Seedstock: a community currency in Vancouver

Author/s:  Jacint Simon

Creation date: 2015-04-30

Contact info: jacintsimon@gmail.com

Senior supervisor: Meg Holden

Keywords:  Community currency, community way, seedstock, challenging neoliberalism, social change, grassroots innovation

Geographic focus: Vancouver, BC; British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: What is the Seedstock story? What are the prospects for a new community currency like Seedstock in a context of relative prosperity and rising inequality?

Significance

While community currencies have typically flourished during economic downturns, Seedstock is a community currency with a broader set of goals. It was designed to operate in greater Vancouver, an urban region dealing with increasing income disparities. This research therefore helps to understand and generalize the challenges faced by community currenceis. It provides new insights into the difficulties of an untried community currency in a diverse and competitive business atmosphere. Also, a recent upsurge of scholarly work on community currencies has demonstrated their ability to increase local economic activity and promote social inclusion of disadvantaged groups such as elderly or at-risk youth. This research aims to contribute to that body of literature.

Findings

It is premature to determine the success or failure of Seedstock, but through an ethnographic case study approach, the author determined that the founders underestimated the educational efforts required to communicate a relatively unknown and complicated concept. Overall, a miscalculated target audience and insufficient resources devoted to communication and education resulted in a slow uptake by local businesses and low engagement by non-profits. The story of Seedstock demonstrates the values and risks of applying ‘small is beautiful’ economics in a contemporary urban setting like Vancouver.