In Manchester, there is a slightly different story in the making. The project already started in this city is following essentially the same development model as that recommended for LDI elsewhere, but uses a faster track in its first stages.
This project, and the primary prototype in the Comox Valley, are the only instances of LETSystem development that will make a speculative profit for their participants. It is one predictable consequence of these two initiatives that they will be unrepeatable. In demonstrating the extraordinary potential of local currencies as a highly marketable service, they will also show just how easily and cheaply that service can be provided - and make available all the software and materials for others to use.
Thereafter, market forces will determine that LDI in other communities is a collaborative effort that generates appropriate returns for those who use the tools available. No individual or organisation will be able to maintain a monopoly.
Perhaps the primary purpose of LETSgo Manchester is to make it utterly clear that starting and providing local currency services is as easy as falling off a log. The need to make this clear is evident from the present comparative lack of the sort of action around the world that will most certainly begin when the point is properly made.
It is also true that the tools presently available for the job are still somewhat unrefined, and while some may appreciate the scale of the opportunity, they are discouraged by the considerable gap between that opportunity and the present state of the art.
Falling off the log may indeed be easy, but it can be difficult getting on the log in the first place.
Better tools need investment and investment in new technology requires high profit potential.
To encourage people to be the first to climb on this particular log, LETSgo Manchester has been designed to provide all its contributors with a healthy return for their efforts. LDI in Manchester is in any case expected to generate around £250-300 million in CtC revenues over the next five years or so, with 10% of that available for funding system development. In this particular instance, one part of that overall revenue - estimated at around £20 million - is intended to recompense the initial risk-takers, those active in the current LETSgo Manchester project, and those who have contributed to its progress up to this point.
This diversion will have minimal effect on the capacity for longer term LDI efforts in Manchester, as it draws only £2-3 million from the £25-30 million available for that purpose, and the rest of the expected £20 million will come from the £250-300 million anticipated for distribution to community charities and projects.
In the circumstances, this is an acceptable deviation from the anticipated orthodoxy, given that it creates the precedent for others to follow.
It is intended that this high profile and high energy inititiative will prevent (or at least minimise) the confusion that can easily become part of every major social change. So far, the development of LETSystems around the world has been extraordinary; it has also been unfunded, incoherent and generally erratic. If we were to continue to move in this manner, there is every likelihood that such underfunded initiatives would be over-whelmed - at least temporarily - by others who might see the potential for substantial profit and jump to take advantage of it. We could find ourselves involved for some time in all sorts of competitive distractions, none of which would add to any clarity.
By way of example, note that there are already over 600 commercial so-called "barter" organisations in the USA vigourously and quite understandably competing for their share of over $7 billion p.a. of trading - and for the yield of perhaps $700 million p.a. in operating revenues. Without a clear demonstration of the proper nature of LETSystems development, similar patterns could obscure the main issues and misdirect efforts.
Therefore, LETSgo Manchester has been specifically designed to provide the first and last profit-making LETSystem development, as a focus for the creative energies of all those interested - and willing to take the risks that go with being the first to jump off the log.
While most of the project budget of £1.5 million will be spent in Manchester, there is considerable opportunity for participation from other sources. Yes, you too can participate - if you have something useful to contribute to this development, you can join our "virtual corporation".
Further and more detailed information will be published through these pages, frequently and in response to requests.
- this page is still, as you see, being written.
Written by Michael Linton of Landsman Community Services Ltd. Version #005 27-7-96