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GETS - Where the real action is

I just got off the phone with Richard Logie managing director of The Business Exchange (TBEx), who is also chairman of IRTA’s Community Currency Committee and I have to say that I never realised that complementary currencies were thriving in the way that he experiences.

The IRTA is never mentioned in most of the circles I hang around perhaps because they work in the commercial environment, they charge money for their services, and their members are businesses more than communities. Richard and others like him are managing large areas of their lives through reciprocal trade, in contrast to LETS which is often little more than a social clique.

While I spend a lot of energy drumming up interest in alternative economics, and explaining how useful software doesn't just 'appear' on the internet, and tracking down elusive community leaders to discover their software needs, Richard's concerns seem to be entirely the reverse. Their software, GETS, is funded entirely by its users to the tune of three full time programmers. They are so inundated with requests to join the system and requests for advice on starting new systems, and they are actually seeing growth in the economic downturn. Meanwhile LETS is mostly just a big conversation in the background. Almost irrelevant.

Richard is concerned about the failure rate of currencies. The knowledge on how to run and operate a Cc systems already exists so there is no reason to have a “trial and error” attitude any more. He argues that the easier it is to start a currency and the easier it is to walk away leaving people with worthless currency, the higher the failure rate will be. And of course the losers are the people who most placed their trust in the system.

As an open source programmer, I argue that the more currencies are started, the more will succeed, and the more people will be exposed to the idea. And of course we're both right, but how right is hard to say.

But we do agree that before software, governance must be addressed. A serious currency requires serious governance and then serious software. Cyclos is serious (in this respect), and so is GETS, but many communities find the barriers to entry of those systems too high, meaning they require more money or skills than many communities can draw on. Marketplace for Drupal has is a valuable tool for making Cc more accessible, but my question now is how can Community Forge promote responsible governance and thus increase the success rate of small scale projects?

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