The LETSystem Design Manual

2.3 LETShare, CapitaLETS and other familial types


Variations on a theme

Personal money networks can be adapted to apply to almost anything.

Naturally and without intervention, they provide for the coordination of the activities of many elements.

They can do this in many ways, for differing purposes - group projects or subscriptions, joint endeavours - co-operatives, consumer and worker, capital formation, underwriting agreements, congregational maintainance, etc , etc

Varying the core components

1) LETShare

The LETShare is used where there is no immediate exchange possible, but all participants are concerned with distributing the load of an expense of time, energy and money.

So there is not necessarily any trading between accounts; in fact - in most cases - this is not intended. Trading is generally allowed, however, so that my excess effort on one joint project can be seen to offset yours on another. The essence of the LETShare is just: “Who put in what”?

A record is kept of contributions by the various parties involved - so much by Jo, Mary, Rob etc. Records can be in terms of time, money or expenses generally. This may be just for the record, and/or to encourage others to put in their share. The records can also be a key factor for internal group maintainance and morale.

Examples might be keeping track of who works what hours at the food co- op / parent support in the school / flower arrangements in the church.

Rather than assure or assume equality of effort in the group, this accounting allows all concerned to be clear about who has been doing what. The emphasis is put on showing differences rather than masking or otherwise overlooking them.

Community and business projects can also be tracked in this way. The purpose might perhaps be to prepare for distribution of the spoils / revenues / profits according to some agreed formula - as in the profit sharing agreements for theatre or film productions.

There is nothing new in this - just a way of looking, with a LETSystem perspective, at what's been there for a while

If it's a :

  • group process
  • no structure (hierarchy / control / intented persistence de facto)
  • negotiation of value

- then it could be called a LETShare arrangement.

The group meets to review individual submissions for acknowledgement. Valuations are likely to be negotiated before they are acknowledged by the group and entered into the records. Often submissions need to be defined as preliminary statements, rather than presentations of invoices, which could lead to tax implications before revenues exist.

In summary, a LETShare is keeping score within a group, perhaps for allocating rewards. This is the recommended pattern for regional development programmes

2) capitaLETS

Allows large numbers of diverse participants to make practical contributions to projects that will actually be carried out by only a few.

It is a form of community "sweat equity" - where the dentist and the cook and the retailer are effectively contributing to the construction of the new swimming pool without ever showing up on site. Those who are actually doing the work are paid in the promises of others to provide their services.

CapitaLETS can be for broad sharing of load without direct reward, and can also be used to attribute ownership, for instance, of a commercial venture.

The capital comes from promises to serve in the future, rather than risking savings from past efforts. Perhaps only some have any savings to consider. Direct contribution of sweat equity is likewise restricted to those with the particular skills needed and time available to provide them.

There are three phases:

  1. set up the capital - the promises of the contributors
  2. do the job and pay the workers
  3. gradually clear balances back to zero through trading.

    Characteristics -

    • external to active group, allowing more contributions from wider skills base
    • trading definitely intended, diminishing balance.
    • promissory commitments to provide future service
        - assymetric - few large +ves, many smaller -ves
        - negotiated by first receivers, who have to have TRUST
        - balance important in the portfolio of those commited.
    • accountable
        - contracts
        - indexing against inflation
        - time to complete probably defined
    • requires some LETSystem experience

    3) LETSupport / LETS'port

    A percentage of each trade goes, on the side as it were, to the project. Take a community sports organization, for instance, with a large population base. A small percent (tithe) of the trade on the soccerLETS will support local clubs. Or perhaps for a community school, political party and other causes. And, of course, religious organizations, who practice tithing for the parish funds -

    We encourage donor directed tithing through general networks - e.g. to Community Trusts

    This is a precursor to responsible local taxation (?)

    Systems implementing LETSupport will generally be monetised, and operating in so that they can cooperate with the financial sectors. Thus basically:

    • quantified (qualified ?)
    • standard measure agreed between traders
    • legitimate - i.e. publically accountable

    Otherwise it is unlikely to sustain.

    4) ethicaLETS

    These are a moderated form of LETSystems, which include ethical commitments in their Account-Holders’ Agreements. For instance:

    • pay equity - absolute or convergent
    • performance standards - i.e. cash and value added as rule
    • excluded / included activities - e.g. be kind to animals,

    The group is self-selecting, so participants only play if they choose to respect the proposed rules.

    But note - no credit or commitment limits can be set, or it's not a personal money, and thus not a "LETS" system.

    The system will not be a "full" LETSystem if the unit of currency is undefined, yet qualifies if the unit relates to a standard measure, and the process thus remains comprehensible and thus inherently practical.

    These take us all the way through to cover "time $" systems - generally not $-based at all, just time. It would help to call something by a name that carries an accurate meaning.

    5) sofLETS

    This is for neighbourLETS and extended "families". We may well lose interest in keeping score.

    Thus, in general, the options range from measuring with care to not measuring, hopefully with equal care.

    It's important to realise that these variations depend on the general competence of all participants.

    Lastly "look, ma, no hands" - please, only after learning to ride the bike.

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    Landsman Community Services Ltd Paper No. 2.3 Version No 1.3 17 August 94
    Written by Michael Linton of Landsman Community Services Ltd. and Angus Soutar of Robert Soutar Ltd.
    Compiled 10-01-95 by Andy Blunt and Adrian Steele of LETSgo Manchester