THE group behind a highly successful alternative local currency says the system is continuing to thrive, as it issues banknotes for a fifth time.
Findhorn-based, Ekopia, launched community currency, Eko, in 2002 as an alternative to sterling, and to complement local exchange trading system (LETS) schemes. LETS are locally initiated, democratically organised, not-for-profit community enterprises that record transactions of members exchanging goods and services.
Eko notes are in one, five, ten and 20 denominations. Traders can redeem the currency in sterling from Ekopia according to certain criteria it sets.
Notes are available at the Findhorn Bay Holiday Park and Visitors Centre.
Chairman of charity Ekopia Resource Exchange, Alex Walker, confirmed around 20,000 Ekos have been in permanent circulation since the launch, with an estimated annual turnover of over £100,000 used by around 150 people.
He said: "There was a preexisting local currency that had existed since the early 1980s but it was really only designed for use by the Findhorn Foundation. It was agreed that Ekopia was a suitable vehicle for taking the idea forward so that it had a much wider applicability.
"I don’t think the Eko is much used beyond the Ecovillage community but it is of potential interest to the local area as well."
Mr Walker explained that Eko differs from LETS in terms of its theoretical background.
He said: "If you add up all the balances on a LETS system they should equal zero, whereas our Eko notes in circulation have a net positive value backed by the sterling value the notes are worth.
"Furthermore, a LETS system records all individual transactions, whereas a currency system does not and exactly where the notes all are at any one time is unknown.
"LETS systems are often aimed at reducing underemployment, whilst local currencies are aimed at boosting local trade. There are of course lots of similarities as well but the two can and do coincide quite happily."
Local organisations that accept Eko notes include: the Phoenix Shop; Findhorn Bay Holiday Park; the Phoenix Café; the Findhorn Foundation; the Bakehouse Café; and the Kimberley Inn.
As a result of surpluses created by sales of notes to community members, grants and low-interest loans have been made to bodies including the Festivals Group, Youth Project and New Findhorn Association.
"A new fund will be created soon from any surpluses arising from the fourth issue," added Mr Walker.
"We also invest the money raised as a way of supporting various projects. At the moment this is aimed at affordable housing projects we have locally."