To read this content please select one of the options below:

Chapter 9 The Totnes Pound: A Grassroots Technological Niche

Enterprising Communities: Grassroots Sustainability Innovations

ISBN: 978-1-78052-484-9, eISBN: 978-1-78052-485-6

Publication date: 12 January 2012


Over the last 30 years, a range of different complementary currency models have been developed and diffused across the world. Such currency systems have been researched from a variety of different perspectives, such as policy tools (Williams et al., 2001) and social movements (North, 2006). Many of these have explicit links to sustainability objectives and the green movement (Helleiner, 2000; Longhurst & Seyfang, 2011; North, 2010a; Seyfang, 2009), and some environmental writers argue that monetary reform and the development of multiple currency systems are critical factors in achieving environmental sustainability (Douthwaite, 1999). This chapter explains how such a ‘green’ currency emerged from within the environmentally focused Transition Town social movement. This movement has given rise to a range of locally based grassroots enterprises that deliver local services and goods. However, it is argued here that such enterprises can also act as instigators of radical innovations, such as complementary currencies. As such it conceptualises currencies as a form of technology and uses the empirical case of the Totnes Pound currency as an example of a technology that has emerged from civil society. Adopting this framing, the chapter draws on theory relating to the formation of innovative technological ‘niches’ to provide insights into the challenges that they have to overcome in order to survive and flourish. The chapter therefore argues that exploring complementary currencies through the lens of innovation theory can provide valuable insights into their development, and that such an approach may prove useful where grassroots enterprises are engaged in other forms of innovative activity.


Longhurst, N. (2012), "Chapter 9 The Totnes Pound: A Grassroots Technological Niche", Davies, A. (Ed.) Enterprising Communities: Grassroots Sustainability Innovations (Advances in Ecopolitics, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 163-188.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited