zaterdag 5 oktober 2013

LETS ; Local Exchange Trading Systems

LETS ... is a group of people from a small community who all agree to exchange goods and services with each other without the need for cash.
LETS, or Local Exchange Trading Systems, are local community trading groups where members exchange their goods and services with each other in a spirit of harmony and a genuine desire to help each other.
The LETS group's function is to act as a bookkeeper for the members' transactions, keeping record of these 'favours' (also called 'beans', 'auras', 'shells', 'talents', thank yous', etc.) and putting the members' accounts into debit or credit accordingly. An account which is in credit identifies a member who has given more favours than he's received. An account which is in debit identifies a member who has received more favours than he's given. As there is no interest paid to accounts in credit, and no interest charged to accounts in debit, neither situation is a problem, and both are necessary in order to make transactions happen.

The 20 Most Asked Questions About LETS
(This document was prepared by John Croft, of the Gaia Foundation. It has been editted slightly. It describes the why, the how and the what of LETS schemes.)
We hope the following questions and answers meet all your requirements, and encourage you to be an active trader in your LETSystem.
Q.1 What is a LETSystem?
A LETSystem is a locally initiated, democratically organised, not-for-profit community enterprise which provides a community information service and records transactions of members exchanging goods and services by using the currency of locally created LETS Credits. The LETS Credit currency does not involve coins, paper money or tokens of any kind but rather acts as a scoring system, keeping track of the value of individual members' transactions within the system. It is simply a community information system attached to its own market-place. Different LETSystems call their LETS Credits by different names, adding a "local flavour".
Q.2 How does LETS work?
LETS works a little like a baby-sitting club, where members earn credits by baby-sitting other people's children, spending whenever they need child minding. Unlike a baby-sitting club, however, LETS extends the range of services to whatever is available locally. A successful LETSystem can provide members with food, clothing, housing, transport, health and legal services, repairs, equipment, business services, entertainment and much more, at a reduced or no cost in Federal dollars, through the operation of a community based credit economy.
* It is available to anyone who is a member of the community and who joins a LETSystem. * Individuals and businesses can use it to advertise goods or locate what they want, either by telephone, mail or in person.
* Information is updated regularly, added to or deleted at any time, and circulated regularly to members.
* There are no limitations or obligations on use. LETS is its name and "lets" is its nature!
Upon paying a small registration fee members are issued with a Registration Number which acts as a license to trade. On joining, members also list goods and services they are prepared to offer to, or require from the LETS community. In most systems, members also elect a LETSystem Committee or Board of Advisers at an Annual General Meeting, and establish a system to maintain LETS accounts and update trading sheets, advertising the goods and services available or needed.
Q.3 Why start a LETSystem?
When ordinary money is in short supply, needed community projects are put on indefinite hold, local businesses fail, people become unemployed, and individuals and families suffer, not because they have nothing to offer, or because they lack skills and abilities, but simply because there is not enough money to go around.
LETSystems helps develop and free local markets by operating like a community bank, in which members open an account. Unlike a bank, however, it gives unlimited interest-free credit, generated at the point of sale, to facilitate trading with other members. In this way, LETS acts like a supplementary currency, creating an additional system of value in a community. By supplementing conventional cash flow with a local currency, a community can maintain full employment, and protect itself from changes and fluctuations in the money supply.
Q.4 What other benefits are there in starting a LETSystem?
There are many benefits to LETSystems. Some others are ...
- Mobilising the Real Wealth of a Community: The knowledge and skills of its people is the real wealth of a community. A local currency keeps this wealth working in the community, even while conventional money drains away, generating employment and income for all involved. People who have accumulated a wide range of skills and abilities suddenly become once again highly valued members of the community.
- Helping Community Groups: LETSystems help other local communit organisations by giving them access to resources to extend their services to customers or clients currently not gaining access. Volunteer burn-out is reduced as LETS helps organisations recognise and acknowledge donated time and effort, allowing volunteers to meet their own needs while meeting the needs of others.
- Fostering Self-Reliance & Self Esteem: In our communities, unemployment is growing at the same time increasing numbers of people are unable to get their needs met. Supporting single-parents may need respite care or other services for their children. Elderly pensioners also need a range of specialised services or may simply require company to combat loneliness. At present a person's ability to access these and other services is proportional to their purchasing power. LETS breaks this bottleneck, by making it more possible to match someone's need with another's available labour. People are no longer dependent upon welfare or charity, and everyone's self esteem benefits.
- Increased Personal Savings & Disposable Income: Because members can get local goods and services through a LETSystem, members can substitute LETS for Federal dollars. The disposable income in Federal dollars, available after basic needs are met, actually increases. For those involved who are regularly trading in LETS will find they have more money left in their pockets at the end of each week. The rate of community savings, and therefore of community investment capital generation, and with it the quality of life of everyone, will improve.
- Opportunities for Businesses: LETS adds a new tier to a local economy and generates wealth that is not able to be accessed through the conventional monetary system. This wealth creates new opportunities for expansion of existing local businesses, or even markets for new goods and services that previously were not available.
- Creating Local Economic Control: LETS helps to plug the leaky bucket of the local economy, by creating a local currency that cannot leave the community, thereby reducing uncontrolled and activity limiting capital outflows. As LETS credits only have value in the community in which they were generated, they stay circulating to create more wealth for everyone. LETS gives community members a powerful new tool with which to "steer" the local economy in directions which benefit everyone.
- Support to Buy Local: At present, economies of scale, transfer pricing, and capitalising on cheap Third World labour or raw materials enables larger multinational and interstate manufacturers and retailers to tip the so-called "level playing field" in their direction, to the detriment of local businesses. LETS provides an Federal dollar discount to those using local businesses, manufacturers and retailers, while not sacrificing total income in the hope of making it up through increased business. Local businesses thrive.
- Building Community Support Networks: Because LETS plugs members into a local information network, it provides new or isolated residents living in a local community with an instantaneous community support system, which avoids the embarrassment of introductions to strangers. Through the LETS network all members have a ready reason for calling for support or help. Elderly pensioners, unemployed youth, supporting parents, new arrivals, and single-income families with partners "trapped" in a dormitory suburb, can all build firm friendships on relationships established through a LETS connection.
- Fostering Social Justice & Equality: Because the value attached to one's time and commitment is set individually amongst the participating members, a LETSystem equalises the wage differential that exists in the value attached in the conventional economy to the work of women as compared to the work of men. This greater equality helps to prevent the polarisation of the community between those that "have" compared to the "have-nots". There is no value in accumulating LETS credits, as they cannot earn interest. It is only by putting them to productive work that the individual or the community benefits. LETS fosters local participation in the community at all levels.
- Helping Community Projects: There are many worthy and worthwhile community projects and activities that languish for lack of money. By donating LETS credits to a community chest, major community initiatives for local improvement or charitable work can be generated, without putting a severe strain on one's Federal dollar income. Because the local LETS credits remain in the local community, the wealth donated will circle back to the donor as a form of long-term "money back guarantee", to generate demand for the goods and services they are providing to their community.
- Building a Sense of Community: The increasingly transient, temporary and mobile lifestyle in Australia has greatly damaged our sense of belonging to a meaningful community. Because a LETSystem builds local relationships it is a powerful means of regenerating a sense of trust among members, a necessary component to the health of any community. As communities become more self-aware and self-reliant as the result of a LETSystem, community isolation, fear and loneliness diminishes and everyone benefits.
Q.5 What is Multi-LETS?
A Multi-LETSystem is a LETSystem like any other. Like any other LETS, a Multi-LETS provides a register of members, in which transactions are recorded, statements and accounts are prepared, and a notice-board or trading sheet of offers and requests are prepared.
A Multi-LETS, in addition, has the facility for a number of separate networks to exist within the single registry. These networks resemble separate LETSystems, in that they charge their own membership fees, that members of a particular network may trade goods and services in their own local currency, according to the rules and conditions upon which members agree, they may provide their own separate list of offers and requests, and their own newsletter. Again, like a LETSystem, the LETS Credit units cannot be transferred outside of their membership base or taken out of the system.
The difference with a conventional LETSystem is that in Multi-LETS, people initially join the general register, specifying which networks they would like to participate in. In return they receive a single trading Registration Number which can be used in the general register, and in any network to which they may belong. People then have the choice whether to record the transaction within the general system, or at the level of a particular network.
In a Multi-LETS, all transactions are recorded at the level of the Multi-LETS register, so networks can have the advantages of a LETSystem, without needing to worry about the recording of transactions, or the issuing of statements. This can be an immense advantage to a particular club or group who do not have any members interested in "running the system" but who wish to use LETS for their own purpose, without necessarily wanting to go through the hassle of starting their own separate LETSystem. Their members also gain access to a wider range of goods and services through the general register than they would in a smaller system of their own network. In a Multi-LETS people have greater freedom of choice, as they can choose which networks they want to participate in and which local causes, clubs or groups they want to support whilst trading in LETS.
Q.6 How do I join a LETSystem?
Each LETSystem is independent and has its own contact person or mailing address. Once you have made a decision about which LETSystem or systems you want to join, make contact and they will tell you how much it costs. Generally people then fill in a sheet of offers and requests, their name, mailing address and phone number. The LETSystem will then inform the new member of their Registration Number within that system, which acts as their license to begin trading. Different LETSystems have different ways of renewing memberships, but generally members have to renew their membership once a year.
Q.7 What happens with my list of offers and requests?
You have already listed what you want to receive from the LETS Community, and what you are prepared to contribute to that community in return. These are incorporated with those of others into the Trading Sheet. There is a charge of a proportion of a LETS Credit per line for listings in each trading sheet (to pay the Trustee who updates the listing). Your account may head backwards, therefore, if you are not trading.
It is a good idea, therefore, to regularly check your list to make sure that it does reflect what you are prepared to provide, or prepared to receive. As you will discover, it can be frustrating to members to have to make a large number of phone calls before they find a "genuine" trader in that item, or if they discover that it was sold 6 months ago! This can be overcome in part by keeping your list up-to-date. This is your responsibility. It does not cost you to delete an item, and will save your account the expense of listing unwanted or no-longer-traded goods and services.
Q.8 What should I do now? How do I start trading?
Your LETSystem, like all LETSystems, works best through your participation. Rather than waiting for someone to contact you about your listings, your LETSystem will best meet your needs if you use it actively, rather than passively. Contact someone perhaps who is requesting some good or service that you can offer. It may be something that you did not even consider listing in your offers in the trading sheet, something that you never considered before. Whatever it is the person you phone will be glad to make a new LETS contact.
This will give you a taste of trading, and show you how it is done. If that person is interested in your assistance, make sure that you clearly establish exactly how many LETS Credits you propose to charge. This may result in some friendly "haggling", but do not proceed until a mutually agreeable "price" has been set. Make sure that both parties to the transaction have the correct name, registration number, and amount before completing the cheque tab, or phoning the transaction through to the Trustees.
Q.9 How do I get most personal benefit from my LETSystem?
Your LETSystem will have the greatest economic use to you if you look at where you currently spend money. Have you built a personal relationship with the people involved, or is it only a commercial transaction? If you can recruit to the system individuals with whom you normally spend Federal Dollars, you will find that being able to buy the same goods and services in part for LETS will have a big effect on increasing your savings and disposable income. For instance, if you can buy local foodstuffs and groceries for LETS it will have a big impact upon your spending patterns and you may save Federal Dollars! If you want help enrolling someone into the LETSystem, ask your area coordinator, Trustee or LETS Committee. If successful, you can start to spend local currency more widely, so creating more jobs and increasing the wealth of your local community!
Try to develop the LETS habit by using LETS first, Federal Dollars second, only if you have to! LETS gives people a chance to meet their neighbours in a new way, enriches your community life and provides you with a community support network of great strength and durability.

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