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Update July 2006: "Have System Will Travel"

Dear Friends
This is a brief update only. It's already been a helter-skelter of a year, with events moving so fast, we forgot to update this page to let you know, but will try to make amends with this brief note. Please forgive the infomal style.

Events
To keep things fresh on this website we change the "latest news" link from time to time and also try and keep the events page up to date, including specifically LETS events, and also LETS-friendly events as well as international conferences on community currencies. www.letslinkuk.net/home/events.htm.

Software Project
So many LETS organisers have enquired about updating their LETS software, or even getting computerised for the first time, that this has now become a major pre-occupation. Some LETS are operating satisfactorily with their LETS accountant using a "standalone" system, typically based on Microsoft Access, customised and made available either free (without much support) or commercially (with support). However to move things forward, we are pursuing opensource community software which will enable members to update their directory entries and even transact online, and have been engaged with software experts worldwide in our pursuit of our mission to make a choice of available for LETS organisers to adopt. As a result of funding received by LETSlink London from Fast Forward to teach LETS we drafted a specification for new software, which we made available for comment on the LETSlink wiki. Matthew Slater from Cambridge has studied these specifications and is in the final stages of producing a system which we hope to install soon for London-wide LETS members, who have been without a working system since the Golden Network was discontinued several years ago (although most London boroughs have flourishing local groups). The test site for the new system we are currently focusing on is here: www.letslink.org/london.

Connecting Up LETS groups
LETSlink's ongoing project of putting up links on our website to local contacts in order to answer a continuing flow of enquiries, which received a boost in the form of funding from the Cooperative Group has made GOOD PROGRESS and we have almost completed this task: www.letslinkuk.net/regions/uk-map.htm. This is the first stage of a more ambitious project to connect up LETS organisers (in much the same way as LETS schemes would wish to network their members) and to develop a basic platform of information for the researchers who continuously seek information on LETS, but we need more resources to develop this. Meanwhile we have also make progress on the backlog of enquiries and have succeeded in connecting up a number of enquiries where there is no group, so that a new group can start in the area.

Visits and Visitors
It's been an extremely busy year - here are a few highlights off the top of my head, and there are probably more I can add in when I check my diary. Last summer we travelled to Cornwall to visit Rob Follett, who co-ordinates the southwest network, and who showed us the mysteries of the opensource system he uses to run its interactive website, LETS Forum, which was very valuable experience in our quest to implement similar services in other regions. Last October Richard Kay of Coventry LETS and the LETSystems Trust and I were invited to the World Summit on Free Information Infrastructures (WSFII) which was held in Limehouse Town Hall. Richard spoke about the realities of running a local LETS group - "it's not just about systems - you need a good events organiser so that your members can meet up". My opener was that world poverty is engineered by the mainstream financial system so there is no more important software project than developing alternatives. In November I visited East Lancashire LETS, who were in the throes of developing their own web-based system. In December I gave a power-point presentation to a group of Japanese industrialists who were looking for ways of supporting their elderly retirees, explaining our latest ideas on integrating LETS with time-based currencies. In February Robert Simpson and Victoria visited us from Scunthorpe, where they have been developing a Time-LETS hybrid called Scunnymoney. Throughout the year we have participated in many conferences in London to make sure LETS stays on the map. Most recently we have accepted an invitation from The Woodcraft Folk to give a workshop at their annual ten-day summer camp Global Village 2006. From the autumn term we are hoping to host regional meetings, including camping conferences (to keep costs low) and Woody is busy putting a camp kitchen together.

Funding
In order to expand in various areas, we have started to explore several funding opportunities. After LETSlink UK's 1997-1999 grant from the Lottery Fund had ended, we got £2k plus £2k shared between John Courtneidge and myself for the personal initiative we shared for "LETS Co-operate" in November 2002 supplemented by £1k from Co-operatives Southeast.

LETSlink UK received £900 from the Co-op for the mapping project mentioned above, and LETSlink London's £10k from ESF for the course was supplemented by £2.3k from the Co-op to implement the system in London: www.letslinkuk.net/london/training.

• We began to develop a proposal for some serious research on management styles which will continue on from the fact-finding exercise of the Connecting Up project and have academic partners ready to help us at the University of Leicester, but could not make the application as we did not have sufficient trustees on board.

• With help from Upstart in Somerset, we have recently submitted a proposal to the Lottery for BASIC funding, and have hopes that this will give us more resources to continue our aims of getting LETSlink UK fully resourced to meet the challenges of the future - watch this space for an update on this.

Trustees
We are now on a mission to gain more trustees. Our oldest trustee is Meg Goodare an original member of North London LETS who has wide experience in the voluntary sector. John Courtneidge, co-operator and peacenik, has continued as a trustee even though he is in Canada, but he keeps in touch by email. Rosamund Stock, a researcher at the London School of Economics has joined the team. Woody Bronson, long-time enthusiastic supporter and volunteer for LETSlink, currently chairman of North London LETS, who is very keen to see LETS going online, has recently consented to becoming a formal trustee. There is room for as many more representatives from the regions to join the Board as we can persuade to do so. With new funding we will be able to pay travelling expenses to enable more out-of London LETS members to participate, and if volunteers are not forthcoming I am prioritising head-hunting suitable individuals to stand as interim trustees, in consultation with local LETS organisers. I am personally still a trustee as well as company secretary (only to make up numbers) but don't need to be and can easily make way when we have more on board. The criteria are not only good experience of running LETS, but a willingness to look to the future of how we can work together more effectively all over the UK.

Subscribing to LETSlink UK
Despite the small amounts of funding that we have received, the fact is that LETSlink UK is in debt to its trustees and needs to urgently update its paid-up membership base as we have not received subscriptions from most since the year 2000, when LETSlink UK founder Liz Shephard resigned, following the resignations of most of the Board, leaving a single trustee (yours truly) in place holding the threads of the organisation together. We have delayed asking for renewed subscriptions in order to get good systems in place where we can concretely offer services to LETS groups in answer to the FAQ (what do we get for our money). We can now say that paid up subscribers will benefit from being able to influence and participate in the development of LETSlink by means of an e-list which has been provided for us by Richard Kay (but not yet put into use). You will have access to the member-only area on this website which will develop in such a way as to meet member's stated needs. As the next stage on from the mapping exercise, we will also provide our members with customised web-pages to assist the general public in finding local groups to join. For those who require it, we also aim to host interactive websites at an affordable rate. To subscribe you can write to us on your letterhead including your current joining leaflet and latest newsletter and enclosing a cheque made out to Letslink UK for £25 (poor), £50 (medium) or £100 (rich) plus donations if you have funds in hand covering the the gap in your group's subscriptions to LETSlink UK - if in doubt please ask - or you can use this form - which needs fixing - watch this space.

Upwards and onwards! Best wishes from
Mary Fee, Secretary, Letslink UK & Letslink London,
12 Southcote Road, Tufnell Park London N19 5BJ,
Tel 020-7607-7852
www.letslink.org
www.letslink.org.ukwww.letslinkuk.net
www.letslinklondon.org.uk


 

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