‘The Grand Domestic Revolution—User’s Manual’ (GDR) investigates the domestic space and its (changing) use through a variety of methods and disciplines, traversing the fields of art, design, architecture, urban planning, activism and theory. A number of artists and other practitioners contribute to this endeavour. Residents from 2009-2011 include Sepake Angiama, Paul Elliman, and Doris Denekamp who utilized neighbourhood and online research to create prototypes and interventions around the theme of (Green) Cooperativsm. Wietske Maas and Travis Meinolf experimented with Home Production; while 'interor' infrastuctural interventions for the furniture, library and hallways were created by ifau & Jesko Fezer, Mirjam Thomann and Graziela Kunsch. Current themes and residents from February–October 2011 include Kyohei Sakaguchi and Kateřina Šedá who will each investigate forms of usership in architectures; home and housing rights with Maria Pask and Nazima Kadir; the question of invisible and domestic labour taken up by Werker Magazine; Agency will continue its deliberations on copyright issues of domestic THINGS (gardens and textiles); and keywords in relations to food service work will be workshopped with Xu Tan. Parallel to this, the Read-in activity continues. Initiated by artist Annette Krauss and theatre maker, Read-in is an open reading group inhabiting a different neighbour’s home for every session.



The GDR library constitutes the backbone of our ongoing ‘living research’ and thus grows over time. The library offers points of engagement with the project and consists of different research materials such as books, articles, images and DVDs (artist’s video, films) that are available for viewing when visiting the apartment. The first installment was done by the GDR team and was later adapted by Sao Paulo-based artist Graziela Kunsch who suggested that the GDR team create thematic selections.



'The Grand Domestic Revolution-User's Manual' is a long-term project developed as Casco’s contribution to 'Utrecht Manifest: Biennial for Social Design'. The project deals with the evolutionary and collaborative process of “living” research in the contemporary domestic and private sphere – particularly in relation to the spatial imagining (or the built environment). It aims at re-articulating while exercising the notions of the social, the public and, eventually, the commons.




Since August 2010, the GDR team have undertaken research in order to connect with the local neighbourhood on questions relating to peoples’ social conditions and material environments. Questionnaires, interviews, and conversations are the methods used to explore the themes and problems addressed in GDR, such as self-organised governance, co-operative living, and spatial organisation in and from the domestic sphere.


STROHALM NL office, Oude Gracht 42, Utrecht
With Jaap Vink, conducted by Chris Lee, Maiko Tanaka
(28 September 2010)

Strohalm Office

This page requires an introduction.

Chris: To start with, could you explain what is an alternative currency or complementary currency?

Jaap: We consider everything that is not conventional money (being cash money or money on account) as an alternative currency, but we also consider a claim on normal money as a complementary currency. For example, if a company has to deliver a product to another company, the first company sends a bill to the other company, then this bill can also be considered as complementary currency. It hasn’t been paid yet, but it will be in the future, so it could be use it as means of payment. You could say "now I have to pay another company some money, but I could pay with this bill of the money that the other company owes me.” If you analyses this, then you have another system of complementary currency.

C: So this bill could circulate?

J: The bill wouldn’t circulate, but it could be sold to the administration of the system that would give units and in the end these units can be exchanged in euros, dollars, or any other "real" currency at the administration when the bill was paid. So the units are backed in this case by the bill yet to be paid. That's one example.

C: Could you say in a general sense, who wants alternative currencies and why?

J: We prefer not use the term "alternative" because it limits you to a very small area where those units of currency are used. We focus on medium enterprises, farmers cooperatives, but also commercial companies that set up a network of large companies. They can pay each other not in dollars but using internal units.

C: Is it more convenient for them or is there some kind of pressing necessity?

J: There are different motivations why to accept or participate in the scheme of complementary currency. One is that you can sell your spare capacity to market where otherwise you couldn’t get normal money for it.

C: Spare capacity being idle time from machines?

J: Yes, or empty seats in airplanes, theaters, empty spaces, advertisement spaces, newspaper etc... Thats normally called “bartering." Building barter networks that sell to large markets, billions in turnover, to large companies in U.S, Switzerland, Turkey, these kinds of schemes... But the sector we are working in are complementary currencies with the motivation to stimulate local economy. Keeping projects in power within the economy, creating extra liquidity for local companies.

C: We've noticed that you do a lot of work in South America, in more peripheral areas, not big cities.

S: Many projects are in Central America, in southern Brazil and Uruguay. The reason we work in Latin America is that the need for alternatives from the regular money system, was more urgent. It was easier to convince organizations and governments of the advantages of such currencies. We had projects in the Netherlands as well, some successful ones, but once they were operating our role was finished. But we're also looking if we can start products in the Netherlands as well.

Maiko: Have you had more interest in what you're doing since the economic crisis?

J: Yeah, especially because of unpaid bills, especially smaller companies who have problems in getting credit, even though they are themselves still waiting to get paid. We offer a way to give liquidity for these unpaid bills right away, at the moment they sell the products. That's where the interest of working in the Netherlands comes in as well.

C: Is Strohalm more like a consultancy organization or do you more actively set up systems?

J: This is what we would like to see. Everyone would like to start one but no one has money. We always offer technical assistance, if someone has questions, we have open source software that you can use for your own system, but we cannot spend too much time on someone's project if we cannot get paid. This is another reason of why we work more in Latin America. Its easier to get funding for developing projects.

C: So governments are being quite supportive of alternatives to their official currency?

J: We get paid by the Dutch Ministry of Development for projects in Brazil, Uruguay and Central America, not always necessarily supported by their governments, but there is some cooperation. For instance in Uruguay, their projects are in cooperation with the Central government who gives a very active support. Central Banks are also involved. Uruguay also promotes complementary currencies with other Latin American governments, who are also getting more and more interested.

M: Is there a particular relationship between the Netherlands and South America? It seems that the Dutch Government finances lots of projects in the art field for instance.

J: We started working in South America because we had some contacts over there. Another reason is that Argentina had a very large movement of complementary currency, the largest project ever— Another advantage is the infrastructure, which is quite well developed. Its becomes easier to start the projects rather than starting in a deserted area (it can be done but its tougher and you have other problems to solve than shortage of liquidity. )

C: What kind sort of workers on the ground are required? How do you get people acquainted with the idea?

J: We work with local organizations that are trusted locally. Otherwise no one would accept something that is not official money.

C: So they should be like government or companies?

J: Or like a farmer's cooperative, chamber of commerce, similar kinds of organizations… People will accept it if they know they can spend it somewhere else or exchange it for normal money. Everyone would prefer normal money because it can be spent everywhere. But if you can get a credit with comparative currency rather than no credits, between selling a product or sell no product at all, it makes the choice a lot easier.

M: Could you name one particular project which was especially successful to illustrate how it works from begin to end?

J: A simple project we've done in Honduras and also in Costa Rica: A cooperative buys products from farmers to make goods which are then sold in their cooperative’s shops. The cooperative pays farmers in complementary currency. The farmers can buy products with this local currency, from the shops located in the same area as the cooperative and these shops can spend it in other shops. In the end they can buy products they sell in the shops from the cooperatives, and again pay with complementary currency. It's a closed circle. The advantages are: 1: It keeps value circulation local 2: The cooperatives don’t need to borrow expensive money to pay its farmers (because first they have to pay the farmers before they can sell products). They save a lot of money on capital.

C: So you mean they don’t have to borrow the money from banks and pay back the credits?

J: They made their own local currency which is backed by the product they will produce from the inputs, beans or maïs they bought from the farmers. They can never emit more complementary currency than what they produce. They know "if I buy that much maïs, then I can sell that much tortillas, so I can never make more units than the value of the tortillas I will produce"

C: What about confidence in the system?

J: Yes. Its important and you can create it through trustful organizations. Otherwise the currency could be exchanged amongst other people, for euros or dollars, but also for products. If you see that a lot of people accept it, you will also accept it. It works both ways.

C: I was curious about a specific project that you mentioned about building a school somewhere, and there was a grant given by the government, which was broken up into complementary currency and then distributed in the form of loans to particular companies. The project ended when the loans were repaid.

J: It was a one time project. We got the grant from large development organizations to build a school. We didn’t use the money to build the school directly, but to give micro-credit to local companies in the same area as where the school was to be built, under the condition that they had to put a sign in their shop saying "I accept local currency." Then we went to meet builders for the school and people who sold construction materials, and said: "we're gonna pay you with local currency. You can use it with these other companies who also accept it.”

As much as possible, we paid for the construction of the school in local currency—about 90% of the cost. Then, other shops started to see that they could also accept local currency and have extra sales and knowing they could be spent in those shops and companies that originally got the credits.

So then local currency started circulating and at a certain moment it ended up with the companies that were first granted a loan and they used it to pay back their loan. At that moment, there is no local currency circulating anymore, and the project ended and the school was built. But the extra input you had was that it facilitated the local economy, by having money circulating within the same community and staying for longer than the regular economy.

Normally, if you would build a school, the money that you'd pay to the construction workers would go out of the community really quick. The other advantage is that people got used to the idea of a local currency. So a new scheme started giving giving loans in local currency as well, and now for 6 or 7 years, local currency is still running in this area.

C: Is it still backed by grants?

J: No.

C: It doesn’t have to function that way anymore?

J: No. You get a grant in local currency, you have to pay back either in money or local currency. So on a really large scale, you would create inflation, because you create extra money temporarily to pay back—but this is small scale and also areas with lots of unfilled capacity, unemployment and poverty so bringing extra liquidity doesn’t result in higher prices but you see a very strong economy: More jobs, more activity. They are now exporting this model to about 50 other slums in Brazil...

C: Is the social impact very visible?

J: Yes, it is an interesting phenomena that the smaller projects get stronger social impact. But when you give small credit to a small company, it has an impact on this company, but its harder to see directly the social impact. Only after some time, when the company can hire an extra person, you can see that it creates jobs opportunities. People start realizing that if they start spending in their own neighborhood there are chances that it returns to them.

C: Could you talk about how you see complementary currencies fitting into the picture of globalization? Since the focus is very local...

J: We're not against globalization but what we say is that an underdeveloped market should first develop itself, to adjust for local markets and not for export. Complementary currency is a way to stimulate this. It can be a form of protectionism, because you can exchange your currency for national currency but you have to pay a fee of 5%, for example. This is a protection against outside companies because they can participate in the system but if they want to export products, they have to pay this fee. What we're aiming for is to first define a local economy. We have projects in Honduras also to set up a production of bio-diesel for the local market, so they don’t have to export expensive fuel. We also do training so that people can start their own companies and they can produce themselves products that are otherwise imported from outside. Once the local economy is fully developed, then of course you can trade with the world market, but thats not an aim in itself.

C: Because you don’t believe that these local complementary currencies could operate alongside the global system?

J: They can of course but we hope that these systems will grow enough to have a significant impact on a larger scale. What we want to see are some successful demonstration project to provide the software, the manuals and the technical systems that other organizations can easily use.

C: One of the main conclusion that you make about your project is that it’s important for you to use a style and language that is attractive to businesses. Could you elaborate on that?

J: For instance if you say "we have alternative currency because we're against the monetary systems,” that might attract artists or solidarity movements but not companies. You should present it as trading claims on money. But you have other examples as well. You should offer that companies should participate not for ideological reasons but for their own interest. Its good if they want to support local economy but it shouldn’t be the main way to participate otherwise they will never seriously participate. If you really want to make an impact, businesses also have to participate. Otherwise, it could be good socially but not economically. We also did more social projects in the Netherlands, but its doesn’t have a true economic impact. Thats why you have to have reliable partners, like banks for advice, payment software, business like presentation…

M: Is there a way that we can view the different styles that you've used?

J: I can send different websites that we have from our partners in South America. We present ourselves also idealistically because we raise funding from private owners. We are an NGO, started as an environmental organization with local activism, so in the Netherlands we present ourselves differently than abroad.

C: Could you tell an anecdote or experience of how you arrived at this opposing methods and pragmatism up against idealism and moralism?

J: We do it both ways but its how you present it. I can tell a company to join the system because its more sustainable, better for environment and it helps fighting poverty, but it can also represent an opportunity for cheap credit, extra sales with modern payment systems. You don’t have to explain how it works and why we are doing it. This way you can have both parties at the same time. It is learning by doing, we started with more social projects and wanted to involve companies as well and found out that they would only respond a little.

M: Do you work with graphic designers then a lot?

J: I can show you some vouchers of script money we have, then yes, we use design for our websites, some animations, ...

Attach:Strohalm2.jpg Δ Stroham vouchers, scrip

M: I'm interested in the visual material because I think you sit at this space where you're not for only one group but you work more as a coordinator. You 're not attached to one particular image. The image comes more from the other. Its interesting because some of the groups we met have problems bringing new people in, because a lot of the time its because they haven’t spend the time on their visual image. The one they use might have ideas or connotations where people feel they cannot access.

C: For instance the word "anarchist…"

J: Yes, we changed our name as well. In the Netherlands we use a different name. In Dutch we have a saying: "this is you last resort" but then we use "this is your last straw " (as when you're falling down, and when you would grab a root/straw to save yourself). So we are the last solution if everything goes wrong. But it had a negative connotation as well. And we stopped doing actions like protesting against nuclear power plant in the Netherlands and Germany. Internationally we use the name "Social Trade Organisation" because the abbreviation looks a bit like our old name.

C: So, would you say that the kind of evolution of STRO, in dealing all these different kinds of struggles, comes down with money as being the common denominator?

J: We recognized that quite early, already in the 80s, but then made the step to complementary currency. But also we thought that stimulating local economies for the sake of economic growth means damage to the environment. So step by step that evolved up to the system we have now. Normal money works in a way that the economy always has to grow no matter what. Because money is created with additional interest and interest has to be repaid. Another way to get this money is to borrow it again, etc... But once the economy doesn’t grow, it collapses. Complementary currencies are more like a natural growth. Even with a lot of unemployment, there are still needs, then economy will grow with the supply of complementary currency. But since there doesn’t have to be interest, you can stop with bringing extra money so economy will stabilize on a level where all needs are fulfilled.

C: And when you take away the growth imperative I guess it has a lot of other effects too?

J: Sustainable investments become profitable when you don’t have high interests rates, because they are long term and lower-profit rate most of the time. Then it makes sense to install solar energy even if the profit is only one percent a year.

C: Are wages more fair?

J: It should be but complementary currency wouldn’t solve all the problems in the world. if someone has the power to underpay his employees, this money wouldn’t change it right away. It could help somehow but of course it doesn’t…

M: What’s inspiring about your past projects is the social impact. Even if it doesn’t change the impact economically. Another kind of currency is creating social bonds, so people watch for each other in a way...

J: There is an impact for instance for people without a job who discover that they can do something that other people want and with complementary currency they can participate in the economy.

M: How do you mediate between very small local and big change? Do they always have to be separate?

J: It doesn’t have to be, but the ideal way would be to have the small ones on a neighborhood level and the business ones on a larger level, and more distance between both. There are also connections between them but also small exchange fees between the different currencies could be implemented.

C: Could you talk about your ultimate ambition? Do you see this as a movement and what would be the ultimate goal?

J: It is a movement but everyone has his own targets which is of course fine but I don’t think we should try to find the "perfect" system. Our ambition is to have to have very successful project that really makes a difference and that are possible to copy. Sometimes a project can be very successful but can only work in one specific place.

Jaap at STROhalm office

M: A personal question; How long have you been working with STROhalm and do you have another kind of investment into this besides it being your job?

J: I've worked now here for 6 years. I started as a volunteer, so its also the motivation that you want to do something. Motivation is an important thing because if you want a well paid job you should go somewhere else. It doesn’t matter because I really like the job. It is motivating to do something that could help. I'm not sure, but maybe these ideas of comparative currencies don’t work at a large economic scale. Social trade still has to be proven.

C: Its still early to say...

J: The large projects are. The ones with world wide, nation wide, with the governments, are great but also take forever.

C: Are there other groups that are doing similar work as you that you know as well?

J: I think we are the only ones that work systematically, using different kinds of methods, and also that we do it on other locations, not in our own area. A lot of organizations do complementary currency schemes, especially in the German-speaking world, Switzerland, Austria…also England, time banks... Lots of the time there is also a national organization that coordinates—for instance in England, there is probably coordination of all the time-banks, connected with complementary currency schemes.

M: If you could identify one urgent or very specific problem that you're dealing with right now, would there be some kind of tool that you could imagine to solve that?

J: In presenting ourselves , connections, links to each other. We also want to give lectures in the Netherlands, we even got funding for it and now we are looking for organizations who would be interested in us giving lectures. If you know of any...

More information on STROHALM can be found at their websites:

Since August 2010, the GDR team have undertaken research in order to connect with the local neighbourhood on questions relating to peoples’ social conditions and material environments. Questionnaires, interviews and conversations are the methods used to explore the themes and problems addressed in GDR, such as self-organised governance, cooperative living and spatial organisation in and from the domestic sphere.


Forum 'Let's Squat Something' - Photos

April, 2012 — posted by Casco