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04 September 2020
To help small businesses and low-income citizens impacted by the pandemic, the town of Tenino in Washington recently created a ‘local’ currency, printed on sheets of wood. The wooden dollars could only be spent at local establishments, and were available to residents who could demonstrate they had been impacted by the pandemic. Once approved, citizens could claim 12 notes (USD 300) per month, which could be spent on essentials including food and gas. By creating the local currency, mayor Wayne Fournier aimed to keep the money in the community – after all, “Amazon will not be accepting wooden dollars.”
Tenino isn’t the only town to experiment with local currencies: Santa María Jajalpa, a small town outside Mexico City issued ‘jajalpesos’, while Castellino del Biferno, located in south Italy's Molise region, experimented with ‘Ducati’ banknotes. What can you learn from their efforts?
First: when looking forward, it’s sometimes worth looking back. Tenino’s wooden currency was inspired by a Depression-era solution – in 1931, after the town’s only bank closed, local businesses established a wooden currency to allow trade to continue. The new ‘Tenino dollars’ were even printed using the same newspaper printer that was used to create the 1931 alternative. Before you rush to create ‘the new’, open up your brand’s time capsule and consider past innovations and solutions. What can learn from them? How can the ideas and concepts be adapted or repurposed to suit current consumer needs?
Second: the shift to local. More than half of consumers around the world have started to buy more locally-sourced products, according to June 2020 research from Accenture that spanned 20 countries. This is partly attributed to more people working from home (side-note: due to decreasing demand from commuters and office workers, sandwich chain Pret A Manger is set to cut 3,000 jobs in the UK) but also by a desire to shop and support small businesses. Big businesses can show they care through ‘shop small’ campaigns: Amex’s USD 200 million fund is one example of that. If you can’t match Amex’s financial muscle, consider donating advertising space, offering advice and education sessions or even loaning out your key assets. In the final months of 2020, how will you look local?
The TrendWatching content team