The origins and growth of LETSystems

A LETSystem is a self-regulating community trading network that uses a local currency to facilitate the indirect exchange of goods and services between users.

Local currencies perform a similar function to cash or cheques. Goods or services are paid for in part local money and part Sterling. LETSystems are not designed to facilitate bartering or skill-swapping.

Local currencies have been common throughout economic history, emerging whenever needed to maintain a community's internal economy. Inevitable instabilites in economic and financial patterns, for instance, during the depression of the 1930's, prompt a variety of initiatives.

The Social Credit movement was one well-intentioned but poorly designed example. More successful systems were used in Austria before World War II.

The Origins of LETSystems

    The first LETSystem network was established in the Comox Valley, British Columbia, Canada in 1983.

    The early development work on LETSystems at Comox has been championed by
    Michael Linton of Landsman Community Services (Canada) Ltd. since those early days.

    The design was adapted from the so-called commercial 'barter systems' common in the US and developed to meet community needs. LETSystems offer a greater range of advantages to all sectors of the community (individuals, organisations and businesses) at a much lower cost.

The Growth of LETSystems

    The initial growth was slow during the 1980's due to limited development resources and fragile user confidence. Since 1987, steady growth has established at least 70 similar systems in New Zealand and almost 200 in Australia.

    In the UK, the numbers have risen from 7 in 1991, to 20 in February 1992 and to 200 as of February 1994.

    World-wide at least 500 LETSystems are now operating. All of these systems are based on the original Comox Valley prototype.

The Future of LETSystems

    LETSystems may well be expected to account for 30-40% of the UK economies by the end of the decade, largely through local economic growth. There is now considerable interest in LETSystems from local authorities, political parties and grass-roots community organisations.

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Version #003 27-7-96