The LETS Game

LETS is the Local Exchange Trading System (or Local Energy Transfer System), a way of sharing resources around by community exchange.

This game is fun to play and takes about 20 min. It is a very useful tool to demonstrate how LETS works and get across the message that LETS is based on balance and equity. The materials required are easily made in advance. If the trading cards are prepared with imagination, playing the game can also provide inspiration for what to trade, helping to illustrate the concept that everyone has something to offer.

What you need:
Enough cards to deal one Offer & one Want to each player.
Offers – each card has a different Offer written on, eg hairdressing, computer repairs, jam, hammer.
Wants – each card has a different Want written on, to exactly match the offers (equal numbers).
Banker cards – slips of paper, some with +200 and others -200 written on, equal numbers and enough so there are credits and debits for each trade. For simplicity make all trades equal in value, and pick the value 200 to get across the idea that LETS trading is serious.

Preparation:
Shuffle the Wants cards and deal out 1 per player.
Shuffle the Offers cards and deal out 1 per player.
Each person holds 2 cards. Check that no one holds a Want that matches their own Offer.
(Hint: arrive with the cards clipped together in bundles of 5 so it’s quick to count out the exact number of matching Offers & Wants for the actual number of players.) Place the Banker cards in 2 separate piles on a prominent table. Or for a large group, appoint 2 bankers, one for handing out the +200 and the other for the -200 cards.

To play:
Take turns around the circle to call out an Offer or a Want, then whoever has the matching card completes the trade. playingcards2The buyer keeps the Offer card purchased. Put the used Want cards in a pile (or a box) in the centre. The seller claims +200 and the buyer takes -200.
Everyone witnesses the first few trades, then it can be a free-for-all with everyone calling out at once, moving around the room and trying to find a matching trader. When each person has completed 2 trades (using their 2 cards) they should sit down.
When all trades are completed, ask players to calculate their balance.

Conclusion
Ask the group, what was your balance at the beginning of the game? Zero.
What is your balance at the end of the game? Zero.
BUT say everyone is a winner, as each person has purchased something they wanted.
Point out how this game differs from Monopoly in which the Banker deals out equal money to the players at the beginning, but at the end there are winners owning all the houses and property, and losers who are seriously bankrupt!

Janet Bishop from Condamine Catchment Community Exchange developed this game. She started with ideas from games found online, tested it and listened to people’s feedback, then came up with this very simple form aimed at beginners.

6 thoughts on “The LETS Game”

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