What is Creative Currency?

Creative Currency represents a new model for building and sustaining innovative, impactful, community-driven projects. It will bring together leading developers and designers with national experts in social finance, local currencies, crowdfunding, sharing platforms, and other leaders of the new economy to envision, prototype, and deploy innovative solutions that rethink and reexamine our systems of exchange from the ground up. Projects will focus on the Mid-Market region of San Francisco and will be informed by an in-depth community assessment preceding our 3 day Collaboration Weekend launch on April 27th-29th.  Projects will continue development over a 6 month time period with opportunities for $15,000 in seed funding, presenting at an open forum Demo Day in mid-July, and showcasing at SOCAP12 in San Francisco on October 1-4th.

What is the new economy? Why focus on it?

As Van Jones puts it, the new economy incorporates “technologies and practices that center on barter, gift, direct exchange, and peer-to-peer loans.” The new economy challenges traditional economic principles and practices of production, ownership and income in order to address failures in existing systems of exchange. This model has been growing steadily, but its tools have yet to be truly inclusive and community-driven in order to reach their full potential.

Why focus on this community?

Mid-Market boasts proud citizens and community benefit organizations that are working together to overcome systemic and cultural barriers. A broad mixture of homeless and low-income individuals, historic community organizations, diverse families, established local businesses and new tech start-ups, Mid-Market is where a huge variety of lifestyles coexist.

Starting with weeks worth of on-the-ground research and listening, Creative Currency aims to influence the systems of exchange in the Mid-Market and support residents in overcoming barriers and inefficiencies to their prosperity.

We selected this community because it’s our community – members of our team are here every day and we’re excited to see where our learnings can take us in applying these tools to other neighborhoods that need them.

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is an intensively collaborative event designed to take ideas as far as possible in a short period of time, usually a weekend. Hackathons began as ways for programmers to code new projects in a short period of time, and the model has grown to encompass other disciplines to rapidly collaborate and prototype ideas.

How did Creative Currency Come about? Who’s Involved?

Creative Currency is a collaboration between a digital culture nonprofit, a social enterprise community, a city government renowned for its innovative spirit, and a global payment leader.    The conversation began when the City of San Francisco connected the dots between American Express, GAFFTA and Hub Bay Area.

We noticed that many of the most useful resources for transforming our economy – alternative payment systems, crowdfunding platforms, sharing tools, alternative currencies – just aren’t reaching the organizations and people that could use them the most.  

Further conversations with organizations in the community have reinforced that connections with technology companies and their platforms, although extremely powerful, have yet to realize their full potential.  Through the broad set of relationships represented in our collaboration we hope to nurture projects and relationships in the community that will serve its residents for years to come.

Who’s going to attend and why?

Creative Currency will attract San Francisco’s brightest developers, designers, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and new economy thought-leaders.  We’ve never seen a diverse group like this join in a hack-a-thon setting and we believe that the best solutions for a community are developed when diverse resources and perspectives are brought to the table.  Creative Currency is an opportunity to create projects, relationships, and impact right in front of our eyes.  

What happens to projects after the initial weekend? How long do I have to commit for?

Select projects will rise to the occasion and become companies, organizations, or ongoing collaborations with local community organizations.  These projects will be selected at Demo Day and receive funding and support for their iterative process.  (See our program model to learn more) Other projects may select to work over the first few months to develop their project and pass it off to a partner organization.  Some will develop their technology at Collaboration Weekend and pass the project off immediately.  We hope that through the process of attending Collaboration Weekend, participants will get a sense of how they want to contribute and put their skills to work.

What is the program model?

Creative Currency consists of four stages, which foster a balance between rapid prototyping, sustained impact, and community input.

You can learn more about the program model here.

1.  Community Outreach (Community Brief):  With an incredible diversity of demographics, interest groups, and constituencies, Mid-Market is perhaps one of the most complex neighborhoods in the country. That’s why we’ve spent weeks on the ground conducting in-person interviews with dozens of San Francisco’s leading Community Benefit Organizations, local businesses, and neighborhood leaders. In order to ensure the projects are as grounded as possible in existing local efforts and challenges, we’ve analyzed hours of discussions and insights and boiled them down into a holistic Community Brief to inform project teams.

2.  Prototyping (Collaboration Weekend):  Leading developers, designers, entrepreneurs, community representatives, and leaders of the new economy will join a weekend hack-a-thon called Collaboration Weekend on April 27-29th.  They’ll prototype innovation solutions to address the pre-identified challenges in the community.

3.  Development and Acceleration (Demo Day): Projects will undergo initial technology testing, community feedback integration, and solidification before presenting to a broad audience of Citizens at Creative Currency Demo Day on June 27th.

4.  Implementation and Adoption (SOCAP12):  Top projects will receive funding and support to develop their project into companies, organizations, or collaborations with a chance to showcase at SOCAP12, the world’s largest gathering of social entrepreneurs and impact investors.