Community Exchange is a way of buying and selling goods and services without using money.
You may have heard of LETS which stands for Local Exchange Trading System or Local Energy Transfer System. LETS groups use community exchange to share skills and resources around the community. CES stands for Community Exchange Systems, and CES is also the online software that we use these days for accounting. Here are 2 websites with more information about CES in Australia: CES Australia and Community Exchange System Australia.
Instead of money, transactions are recorded in local credits, like keeping score of favours. Everyone starts with a zero balance, then when two members trade, the seller’s account balance goes up and the buyer’s balance goes down by the amount of that trade.
In Australia, community exchange is complementary to the regular money system and it can help users stretch the dollar further. A huge variety of goods and skills are available in the system, including many ordinary household items and services as well as unusual and imaginative things. The network can provide real support for its members and help to build community resilience. Around the world where there has been a financial crisis, the countries with community exchanges in place have fared the best.
There is something about this alternative economic system that fosters generosity and care and it affirms that everyone has something to offer. It is a system with inbuilt balance and equity, contrasting to the conventional economy that encourages greed and fear (in my opinion). You can’t get rich in LETS but you can enrich your life with real value.
I have been a keen LETS trader since helping to start Tableland LETS (now FNQCES) in 1991. It was an idea that I read about in the Down To Earth newsletter, and I talked about it with two friends. The time was right, and so began the local group which now has grown to be the largest and most active exchange in Australia with over 1000 members. In 2015 I was asked to give the opening address at the National LETS Conference and this started me giving talks about community exchange wherever I could find an audience around Brisbane and beyond. Now living in Brisbane I am trading and helping to manage BrisLETS. I am also part of a national team (OzCES) that supports community exchanges around Australia.
I am very interested in ways to build community as we move forward attempting to cope with climate change and all the associated problems. I have been part of the recent movement to build a new sustainable and ethical economy for Australia (NENA). During my years of medical treatment, I have felt very fortunate to be able to volunteer in my well times to this exciting and hopeful work. As you can tell I am passionate about it!