"Community Currencies" Help Build Local & Global Communities
By Tom J. Kennedy
There are signs that "community currencies" are coming of age and indeed flourishing as we enter the new millennium. Many new and exciting developments are evolving with "community currencies" both locally and globally. A "community currency" is described as a simple "promise to return value" from one participant to another in any local LETSystem (Local Employment Trading System). It is this promise that gives "community currencies" the general value to all of the traders who transact business.
Advocates of "community currencies" are focusing on the preferred "time currency" commonly called "hours" simply because the unit of "time" is universal. In Ottawa, the recommended value of one "hour" of "community currency" is $13 (Canadian Funds) or 13 eco$ - the name of the Ottawa LETS "community currency." In Ithaca, New York, where the ultimate model for "community currencies" has been established since the early 1990's the value of one "hour" of "community currency" is $10 (US Funds). Details at this URL: www.lightlink.com/hours/ithacahours
LETSystems rely on the LETS software which enables them to operate like an interest-free banking system. Individuals and/or businesses with goods and/or services for exchange open an account at a central office with one or more local LETSystems where all transactions are recorded. The medium of exchange is generically known as "community currency," though the respective communities have commonly given the currency other names.
A computer at a central location is required for those LETSystems which rely on the LETS software to create and maintain an efficient system of accounts in "community currency" for each participating member. Though, the LETS software facilitates trading with "community currencies," it is not necessary. Trading members in some communities simply keep a record of their trades in a personal ledger book. When a trade is made both parties record the trade in their respective ledger books and each trader initials the other trader's book to verify the transaction. These traders list their "offers" and "wants" on index cards and pass them out to others in their respective communities.
All participants of LETSystems are registered in a computer, assigned an account number and they start with a balance of zero. A file is created which lists a description of any goods and/or services available for exchange and the ratio of "community currency" which can be accepted. Traders are also permitted to list their wants. Paper currency, is now becoming a popular medium of exchange within local LETSystems and "smart card" technology is likewise ready to be launched in the "community currency" market.
Since 1983, Michael Linton, the creator of the initial LETS software has been working diligently to promote the concept of LETSystems all around the world. LETSystems have spread far and wide since these first, small-scale, self-contained economies were set up in various communities on Vancouver Island in the early 1980's.
The initial development of the LETSystem as a miniature, self-regulating economic network which was designed to allow members of any local community to issue and manage their own money supply is continually evolving to serve greater numbers of people in both communities, whether they be small or large.
Presently, there are numerous advocates of the LETSystem who are projecting a vision of a Global LETSystem whereby all "community currency" traders from local LETSystems everywhere can trade locally, nationally and/or globally. The technology required to facilitate trading of such virtual credits on the internet is already in place. Check out this URL: www.cyberclass.net/jonny/lets.htm
Various individuals and groups of enterprising visionaries recognize the many benefits of acquiring goods and/or services by trading "community currencies" - which just happen to be interest-free. More people are experiencing abundance which is a common benefit when one wilfully chooses to buy and/or sell goods and/or services using "community currencies." We can therefore, expect more charitable and/or benevolent organizations to re-educate their membership about the problem - design flaw of interest and how it causes "scarcity" and the solution - the LETSystem which is really the perfect model of an interest-free banking system and how it creates "abundance" for those who participate.
In this regard, we can expect supporting organizations to start accepting "community currency" as partial payment for membership fees and make a concerted effort to encourage their memberships to engage in trade using "community currencies." It is also recommended that supporting organizations start offering their volunteers payment in "community currency" for their time and work.
Fundraising groups (schools, sports teams, charitable organizations) are likewise studying the "community currency" concept to determine how to create the optimal fundraising projects which will bring mutual benefits to local communities.
Businesses are being encouraged to make alliances with "community currency" advocates and local LETSystems so that payment for an increasing number of goods and/or services can be accepted in a portion of "community currency" and a portion of cash. The larger the database, the more traders are excited about participating within local LETsystems.
Interested parties are invited to further explore the LETSystem "community currency" development at the LETS List URL (which has links to LETSystems everywhere in the world) The LETS List has entries for Canada and various other countries all around the globe. It is an online database, not a document. You can log on and read or print whatever you wish. The LETS List URL was prepared by Chris Hohner, a member of the Peterborough, Ontario, Canada Lets. The LETS List URL is: http://skyport.com/cheesemelt/letslistSimply use 'guest' as a password and 'guest' as a logon.
Other URLs where readers can learn much about "community currencies" in general and about the LETSystem software in particular: www.cyberclass.net/bartable.htm , www.communityway.org , www.worcesterccas.freeuk.com , www.sandelman.ottawa.on.ca/lets
Note: The Cyberclass Network (TCN) hosts interactive TCN presentations re:
"community currencies" in general and LETS in particular. For details contact:
Tom-Joseph: Kennedy, The Cyberclass Network, P. O. Box 9333, Ottawa, Ontario K1G 3V1
Tel: 613.746.9702 Fax: 613.746.5387
Email: [email protected] Website: www.cyberclass.net