Practical Applications of the Culture Coin
Imagine the vast wealth of the field now tied up in Endowments could be released to circulate as part of the common wealth of the culture sector without destabilizing the financial health of the endowed institution.
Imagine some percentage of the common wealth of the culture sector tied up in buildings could be recirculated in the community as access and expertise.
Imagine that cash-strapped ensembles, small producers, and artists could acquire some percentage of this restored value and trade it amongst themselves for cultural goods and services.
What could we do, make, dream then?
This vision not making practical sense yet? Here’s a suggestion—follow the money:
Say donors put one million in cash into the cultural economy for a building or endowment, rather than into a show or an annual fund. This becomes a resource removed from circulation.
To get it recirculating, the theater then puts a percentage of that donation into the Culture Coin economy—let's say even 10% of the cash value each year, or $100,000 in Culture Coin for every million in the lock box.
They distribute it via:
- 500 hours of shop rental available during unscheduled time, to be purchased with Culture Coin currency.
- 10% of seats available only through Culture Coin exchange so that culture workers can engage the art.
- 500 hours of rehearsal space available during unscheduled time in studios.
- Eight weeks of theater space available for an itinerant ensemble/company during unscheduled times.
- As donations to companies and artists they want to support.
- As a donation to a community currency bank, like a Theatre Bay Area or TCG to be regranted.
These resources are all available now for purchase with Culture Coin.
Now imagine artists, ensembles, and small organizations acquire Culture Coin purchasing power through un/underpaid activities in the cultural community.
- Do a 29-hour reading and get the cash fee plus equivalent Culture Coin supplement to make the wage more respectable—paying the "sweat equity" portion in Culture Coin.
- Volunteer as a script reader, usher, or performer at a benefit, get compensated with Culture Coin.
- Direct, produce, perform, design, tech a project for a small company (even your own) where cash is not available for compensation and get paid in Culture Coin granted to the project from your community CC (Culture Coin) bank. (Theatre Bay Area, StageSource, etc.)
Donate time to managing, marketing, fundraising, teaching, etc. for your small company and get paid in Culture Coins.
Culture Coin has no cash value, so it can't pay your rent, buy your groceries, or buy gas. That problem will not be solved by this project. But we can begin to make a dent in the challenges within the cultural economy—like access to the work, the spaces, the expertise, and the audience for those currently locked out by the shortage of cash.
But once the Culture Coin bank opened, things began to change. Now the small companies could purchase things like goods and services in the cultural sector with Culture Coins, instead of cash, and save the cash to pay the artists and the bills. Rehearsal space, for instance, and shop space. They could hire part time management and financial support with the currency.
There are lots of reasons not to try this. I will leave it to other stakeholders to articulate them. "The devil,” my grandmother used to say, "has plenty of advocates, David. You can serve just as well on the side of the angels." The doubting and questioning will be an important contribution to the creative process. So, too, will tenacity and creativity around problem-solving how to better quantify creative sweat equity.
Once upon a time there was a huge theater in a bustling cultural community. They built themselves a wonderful home, filled with rehearsal studios, theaters, tools for making sets and costumes, classrooms for education programs, and beautiful spaces for public events. The building was paid for by their loyal donors and with remarkably complicated financing and tax structures that sheltered them from the for-profit cash economy and made it affordable on their budget. They also asked their generous donors to help ensure their long-term financial stability with additional cash donations to their endowment campaign. They were successful on all fronts and had a magnificent facility floated by a robust endowment prudently invested in the global economy.
Not content to rest on their lovely laurels, they set about to see how they could share their good fortune with their entire community. They turned to a Complementary Community Currency program called Culture Coin for help. They first inventoried all their under-utilized, and therefore under-leveraged, cultural resources. They had dark weeks on their stages. They had hours where their rehearsal studios, classrooms, public spaces, and shops stood empty. They had seats their budget didn't anticipate selling that could be contributed to the community's resource bank. They even had desk space and some volunteer hours among their most experienced employees that they felt they could put into the local cultural economy. And space on their web server. Oh, and acres of wall space that could serve as gallery space. And a huge warehouse full of props, costumes, and equipment.
From all of these resources they first subtracted the amount they would need to monetize through cash exchange: rentals for weddings, corporate parties, dynamically-priced seats to blockbuster box office hits, theater rentals, and enhancement deals that balanced their operating budgets. And still there were significant resources to recirculate through the cultural economy. They added it all up and deposited it in the local Culture Coin bank, committed to making these resources available should anyone come to them with sufficient CC to acquire them. They we're joined there by other cultural organizations with under-leveraged resources: the symphony in their town, the performing parts palace, the museum, and the opera. Even the small and midsized cultural organizations did their inventory and found resources to convert to the cultural economy that would not destabilize their fiscal health. And they made their deposits accordingly. This community's Culture Coin coffers were stuffed!
Meanwhile, the community's artists were busy as bees making work. At first the work suffered, quite often, because they were trying to create it with cash, which they had little of, supplemented by sweat equity, which was a non-renewable and highly volatile currency. The moment someone got a better paid gig or bigger opportunity they had to take it. And they could only participate in the hours that were available to them from their cash-producing jobs. The result was churn and burnout for everyone, with wildly uneven artistic results and limited civic impact. They struggled for audiences and visibility that could only be purchased with cash.
But once the Culture Coin bank opened, things began to change. Now the small companies could purchase things like goods and services in the cultural sector with Culture Coins, instead of cash, and save the cash to pay the artists and the bills. Rehearsal space, for instance, and shop space. They could hire part time management and financial support with the currency. (Purchasing the hours placed in the market by their colleagues in the larger organizations with the stable salaries.) They could rent props and costumes with it, and purchase audience data and lists to build their fan base. They even found they could barter their Culture Coins outside the cultural economy. One enterprising ensemble traded Culture Coins for audience members' frequent flyer miles and was able to get their show to the big Fringe Festival where they were picked up for a nationwide tour. The audience members then used their Culture Coins to purchase seats to the big theater's annual holiday production that they thoroughly enjoyed.
And at the big theaters, the Culture Coin exchange brought them much joy as they had landed on a means of comfortably engaging their community. With the Culture Coins that were paid to them for space, or tickets, or expertise, they complemented the cash component of their developmental processes and enhanced the cash compensation for teaching artists and volunteers. They donated Culture Coins to their favorite local companies and artists, and even returned some to the community bank to be recirculated. One enterprising company donated its Culture Coins to a community service nonprofit to provide access to tickets for their clients who got to see a play, an opera, and a holiday dance event around town—many for the first time ever.
As the Culture Coin circulated and grew in this community they realized they could actually branch out beyond their own borders and their CC Bank began depositing coin in the national CC Bank, which shared the wealth even more widely. Now communities and artists without big institutions and buildings could also stimulate their cultural economies with the currency. Now artists in these communities were suddenly able to participate in the cultural economy both locally and nationally—produce at home or travel to festivals, bring new expertise or share their own. Geography and status were no longer the arbiters of quality and impact.
Word of this success spread quickly to other sectors of the culture economy and to communities all over the world. Within a single generation, Culture Coin unlocked billions of dollars in stored wealth of the cultural commons and art flourished around the globe. A time of peace and neighborliness reigned and, together, the artists, audiences, and institutions of the world solved the challenge of sustainable harmonious life on our planet.