social currency

The researcher Diego Viana is a social currency enthusiast. By mixing philosophy and economics, his main fields of study, the Brazilian academic believes that we, as a society, need to rethink the current strategy to develop a more equal and fair system focused on people and its needs. In this interview for the Horyou blog, Viana comments Bitcoin, the role of social currencies within capitalism and the challenges surrounding them. He also gives his impressions on Horyou’s Spotlight, the first social global currency for economic inclusion, which was created to distribute wealth and promote a fair redistribution system. After participating in the IVth International Conference of Social and Complementary Currencies, in Barcelona, Viana gave this interview to the Horyou blog.

Diego Viana
Diego Viana

– What does your research consist of?

The basic question I’m concerned with is how our notions of what money is and what it does, associated to the architecture surrounding it, affect the ways we live, the habits we assume, the tasks we undertake. This research takes place within a philosophical framework in which the reasoning is focused more on how things come about than on how they can be defined. In other words, it’s a question of operations, not so much of essences.

From a practical point of view, the difference is that I try to understand money according to the movements in which it appears, rather than an understanding of its nature. This means that different kinds of movements (or operations) imply different notions of money. This in turn implies that money is necessarily much more than a tool to make exchange easier or smoother, it is the core operator of a whole system that defines how exchange actually takes place, and what roles we play when we engage in it.

It is very hard for us to understand this difference if we remain stuck in the contemporary idea of money, in which our savings, our shopping and our wages are all denominated in the same currency, which is also the currency of taxes, public investment, high finance, speculation… This has not always been the case and won’t necessarily be the case in the future: different elements can be used for different forms of interaction that today are performed by money. By the way, sociologists such as Viviana Zelizer have demonstrated that even our general purpose money is earmarked in its actual uses, according to gender, age, profession etc. This is an issue in which social currencies play a decisive part; more generally, I like to use the term “monetary invention”, because these currencies aren’t necessarily designated for a social use, there can be innumerable reasons to create other forms of currency. The important question regarding monetary invention is: what kind of operations and systems are we forging when me introduce and develop new monetary forms? if we don’t deal directly with this question, we’ll be turning in circles.

social currency

– Do you believe that social currencies are important tools for tackling inequalities and promoting economic inclusion?

Absolutely. This is exactly what I believe. But we must pay attention to the architecture that comes with the currencies, that is, the architecture that makes a certain currency act the way it does, otherwise the currency in question might serve very different purposes.

First of all, let us remember that the hegemonic money in our days is designed in such a way that it will almost necessarily generate more inequality: just think about Piketty’s research, or how the Troika acted regarding Southern Europe, or how the IMF acts regarding developing countries. In the post-war period, consider how complex the economic and social had to become in order to reverse, or at least mitigate, this tendency towards inequality. And consider how quickly the very same system turned back to economic and political concentration once the Welfare State began to be imploded.

Now let’s bring up Bitcoin, for example. One of the founding ideas of this digital currency is that there will be a limited amount of it, to make sure there won’t be a tendency towards runaway emission, since it is a system that works supposedly without human intervention. The result is that those who already own Bitcoins will have less and less incentives to spend it, and those who mined them early on will always have an advantage over those who adopted Bitcoin at later stages, or who obtain them by actually buying Bitcoins on the online markets. This design doesn’t favor inclusion or equality at all, quite the reverse.

So when the chips are down, the point is that currencies aimed at economic inclusion must be thought in such a manner that they will upend certain mechanisms associated to the hegemonic forms of money: a preference for accumulation and speculation, for example, or the need to work ever harder, even though the increased productivity has ceased to bring greater welfare. This has been tried and tested in many ways, but as long as they are simply correctives to general purpose money, these efforts fall short.

So in my view the great challenge is to articulate the community of social and complementary currencies in such a way that it will be preferable, for all those who don’t directly benefit from the speculation and accumulation promoted by contemporary money, to adopt other monetary forms. And also, as it goes, to generate forms of money that can’t be taken over by the banking system, a.k.a. “Big Money” (such a lovely nickname).

– Can social currencies thrive under capitalism?

There is much that can be done with social currencies under capitalism, from easing the connection between small businesses to the enforcement of local economies. But of course, these are all limited in scope, as I said in the examples above, since capitalism itself will only interact with them as long as they can be seen as assets available for monetization from the hegemonic banking system.

If by thriving we mean surviving and having a certain role in the wider world, sure, social currencies can complement capitalism quite well. But if we have greater ambitions for social currencies, for example, opening doors for a more sustainable, fair and humane world, then we must think of social currencies as inventing new forms of organizing the economies of collective living, beyond the mere exploitation and competition of capitalism. In this sense, to thrive means to overcome capitalism and cannot be done under it, except in the sense of underground, sapping its foundations.

– What are the main challenges you see for the global spreading of social currencies?

Aside from the challenges I mentioned above, I’d also bring up, firstly, the continued tendency to view social currencies, or complementary currencies, as merely a local feature, a strategy to improve the living conditions of this or that group or region. I’d also mention the difficulties concerning communication and, more important still, technologies: not every group of people involved in monetary invention has the ability to use technologies that articulate social currencies globally. But once more, there would have to be the desire to do just that: spread social currencies globally, in the sense of being articulated, perhaps convertible among themselves. After all, there already are social currencies all over the globe. The only question is whether this is part of a wider project or not. I would like it to be, for certain.

Spotlight, the first global social currency for economic inclusion, created by Horyou
Spotlight, the first global social currency for economic inclusion, created by Horyou

– Spotlight is a global social currency that aims to use internet interactions to promote wealth redistribution. Do you believe the Internet and social networks have a critical role for the success of social currencies?

This is easy to ascertain: since the digital technologies of blockchains and others came about, the attendance to social currency conferences has grown at an accelerated pace. To this I could add that even the smallest and most limited social currency initiatives seem to have projects for becoming digital these days. Also, barter clubs or time banks, which used to be associated to neighborhoods and other small territories, can now function in much wider contexts. Cellphones can be used for microcredit and social networks dedicated to lending and donating have been created.

Once again, it is a question of who holds the knowledge, thus the power, and above all how many participants actually share the conception of what can be done with a social currency and what it is being generated for. This is why, for example, the fact I mentioned above, about so many small social currencies going digital, is neither good nor bad in itself. But it does express a certain awe and amazement with technologies that is certainly not desirable. Technologies should be envisaged as the opening of possibilities to act, not as panaceas.

In the digital realm, the destiny of social currencies is inseparable from the destiny of the commons. For now, the commons are losing the war, as the plutocracy takes up more and more power. Let’s see if we can rethink the strategies and turn this over.

Diego Viana is a researcher at Diversitas (FFLCH-USP) and Iconomia (ECA-USP) Laboratories. PhD candidate at FFLCH-USP, Master in Philosophy (Nanterre) and economist (FEA-USP). Also a regular contributor for the press, most notably Valor Econômico and Página 22, in Brazil.

Horyou shares the social network for social good experience during the Global Donors Forum, in Istanbul

Global Donors Forum, a side event of the World Humanitarian Forum in Istambul
Global Donors Forum, a side event of the World Humanitarian Forum in Istanbul

Impact and social investors, experts and leaders from all over the world will be working together in Istanbul on May 24th and 25th towards the same goals: to innovate and to create solutions for philanthropy. The biennial Global Donors Forum is an event which enhances new ideas and partnerships, besides being a platform to discuss global and regional challenges. As a side event of the World Humanitarian Summit, it is focused on human rights and social development.

Important names of the corporate, political and philanthropic worlds will be present during the 2-day conference, which will cover such subjects as Sustainable Development Goals, Islamic Business and Finance, Countering Extremism and Women Leadership. The opening ceremony will be led by Dr Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al-Thani, Chair of World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, Shaarik H. Zafar, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Mohammad AbdulAziz Al Naimi, CEO of Silatech, and the former prime minister of Romania Victor-Viorel Ponta.

Yonathan Parienti, the CEO and founder of Horyou, will participate as a speaker on the Perspective of Philanthropy panel where he will be presenting for the first time to the Turkish audience Spotlight, the first global social currency for economic inclusion. Speaking on how to leverage social media for social change, Parienti will be surrounded by other experts of the humanitarian field as Amy Singer, from Tel Aviv University, Farhan Latif, president of El-Hibri Foundation and Iqbal Noor Alim from the Aga Khan Development Network.

Launching of Spotlight in Dakar, Senegal
Launching of Spotlight in Dakar, Senegal

“Horyou is in a global campaign to introduce Spotlight, an impactful currency which aims to enhance a fairer capital circulation to all publics from different cultures and regions”, says Yonathan. “The world is increasingly connected and, by bringing economic inclusion, Spotlight will make the best use of the power of social networking”.

In the last few weeks, Spotlight was presented to media, organizations, experts and public from Morocco, Brazil, Senegal, China and now Turkey. By creating a global network of Spotlight users and supporters, Horyou will benefit and redistribute capital to more than 300 million people by 2018.

Click here to see the agenda of the Global Donors Forum.

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The Horyou community embraces more than 1,000 organisations and 220,000 users from more than 180 countries.

Most organizations involved in social good and humanitarian projects have experienced the challenge of finding capital to promote impactful actions within their communities. In this area, like in many others, we see money flowing from big companies and foundations to big NGOs and associations – and they are surely doing a good job – but we also see small and medium sized organizations who are tireless in their efforts to make a difference in the world through their humanitarian projects with lesser support and funding.

This unevenness has been of major concern to Horyou since its inception, when it begun building its social network for social good.

Horyou has since grown to embrace 180 countries with a community of 1,000 organizations and 220,000 users around the world, becoming an expression of the diversity of civil society at a global level. Horyou now has enough experience and means to take its mission to the next level by creating Spotlight, the First Global Social Currency.

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Engaged and active organisations on Horyou platform will increase their chances to receive Spotlights from Horyou proprietary algorithm.

In a world where social disparities are widening due to speculation and greed, technology is a powerful tool of citizen empowerment. Spotlight intends to bring inclusiveness to the ones who are bringing positive change to the world by reconciling capital and social media. Our goal is to connect great companies and people who want to leave a legacy to the world through positive actions with associations who are, in real life, doing good.

With the Global Social Currency, the first of its kind, Horyou’s goal is to connect innovative and CSR corporations with people and organizations who make great efforts to leave a positive legacy to the world through their involvement in social good.

In the past few years, we have seen a significant development of the concept of crowdfunding, whereby single contributions, however small, are important to the edifice under construction. Horyou’s aim is to go even further in the process of inclusive access to capital.

By connecting its members with committed organizations on its social network platform, Horyou seeks to broaden funding opportunities for social good.

Spotlight will be funded by Horyou’s individual members as well as by its partners: firms, corporate foundations, institutions and innovative start ups. Each Horyou member can provide and/or get support from any other member in the form of one or more Spotlights. The platform will include a proprietary algorithm that is set to redistribute a significant share of the capital received from Horyou’s partners to the most active users and organizations.

Associations and social actors can – and should – use the Horyou community at their own benefit, by communicating their projects and actions and sharing each other’s causes. Social media engagement and activity are keys to receive Spotlights from Horyou’s community members and algorithm.

Connect for good with Spotlight!

Contributions from the Horyou Team. Compiled by Vivian Soares.

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Spotlight – the first global social currency

Let’s start with a true, harsh fact: money is not always going to who would use it to produce positive impact. Money, billions of it, is hoarded or being used for speculation, when it could be used for far more socially constructive purposes. Yet, it should.

Environmental organizations striving for the conservation of biodiversity and the limitation of the effects of climate change, small groups of people fighting against inequalities, devastating diseases or abuse, or again modest individuals using their weekends to provide assistance to their needy fellowmen, or project holders proposing positive and innovative answers to the many challenges of the global world we all live in – they are all developing meaningful, life-changing projects in their communities for which they all are in need of urgent funding.

Horyou has decided to face this problem by playing a totally distinctive game with a new set if uncommon of cards. The times are challenging and Horyou, who truly believes that inclusiveness and innovation are the best ways to promote social change, was inspired by the idea of creating a fair capital circulation using social media, one of the most powerful tools from our times. This is how Spotlight, the First Global Social Currency, came to life.

By acquiring Spotlights, any person or corporation can use the online platform to fund organizations and cause direct impact on projects they feel connected to. Horyou members can also earn Spotlights only by being empathic and engaged, and by promoting social good on the platform. They would also potentially earn even more from the community by giving back and circulating the currency.

The concept of Spotlight is not exactly the same as that of the traditional currencies. Of course it does have some of their features like a daily exchange rate defined by supply and demand. But by addressing some of the biggest challenges of capitalism – the inequality caused by unfair capital distribution and speculation -, it builds social impact on promoting meaningful and purposeful circulation of money. And when not used or treasured, Spotlight loses its value after a year. No speculation. That’s what makes it so innovative.

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“The Horyou community will get stronger for good.”

Horyou has found partners willing to bank on this major innovation. Spotlight is funded by CSR, companies, corporate foundations and other institutions, as well as by Horyou users and members. While supporting the community with their subscription, Horyou partners can share their own social initiatives and use Spotlight to directly fund sustainable projects, as well as artists and causes. As more partners and members around the world will embark on that unique adventure of the first truly global social currency, the Horyou community will get stronger for good.

Spotlight is rules-changing, collaborative, inclusive and transversal. It is a new way to use money, based on conscious capitalism and on the idea that investing in social good to build positivity is better than hording treasuries just for the sake of making even more money. As the first Global Social Currency, Spotlight opens a bright future for social inclusiveness: by the end of 2018, Horyou expects to benefit over 300 million people on all continents. It is challenging, but so is creating a new currency. Get on board and see for yourself!

To read more about the Spotlight, read our latest press release.

By Vivian Soares

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