Bartering for goods and services is increasingly common in today's economy. Experts estimate that thousands of Canadians are purchasing millions of dollars worth of goods and services through local barter networks using little or no cash.
BarterWorks, established originally in 1992 as the K-W LETSystem, is a local non-profit trade network supported by The Working Centre which provides an infrastructure for organizing, planning and creating exciting barter possibilities. Our members consist of individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations.
We use the language of the gift economy in our accounting. Therefore a negative balance represents a commitment to give something back to the community and a credit represents acknowledgement for a gift or service given to the community.
What BarterWorks Provides
- Brings people together around the common goals of skills exchange and cooperation
- Recognizes the gift of skill and good work
- Encourages people to define and describe their skills and abilities
- Assists individuals to work towards developing small business and income-generating ideas
- Provides a base of over 100 members for businesses seeking to promote their product or service
- Starts from the premise of "ability" and is based on the ideas that we all have skills and strengths to share with others
- Creates a local currency that recognizes the important role that the informal economy plays in a strong and healthy local economy
Why & How it Works
"LETS" (Local Exchange Trading System) is a way of getting around the need for money and conventional employment. Money as we know it was created largely to address the most significant flaw of bartering, which is that you can't always find someone who has what you need and will accept what you have to offer as payment. Money has solved that problem, but it has introduced new ones:
- Money comes and goes; it doesn't stay in one place, it moves based on decisions made by those who control the most of it
- There is a limited amount of money; there has to be, if there is too much money floating around, it loses its value
- Only a select few can create more money; you can't just print it yourself
As a result of these problems, money becomes a limited resource in and of itself, and while it can be used to buy anything, if you don't have any, no one will trade with you. However...
Whether or not a community has much money or faces serious unemployment, the people still have skills, posses some resources, and can still perform work. A LETSystem harnesses these resources, allowing economic production to continue in a community despite a lack of money, thus allowing the community to sustain itself.
Assigning a dollar value to labour is an idea born mainly out of the industrial revolution, and the direct relationship between work and money has imbedded itself deeply into our society. The reason for working is not to make money however, but to produce goods and services; money, as an artificial resource, is ultimately beside the point. LETSystems such as BarterWorks are then just an alternate means of organizing a community's economic activities, putting people back to work - for themselves and their community - without the need for conventional employment.
In a LETSystem such as BarterWorks, members of the community get together to determine what goods and services they are willing offer one another, and agree to offer these to the community in return for an agreement from the rest of the community to do the same for them.
BarterWorks is a local trading organization based in the Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada. Our members offer goods and services ranging from construction to accounting, legal services, child-care, graphic design, clothing, food, health-care, entertainment, computer services and much more.
Members trade goods and services through the exchange of barter currency or a combination of barter and Canadian dollars. Skills and talents are traded whether or not they are used professionally.
Trades are conducted between members by pricing goods and services with a local currency called BarterDollars. BarterDollars ($B) have the same value within the system as a federal dollar, and they only exist as entries within the BW accounting system (i.e. there are no $B bills, coins, or notes). BW members are each assigned an account to keep track of their balance of $B. A new account's balance starts at 0; providing a service to the BW community will increase the balance while receiving a service will decrease it.
BarterWorks members set the prices of their goods and services as they see fit, and are welcomed to charge a percentage of any trade in federal currency since certain products are not available from with the BW system. Generally, the costs of supplies and materials are charged for in federal dollars, and labour and profit charged in BarterDollars. For instance, a BW member decides to buy food from another member partially using BarterDollars. A price of $20, with 50% payable in $B, is negotiated. $10 of federal currency is paid to the seller, and the seller records the $B10 trade transaction one of three ways:
- leaving a message on the BarterWorks voice mailbox (see below)
- emailing email@example.com with all of the required information
- entering the information on the Local Exchange
The seller can then spend their barter credit with the buyer or with another member by locating a product or service they require in the network's directory, e-group or at a Market Day.
The BarterWorks office has a central database which tracks member information and trades. Transaction statements and account balances are available anytime upon request.
Having a positive account balance will not earn any interest, nor will a negative balance incur any penalties. Members are given a $B250 'credit limit', meaning they can continue trading within the system as long as they do not fall more than $B250 into the negative. A negative account balance held by a member is essentially a promise to the community to give service to other members, so you can start spending BarterDollars as soon as you join!
We discourage large positive or negative balances because our system operates best when people are consistently exchanging items.
The BarterWorks Directory is an excellent way to view the variety of services and products that are available from our members. Both offers and requests are categorized in the directory.
The directory is now available via the Local Exchange.
Community Market Days
Community Market Days take place on the last Saturday of the month at Queen Street Commons Cafe (43 Queen Street South) from 11am-3pm. Please see the Working Centre Calendar for more information as dates may be subject to change.
These events, which are open to the public, give BarterWorks members opportunities to promote their goods and services, meet face to face and expand the membership of the organization. All BarterWorks members are invited and encouraged to attend.
Tables are provided free of charge for members to display their goods. It is the responsibility of each member to reserve a table with the Coordinator beforehand and to bring a float. Transactions are recorded on ledger sheets which are submitted to the office at the end of the day.
Members are encouraged to promote the Market Days. Posters are created and distributed throughout the community to advertise these events.
BarterWorks hosts an e-group which allows members to post messages regarding services or products that they would like to offer or request. These messages are sent to each participating member by email.
The group moderator sends an invitation to new members to join the group. This allows for people to post new items in between directory updates. It also allows new members to introduce themselves to the group and advertise items that they will be selling at upcoming Market Days. Joining the Yahoo group is optional - one simply "accepts" the invitation by clicking on the link in the e-mail to "join this group".