is a 'block' where there is no one who can provide a needed good or service, it is the facilitator's job to use the community diagnostic posted on the wall to find a solution or to come up with a compromise that will allow the exercise to continue (ie: trying a different need or a good or service that partially fulfills the one desired).

As the exercise progresses, the community participants will be woven together by the the growing web of yarn. This web is based on their mutual needs and offers of goods and services that are presently available in their community.

The significance of this web and its' relation to a CCS system, will be the subject of the ensuing discussion which should focus on one or several aspects of a CCS system.

Bryce Gilroy-Scott
San Salvador, El Salvador
February 2004