The Columbia Community Dollars Foundation voted to dissolve the non-profit organization at the organization’s first annual general meeting earlier this month.
“What this means,” said Michael Sheely, executive director for the organization, “is that we will no longer administer the currency or release any more of the currency into the community.”
Concerns and objections of business owners and community members were heard by the board of directors at the AGM.
“We really appreciate the desire by some to keep the organization going,” said Bradley Roulston, board chair for the organization. “There are a lot of us who have invested time and money into this project, and it’s hard to see it come to an end.”
The decision to dissolve the non-profit was based on two key factors. Business adoption of the local currency was slower than expected and lacked essential services like grocery stores.
In addition, funding for the currency was insufficient to maintain administrative roles.
“Volunteerism got this initiative going and kept it going,” said Sheely, “But we’re running out of volunteer steam, and there is still a lot of work that would need to be done to keep following our mission.”
The fate of the locally designed, polymer bills is still in question.
“We estimate there are about eight or nine thousand dollars of community currency in circulation,” said Sheely. “Some businesses may continue to accept them as part of their promotional campaigns, but that is up to each business and individual.”
But people still in possession of the currency may find it difficult to spend.
“We used a model that gave local money to local community groups, who then used that money for fundraising,” said Roulston. “For those of us who still have community dollars in our wallets, we can see it as if we were the ones who made those donations to the women’s centre, the youth centre, the co-op radio station and more.”
Plans are now underway to organize an ‘Irish Wake’ for the local currency where community members can celebrate this valiant attempt at local economic development.
“There is a lot of learning that came from this experience,” said Sheely. “We want to harvest that learning and celebrate the courageous and innovative spirit that the Nelson community has shown towards creating a healthier and more resilient local economy.”