Postcard from the World Social Forum

Dear Community Forge,

When the support team 'sent' me to Montreal, they left me free to decide what to accomplish there! So I stated my intention to discover other networks of communities who are trading and exchanging with each other. Not necessarily because we have free software for them, but because we want the freedom to exchange with them. This year I co-authored with Tim Jenkin from Community Exchange Systems a paper describing the credit commons which is a protocol to enable exchange-relationships regardless of the software used, and with which we might make a global trading network independent of governments and banks. So its time to start identifying those networks!

I was lucky to be offered free accommodation out of town and thus spent the week with a cluster of Canadian activists.
Day 1. Registration. After a Skype call with some of you at the Rencontres, which was organised by supporters of Community Forge, I went to a coworking space ocuppied by the P2P Foundation, where I bumped into the Transformap team. They have been working three years to aggregate online mapping projects into a super-map of the solidarity economy. This is a hard intellectual challenge because each one of the hundreds of maps they are working with its own category system. We are envisaging a marketplace for all the SELs, and we shall face a similar problem, so we had a good conversation.

Day 2 I went to a talk organised by RIPESS, a global organisation trying to coordinate the solidarity economy. Amazingly the conversation turned to the question of money and exchange, and I was able to speak for 1 minute about the paper! I handed out several copies and several people gave me their cards.

Day 3. I planned to go to the second RIPESS session but I couldn't get into the city in time, and then for the rest of the afternoon I didn't know what to do, so I ended up attending the session by several of my co-habitants - the Universal Alliance. Coincidentally, they are designing structures and processes for communities including supporting the practice of exchange. Finally I attended a talk by free software advocate Richard Stallman.

Day 4 started with my running the trading floor game 'La Corbeille' which I created at the 2012 Poisy Rencontres with Sybille Saint Girons - it helps players to think about money in a new way. The venue was a bit out of town, but we got just enough people (9 for it to work). Then I went to a session on 'trans-local currencies' run by the local currency project in Geneva. There again I spoke for oine minute about the credit commons and all my copies of the white paper were snatched off the table! Then I had coffee with Jason from RIPESS. He said that more monetary awareness and tools were needed and invited me to meet the steering committee in their next Skype meeting. Then I had coffee with a board member of the Accorderie, a Canadian Timebank project which has also spread to France. I learned that it does much more than timebanking; the model includes several mechanisms for support and mutual support of the poor. Since 30% of their members don't have internet, they don't regard software as a high priority.
The last day, Saturday, was a trade fair, and many many stalls were selling alternative health products, handicrafts, sustainable tourism, or showcasing their campaigns or technologies. I was looking for trading networks, and found none, but I did find the stall of Jeu, Jardin d'Echange universel this is like a global LETS, using account books and no computers - it relies strongly on trust because it is a lot of work to check the integrity of someone's book.

Besides what I've said here, there were many interesting and valuable conversations, but with less relevance to Community Forge. Several things happened which could bear future fruits. It is very hard to measure the value of them, especially now, and especially with only my perspective. Lets see how much I refer to this week in future reports!
Matthew

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