UK LETS and Complementary Currencies
Development Agency


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Checklist for Starting up a LETS Group
There are five main sections


1. Check for Local Groups
LETS is usually run on a voluntary basis without external funding, and running a LETS group is not something to do on your own unless you are very multi-skilled and have a lot of time to spare, as it usually requires much co-operative effort. So first of all look on this website to see if there is already a group near you, and if there is, consider joining them - they might well benefit from the extra energy you can contribute. To be referred to a local group follow the link at the foot of each county page.

2. Is a New Group Needed?
If there is a contact nearby but when you follow up you find the group is not able to respond satisfactorily, please tell us. It may be that they have run out of energy and need extra support. We can approach them direct and find out what their needs are. Or, perhaps the group serves a particular section of the community that you do not belong to - LETS comes in all shapes and sizes, and if this is not the group for you, then, yes you can consider starting a new one.

3. Know your Theory
You can get the basics elsewhere on this website. Make sure you understand that LETS is not just a barter system in which people do direct swaps, but is more sophisticated because "points" from one transaction can be stored for use in another transaction and can also be used to value goods - this is called "Mutual Credit". You have lots of different options in developing the character and purposes of your group. You can order our info-pack, but please note it needs updating and will not give much guidance on technical aspects.

4. Join LETSlink UK
When you are ready, please register your new or intended group with LETSlink UK, by sending a £25 subscription fee accompanied by an introductory statement about your project, so that we can support you in the early stages - the sooner you join, the sooner you let us know about your project and will take advantage of what we have to offer - the registration process is your first step in getting our help towards launching your LETS project.

5. Participate Fully
Groups and individuals who are LETSlink UK members can obtain:- (i) access to advice and practical tools, (ii) website hosting to manage your LETS project at very low cost, (iv) participation in ongoing research about what works and what doesn't work in running a LETS, so that you can benefit from the advice of experienced LETS organisers and don't have to reinvent the wheel. Our next key project is to develop a national intertrading hub, to connect up LETS groups all over the country, meanwhile we will aim to put you in touch with local organisers.

6. Gather your Core-Group
Whilst you are learning how to run a LETS, get in touch with others who might want to help set it up. You may already have a group of friends who are interested. Likewise, LETSlink may have contacts for people in the area looking for a LETS and just waiting for someone to take a lead - please ask. Call an initial planning meeting, and make sure there is sufficient consensus to be able to work together so that you are on a firm footing before advertising widely for members to join, and report the outcome to LETSlink. During this process you will need to:


7. Identify Your Mission
LETS is more than a person to person trading scheme - its real value is as a means to build community. In your planning meetings, try and get a sense of what the style of your LETS group will be. Is it mostly for people running small businesses, eg crafts, therapy, gardening? Is it mostly voluntary or "friend to friend" in nature? Are there particular projects in your community that you might want to use the LETS to support? Is there a community centre or organisation that is behind the initiative and will provide material and/or moral support?

8. Define Your Catchment Area
What is the community your group will serve. Eg a village, a church congregation, a school, or tenants association? Do you see it serving a number of villages in a particular valley? Are you thinking county-wide or city-wide? Or is it to facilitate co-operation between the members of a particular interest group, maybe people who are working on an arts project, a political campaign, a charitable project, a small business, or sharing resources that are expensive to buy individually.

9. Check out nearby Groups
Get in touch with nearby LETS groups, if there are any, and/or Permaculture/Transition groups to find out if their activities overlap with what you are planning, and invite them to engage. Timebanks work on the basis of hourly trading and tend to serve particular communities, so hopefully you can co-exist happily with them and refer suitable people to each other. A representative of your group can attend meetings of other organisations and/or invite them to attend yours. Discuss with them if there any joint ventures you could co-operate with them on, for example if there is a county fair, could several LETS groups share a stand and tell the public about the different LETS groups in their area. Perhaps an individual can take a lead in networking between neighbouring schemes.

10. Name your Group and your Currency
Ideas for naming your group and your currency will probably emerge in the process of these discussions. Choose a name that is meaningful in your area, that will give your members a sense of ownership, and will generate a feeling of loyalty. Names that are snappy, easy to pronounce, and have a sense of humour work best. If there are competing ideas, you might have to defer the decision until you are ready to hold a public meeting and have a vote on it, proponents of competing names making speeches in support of their choice.

11. Form Your Organisation
Groups who meet mostly "online" tend to avoid heavy-duty "governance" - social forums even call themselves a "space"! These groups won't have a bank account, and may not need one, but neither will they be accessible to people who do not have access to a computer. If you decide to charge joining fees, it's essential to set up a bank account in the name of your organisation with several signatures to help co-ordinate your funds and enable organisers to claim legitimate expenses. A well thought-out constitution and set of rules can save many problems later and enables committee members to pass on responsiblity for their tasks, which keeps the organisation going when the original founders can no longer do it - LETSlink can provide models for these. Even at an early stage it's useful to divide up jobs between members and get a feel for who is good at what and what else is needed.

12. Value Your Time
Having a rule that members' time is valued equally might discourage people with easily marketable skills but could be the best approach for some groups, at least to start with. A workable compromise is to decide on a rate per hour for members to use when they want to trade equal, but to allow members to vary their charges where appropriate. Importantly, a standard rate per hour gives your group a baseline to use when exporting or importing accounts if members move to another area, or for occasional "intertrading" - ie when a service is obtained from a member in another LETS group. Some groups prefer to use Gifting, especially when dealing with goods, as they move faster, and a no-charge option is a good one to incorporate in any scheme, as it still allows number of trades either way, and "satisfaction" scores to be recorded.

13. Find Meeting Places
Look about your neighbourhood for organisations and centres who may wish to be involved by providing meeting space - such centres might need more "volunteers" to help them run their activities, and a mutually beneficial relationship can be forged. A regularly monthly "Talk & Trade" meeting in a public place can work well. Alternatively, some LETS groups like to hold meetings "round the houses" of the members in turn, which makes for a friendly informal group. You can experiment with any of these approaches - some groups may be happy just to meet "online".

14. Agree Your Methods
Most LETS groups use paper-based methods, eg printed newsletters and cheques, even though they might use computers to help produce them. However, people enquiring about LETS often say "can't we just log on?", and LETSlink provides web-based systems to support LETS administration. Systems that allow members to update their own information online will enable the group to scale up and allow the core group to concentrate on what really matters in the neighbourhood. You can plan an organised "buddy" system from the start to ensure that those who can't get online are partnered up with other members who help them run their account. Be prepared to be flexible and run a number of different styles in parallel, eg printed vouchers and forms are handy for market-day trading and auctions - the transactions can be put on to a digital system later. Whilst initial discussions are taking place, if you want to do some practical trading, including recording the plannng work initial members are doing, you can set up short-term systems, just to get things started. This might include a directory on a word document, addresses on a database, and a spreadsheet for recording trades. However, the sooner you have an online system, the better, eg an initial web page and enquiry form, which we can set up for you can be used to direct new enquiries to you.


15. Think about Finances
The amount you will need to charge in joining fees depends on the style of your scheme, and what other support you can call on, eg if a community centre or organisation can host meetings and provide printing services, you can charge a lower fee, likewise if members are going to pick up information from one place, you won't need to incur postage costs. The lower your fees are, the more inclusive your group is, but having your own funds, however, minimal, does give your group a sense of independence. A sliding scale is one way, or even better have a set fee, some of which can be charged in your local currency - some groups avoid the chore of annual renewals by only charging a subscription when people first join, others use a "donation" strategy making an equivalent payment in local currency which adds flexibility. However, don't forget that you will need to cover an annual subscription fee to LETSlink UK.

16. Is External Funding Required?
At this point you might want to think about whether external funding is needed, but in our experience it can add additional layer of complexity that can skew your planning, for example, having a paid worker can discourage other members from actively working to organise the scheme, and unlike other voluntary organisations, you can agree rates of pay in local currency for bona fide administrative tasks, although many LETS groups feel it's ethical for planning work to be done on a voluntary basis. Small funds for specific costs such as printing (or contributing to consultancy provided by LETSlink) may be relatively easy to obtain, and will avoid issues of parity between members of the working group.

17. Check in with LETSlink
Report to LETSlink UK on what you have done so far. You may be able to give us an idea of your resources, eg those with IT, design, and organisational skills. Do potential members have computers at home, or can access be arranged at a local community centre, library, or internet cafe? Answers to suchlike questions will enable you to describe to us the kind of support you think you need: some groups prefer to be independent, whilst others will be glad to tap into ready-made systems that help them to support their group locally. We may need to meet up with you for some issues to be worked through, and/or you may be able to get advice and moral support from accessing our online members' area.

18. Install a System
Whatever type of system your group decides to adopt, you will need to transfer existing data into it, so that there is continuity. Key members of your group will need to ensure that they know how to run it. This is the time when you are most likely to need intensive support from LETSlink and might be a good time to arrange for someone from LETSlink to meet members of your group, help define coregroup roles, and identify what training is required - we aim to provide sufficient training to ensure that members of your group have the confidence to run the system independently. Here is a checklist, originally written for existing groups, for going online.

19. Test Your System
We recommend a period of working quietly, as a first stage of expansion from your core group. Try to get other friends involved, before going public, so that coregroup members can become comfortable in their roles, gain experience of running technical aspects of the system, and identify and sort out problems as they arise while things are small. We suggest you minute your coregroup meetings and keep a log of this process, and share it with LETSlink, using facilities on the system. This will help you, and it will also help us give a better service to other new groups getting started.


20. Expand your Membership
Once you have built up confidence, you can begin outreaching to likely organisations, who can benefit from joining you, getting them involved one at a time, eg a mother & toddler group, a school, a group for the elderly, a group for the disabled and their carers. You need to be clear whether you are inviting them to encourage their members to join the LETS individually, or you are inviting them to join as an organisation. Either or both approaches are valid. Some local councils, or CVS organisations supply lists of voluntary organisations, which are an invaluable source for outreach - if you find there are many relevant organisations this will be an ongoing process. Make sure they know about you, and become a member - if they have public events, turn up and make yourself known.

21. Access Local Support
Use all means available to make your group known. Leaflets can be placed in libraries, and local shops, and on noticeboards. Also if you've not lready done so, connect with local netorks, such as Transition Groups, Freecyle, Streetbank and Streetlife. In some areas, the Local Authority or Council for Voluntary Organisations run free listing services. They sometimes have paid support workers to help voluntary groups: find out out they can help you. They will have lists of other voluntary groups that you will wish to tell about your forthcoming launch. They may be able to assist you to obtain funding, which can be used for start-up costs, including support for LETSlink UK, which we can help you with by specifiying our requirements.

22. Hold a Public Launch
When you have gained confidence, you can plan a public launch, which will be your main opportunity to enrol members of the public enmasse, and really build up volume. It will require your systems to be functioning, attractive literature with your logo on it to be designed and printed, local newspapers and radio to be briefed, catering to provided by your members, a local personality, or official, perhaps even the mayor, to make an opening speech, someone to conduct a sponsored auction, computer training, stalls, amusements and entertainments, perhaps a creche, and photographs to be taken recording the event.

23. Contact Local Businesses
Once you have had a successful public launch, you may be in a position to approach local businesses, especially those that need to expand their customer-base. Prioritise those whose philosophy is compatible with a green lifestyle, such as complementary health centres, small theatres, organic box-schemes, wholefood shops, and vegetarian cafes. Tell them they can use their LETS credits, for example in getting "volunteer" help to run their enterprise. Explain that they can accept your currency in part-payment (printed vouchers may help here), and that they should use it for business-based expenses rather than personal drawings.

24. Continue Outreaching
Follow up on the publicity created by the launch. Run regular open events, make contact again with local community groups, and discuss how LETS can help them, for example if they need more volunteers, a project to support them could be set up withing the LETS. If there are insufficient practical skills on offer, you can headhunt the trades you need by answering newspaper adverts. You could invite them to a meeting, and explain that joining the LETS can enable them to offer their services to people who would not otherwise be able to afford them - and become part of a very friendly network. All these approaches need to be managed carefully one at a time.

25. Stay Tuned

There's a lot more to learn, so stay in touch with us: LETSlink <admin@letslinkuk.net>.
MF/mf • First Draft: 20/7/2007, Last tweaked 24/8/2016
- Comments and Feedback Welcome.

© Published by LETSlink UK, 12 Southcote Road, Tufnell Park, London N19 5BJ