I am working with groups who understand the need to re-localise our society and re-build community. In this context it is tempting to imagine pre-industrial landscapes where every village was mostly self-sufficient. But only a cataclysm would bring that about given that half of us live in cities, and our love of technology favours an economy with intense specialisation.
That's why, although I've been trying to extend it so for the last 2 years, the LETS model can't be the basis for the new economy. LETS and Timebanks are successful only to the extent that the members trade within these membership groups. Their best user-case would be a pre-industrial village, but because most people buy most things from elsewhere, using hard, portable currencies, these models are stuck in the economic outer margins.
There are two main approaches to make these 'closed' economies work better: Increasing the geographical scope of the community should allow a fuller range of goods and services to be available, but as the catchment area widens, the users and local communities have less control over their money, and the more room there is for pockets of plenty and parsimony within a single economy. A global model, like Superfluid, and some others, in no way favours local trade, local control of the money, or experimentation.
The intertrading approach (which I have been promoting for some time) attempts to increase the usefulness of a currency by making it easily exchangeable. But it creates problems. Each community has to maintain it's own balance of trade, and exchange rates are very difficult to set. My earlier proposal on mutual recognition agreements was thought to be too complicated to be workable; I estimated a month to work out the details, but it may turn out to be a rabbit warren of a problem.
In discussions with the leaders of the SELs in South and Central Belgium this week, I realised that while we are giving software to every discreet 'community', and they want governance on that level, when it comes to trading they don't want those borders. They started off as local mutual credit circles but they envisage a much more joined-up future. That act of joining up websites is hard. It is much more powerful to have one big space and support groups within in it. It seems to me that the Belgians want different kinds of groups with different scopes:
- governance and community organisation tools on a very small scale
- a global marketplace which prioritises proximity.
- regional currencies, or perhaps regional, local and national currencies.
This just isn't LETS, and LETS probably isn't the best starting point, technically, because joining LETS systems together, especially in a scalable way, is no trivial task.
Requirements1 We need an pluggable open architecture built on the internet, (or something less vulnerable to authoritarian choking); comparable to Facebook, but ideally less geared towards selling private data for profit.
2 It needs to understand geocoordinates and in particular, proximity
3 Posts need to have a location, and searches/filters should have a radius
4 It needs to have excellent group support. Groups should have
- ability to nest
- membership criteria
- decision making / governance tools such as voting and other metrics
- task management tools
- accounting tools in the group's currency
- rating / feedback / reputation systems
Not ready yet
While FaceBook seems to encourage narcissism it would be nice to encourage cooperation and collaboration instead by bringing groups to the fore. Some groups would be primarily trading blocs; they would determine their own governance.
A better starting point than LETS might be a global social network with an API for writing 3rd party applications like FaceBook. Not FaceBook itself however, because, without getting into ponerology, Facebook is evil. I know of only one candidate for this, Diaspora, but unfortunately it hasn't been built yet, let alone established itself as worthy of building on.
But perhaps this gives you an idea? How can we work towards a community software architecture that meets most of those requirements?