Furthering LETS Development

By Tom J. Kennedy

The LETS (Local Employment Trading System) software was created in 1983 by Michael Linton, an engineer from Comox Valley, British Columbia, Canada. The LETS software allows individuals and businesses to buy and sell products and/or services using a "community currency" which just happens to be an "interest-free" currency. LETS has gained popularity all over the world in the past 16 years. You are invited to read about my experiences and projections for barter in general and the LETS concept in particular at this URL: http://www.cyberclass.net/bartable.htm

John C. Turmel, a banking systems engineer and avid supporter of the LETS software has recently returned from a 40 day European Tour where he was "teaching and learning" about how to raise the profile of "interest-free", community currencies which the LETS accounting software so readily manages and maintains. On returning from his tour he wrote an Email Report wherein he lauds the following worthy concepts. He proposes that an integration the following concepts borrowed from these four "community currency" models would further LETS development both locally and globally. The report is posted at I will briefly summarize these worthy concepts and add a few comments.

(1) The "micro-lending concept" borrowed from the very active JAK Bank which is operating in Sweden. The JAK Bank takes in "kronors" and lends them out to its participants "interest-free." Participants receive equivalent credits to their accounts BUT the JAK Bank does not offer paper notes to facilitate trading locally.

(2) The "premium for participation" concept borrowed from the Barrington, Massachusetts, USA project whereby they not only sell their paper currency but they also offer their participants a premium for coming forth to participate in the project. Participants pay only $90 cash and receive $100 of "community currency" which is spendable with local merchants.

(3) The "secure local paper currency" concept borrowed from the Toronto Dollar project operating in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Participants receive equivalent "Toronto Dollar" paper currency for their cash input. This paper currency is spendable with participating merchants in the local area.

(4) The "donating to charity" concept plus the idea of using "smart cards" and "money organizers" borrowed from the community way project operating in Comox Valley, British Columbia, Canada. Participating businesses donate "community currency" to a selected local charity. Volunteers earn it from the charity and/or donors who wish to support the charity exchange equivalent amounts of cash for "community currency." The local charity can have its logo imprinted on the "smart card" and load it up with "community currency" equivalent to the amount that any donor gives to the charity in cash.

The local businesses qualify to receive a "money organizer" and a "smart card" when they donate "community currency" to a selected charity. When making a purchase, the consumer who has a "smart card" simply inserts it into the "money organizer" with the business’s "smart card" and presses a key to transfer the "community currency" from buyer to seller.

The community way concept causes businesses to focus on the "donating" instead of the "trading." Other drawbacks of the community way project are (a) that businesses only get access to the community currency when a customer spends it at his/her place of business and (b) individuals are not permitted to donate "community currency" to a charity. Adding the "trading" advantages and the attractive feature of an ideal local currency bank improves the "community way" model immensely.

Let’s explore possibilities by seeking to integrate the best elements of all four of the above models into furthering LETS development both locally and globally. Any local LETSystem and/or any "community way" project can create the optimal model by implementing all of the above concepts with ease given our modern technology.

I invite readers to explore the history of the LETS software and the concept of "community currencies." Learn how the idea of "community way" is mutually beneficial for both businesses and consumers. "Community currencies" are definitely the way that we are headed in the evolution of doing business in the 21st Century. You can explore the "community way" concept at this URL: http://www.communityway.org There is definitely going to be a need for advanced LETS software to handle more than one "community currency" in the not-too-distant-future.

You can further explore the LETS "community currency" development at the LETS List URL (which happens to have links to LETS everywhere in the world) Though LETS List has19 entries for Canada and various other listings for countries all around the globe. It is an online database right now, 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/letslist Simply use 'guest' as a password and 'guest' as a logon.

There is a related tool that Chris is working on, called the LETS webtool, whose purpose is to grab the online, worldwide database of Project LETS List and downloads it, converting it to an Access database on your local machine, or a printed report by country. Although Chris has a beta of the webtool up for download, it is still buggy and incomplete, however, and he hopes to have version 1.1 ready sometime later in August 1999. Until the webtool is finished there is no easy way to extract the LETS List entries for any particular country as a printed list, except on-screen using the search engine at the LETS List website.

There is one more exciting development in the realm of possibility with the LETS software. Those participating LETS members from all around the world who maintain a vision of a "Global LETS" are actively seeking an ISP (Internet Service Provider) which will create and operate a "GOLETS" (Global Online LETS). The ISP has only to agree to put our LETS Shopping Directories online as "virtual malls." Given our modern technology, any ISP could easily make our LETS Directories of traders available online so that participating LETSers could access them locally and/or nationally and/or globally. LETS participants from all around the world will quickly rally to support the first ISP which offers this service to facilitate LETS trades. Other ISP’s will quickly follow to stay competitive. If you know of a friendly ISP which is willing to explore the possibility of offering this unique service to LETS traders please communicate such information to the author of this article.

Contact details: Tel: 613.746.9702 Fax: 613.747.6666 Email: [email protected]