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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

4 Co-ops With Their Own Currency

WIR cooperative is one of the most mind-blowing cooperatives I’ve ever come across. It is a “mutual credit” cooperative in Switzerland that enables members to trade with each other in its own currency, “WIR”, which is valued the same as Swiss Francs, but can’t be exchanged to other currencies. It was founded during the great depression of the 1930s by a group of small business owners who were inspired by the theories of socialist Silvio Geselli. As banks were reluctant to lend money to these businesses, they started trading with each other in their own currency issued by the cooperative. A tailor used WIR to buy a table from a carpenter, who in turn used the WIR to buy bread from a baker, who used WIR to buy a suit from the tailor, etc. 

 While the depression passed, WIR continued to boom. It grew from 16 original members in 1934 to 1,000 in 1949, and currently has around 50,000 members, which is around one fifth of all businesses in the country. The trade accounts for 1%-2% of Swiss GDP, and true to its origins, its use has been shown to increase during periods of economic difficulties, making the entire economy more able to handle economic shocks.


Read the rest at Coop Exchange

 

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