Dissertations >> Anat Haas: (Ex)change to communities The effect of alternative exchange systems on the sense of community- Looking at four community-currencies

Anat Haas: (Ex)change to communities The effect of alternative exchange systems on the sense of community- Looking at four community-currencies

One of my teachers once said that every dissertation's topic comes to heal some inner pain of the student who writes it (Dawson, 2017). This dissertation is a good representation of this statement. Before studying in the 'Economics for Transition' (E4T) program in Schumacher College, I was a social worker. In the beginning of my career, I worked with teenagers with behavioral and emotional issues. Most came from immigrants' families, many suffered from domestic violence, drugs were a common problem and none had a community to help them.

Following that, I started working in a Bedouin village. Bedouins are nomadic tribes that, after the establishment of the state of Israel, settled down in urban areas. Most of their villages suffer from sever poverty and social exclusion. Working in the welfare office in the village, I faced a torn society, ripped and stripped from its original traditions due to the multiple changes they've been through. As a result, they are struggling to maintain their social cohesion and from a close tribal society in which all took care of each other, they became alienated, rates of crime, poverty and unemployment have risen, and they lack the tools to tackle it as a community. As a social worker in the village, I felt that the scope of my influence was extremely limited and aimed at helping individuals rather than the prospects of the community; leading to an increasing sense of powerlessness.

When originally studying about community currencies as part of my E4T MA program, the idea underlying them evoked a sleepy hope I wasn't even aware existed. I was hoping that it could, potentially, be an idea that will structurally tackle multiple flaws existing in contemporary society. One of the most appealing aspects for me was the possibility to create this change through structural processes. Having worked with so many individuals and communities that were unable to find energy or time to lead the change themselves, I was excited about the possibility of a system that could ignite such a process.

In getting to know various types of community currencies during my studies, I learned to ask more accurate questions about the possibilities and influences it could have. This research is the result of the cautious optimism regarding the effect community currencies could potentially have in creating, or enhancing, the sense of community, combined with questions and criticism regarding potential harm it could lead to.

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