A couple of people have asked me lately, what exactly is LETS? Here's my take on it, in particular our local system here in the Perth Hills called "Swan Hills LETS".
We’ve been in LETS since our daughter was born in 1997. I used to read about it in “Grass Roots” magazine which I used to subscribe to in our “self sufficient” days before life took over. Then I met someone at the community learning centre who was in it & got into it then.
LETS systems are active all over the world, but they’re always community based. It’s basically an alternative local currency – ours is gumnuts.
The system prints its own virtual currency (gumnuts in our case) which circulate throughout the community. We have access to a member directory of goods & services on offer, and there’s a strong social culture.
When we trade with each other, our transaction is recorded in a central database, in our case a website that all members have access to - members record their own transactions. Every member has an account which starts at 0 and fluctuates into credit or debit, a credit representing work we’ve done for the community and value that we’re hoping to get back out of it. A debit represents a debt we owe the community. On leaving the system everyone’s supposed to return their account to zero so there’s no leakage of energy from the system. (This doesn’t always work in practice).
The sorts of things our family have offered & used in the past are gardening busy bees, eggs, massage, herbs, babysitting, 2nd hand goods, excess home grown veggies, help building a straw bale structure, etc etc.
We get out of it as much as we put into it, so sometimes months go by when we’re not involved at all, and other times we’re trading frequently.
- Make new friends
- Encourage healthier lifestyle
- Extend purse strings
- Strong community
- Hard to get tradespeople to join, and hard to get blokes to do a lot, which is what a lot of people want, especially single women & older people.
- You have to be pro-active to get the benefits. Most members are busy people just like everyone else & need to be asked directly. So sometimes people join LETS & then get disappointed that nothing happens, but the most successful members are those who attend social gatherings, busy bees & get actively involved, and more recently, those with email who use the member forum.
- You have to try & spend & earn equally (over the long term) so you don’t end up with a big debit or credit. This can sometimes mean being creative about what you spend your gumnuts on.
- Our “community”, the Perth Hills is a huge area – Pickering Brook to Guildford to Toodjay. I would like to see more LETS systems being much more local.
- Sometimes members leave the system with debit balances (owing), which basically means that the energy they owe the community is lost. This seems to happen more often than people leaving with credit balances, and is actually quite detrimental to the system, although happening much less frequently now that the committee has recognized it as a problem. The best way to not be affected by this is to ensure that you never get too big a credit balance, and always try to spend what you earn. It works well for us.
Does this interest you? Are you in the Perth Hills? We're always looking for new members!