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LETS in Small Communities

The Local Exchange Trading System has been used in many different contexts, and the success of the model is its adaptability and durability. Various other simplifed models have been derived from it, but a well-run LETS can be adapted to more or less any situation at any scale required.

An element of exchange is implicit in the running of any household, but because of the close relationships involved in the family it is rarely spelt out, except for some diligent parents creating rotas for their children to carry out household tasks etc. Where you have adults sharing a household, especially where children are involved, a degree of formality becomes useful. Tasks such as shopping, cooking, cleaning and child-minding are best done on behalf of the whole community, freeing others up to pursue work or leisure interests, but in a small community there will be a felt sense of what is fair, and so detailed records of time spent need not be kept. However if the scale of the household moves upwards, and major tasks such as household repairs and growing vegetables are involved, and where some members go out to earn money and others stay behind to manage the household, then the sharing out of the workload becomes a salient issue.

In Laurieston Hall, a community set up in the early seventies in Dumfriess and Galloway, there are over twenty adults many of whom have children. There they have the concepts of equal rent, for which membes will need to earn by their own work, and equal workshare. The latter is the name for a standard amount of the work undertaken for the community, and members can develop specialisations according to their skills. The additional complication is that there are at least two co-operatives for earning money within the community, one is the hosting of events, and the other is preparing meals. Visitors canjoin in on activities, such as cooking, washing up, gardening and fetching wood, as an add-on to these arrangments. The community also has long-term WWOOF type residents, and specific weeks for household repairs. All these complex arrangements are governed by a weekly management meeting, open to all members of the community.

LETS technology - ie the new online systems which give all members access to common information and allows them to update relevant information, including transactions, at their own level of responsibility - enables some tasks to be costed differently according to their professional level, if required. It makes explicit who controls budgets and agreements on what points should be given for any particular class of activity. The system can be sophisticated enough for some members to be able to earn local currency and have that set against rent. So it would support at least the level of complexity that has been evolved at Laurieston Hall over four decades, and enable such exchanges in the community to be managed in a transparent and flexible manner, and also allow member to member trading between residents and neighbours as they wish.

Each and every community is different, but situations will fall into patterns so that experience can be translated from one to another. For help with analysis and implementation of LETS to support household management of small communities with the potential to extend into the neighbourhood, please get in touch at an early stage as possible, and we will do our best to help. A meeting where we learn what the requirement is, and demonstrate web-based solutions that have already been implemented elsewhere, will enable the group to decide whether such an approach could be of benefit to them. We can then agree a basis for further work and a timetable for implementation.

Contact: LETSlink UK, 12 Southcote Road, London N19 5BJ • admin-at-letslink.org • 020-7607-7852 • 07966-216891

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