With so much focus on the financial economy, it is easy to forget there is a diversity of economies, trade and exchange relationships operating in our communities.
The visible part of the iceberg (from Community Economics) represents the capitalist market-based economy, but there is so much of the iceberg we cannot see; so many other relationships and exchanges happening.
Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.
In cultural anthropology, reciprocity refers to the non-market exchange of goods or labour ranging from direct barter (immediate exchange) to forms of gift exchange where a return is eventually expected (delayed exchange) as in the exchange of birthday gifts.
Pay It Forward
Pay It Forward is an economy/interaction where if one is the recipient of a good or service, instead of ‘returning the favour’, a good or service is repaid to someone else.
There are many ways to get involved in local, national and international Pay If Forward initiatives.
Timebanking is similar to Pay It Forward economics in that you receive a good or service from someone without the exchange of money, but you do not necessarily return the exchange with them. Timebanking is an example of a complementary currency, where the currency is time instead of money.
Another example of complementary currency is a local currency, which is currency that can be spent in a particular geographical locality or at participating organisations.
A local currency acts as a complementary currency to a national currency, rather than replacing it, and aims to encourage spending within a local community, especially with locally owned businesses.
Collaborative Consumption and the Sharing Economy
Also known as shareconomy,collaborative economy, or peer economy, a common academic definition of the term refers to a hybrid market model (in between renting and gift giving) of peer-to-peer exchange.
Collaborative consumption is an arrangement where participants share access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership.
Cooperatives are enterprises owned and governed by people that have voluntarily united to meet their needs and aspirations. CO-OP offers useful information to understanding what cooperatives are and how they work.
Improving The Current System
As well as incorporating alternative economies into our current system (and recognising where they are already incorporated), there are also ways that we can improve on the business-as-usual approach: even if we want to operate in the capitalist, conventional system, we can improve on it by embedding our values in the way we do business.
Some examples of how we can do this are by being committed to the welfare of the people we work with (e.g. by paying a Living Wage or ensuring Fair Trade standards are upheld), the communities we work in, and the local and global environment.
Social Enterprises are an emerging type of business that work towards social value (like traditional charities) and financial value (like traditional businesses): they are the place where not-for-profit meets for-profit to for not-just-for-profit organisations.