By Greg Roberts
BarterWorks is a project of the The Working Centre that fosters skill development and community building through the practice of sharing goods and services with others. As barter implies, you might think you offer your skills and products in exchange for other’s goods or skills rather than money.This is true to a point, but in reality one offers, in good faith, their skills and goods in exchange for a form of credit. This credit is issued as a virtual local currency that is used to purchase goods and services from others. Barter only works when you have a match between what you offer and what you need from another. Because this match is hard to make, BarterDollars are used as tools of credit, that afford you the opportunity to get what you need now, with your skills and products as guarantee that you will provide similar value in the future.
By choosing to accept BarterDollars (in whole or in part) for the things we make we also choose to redeem these dollars from others for the things they make and do. An obvious difference between our national currencies and local currencies is that local means the money is bound to this community and can get used over and over again.
National currencies tend to drift to larger economic centres. Another distinction of a local currency is that no interest is earned or charged on account balances. This means there is no incentive to hoard BarterDollars in order to gain interest. Also spenders will not be penalized for using the money.
These points combine to keep the money in circulation, precisely what we want to happen in our economy. People selling the things they make and do, meeting real needs and building skills.
Because BarterDollars are circulated among a similarly motivated community, new relationships are formed; trust and skills are built with every transaction. People may enter this community with a skill or service they want to share, only to discover that when they consider the needs of others, they find themselves developing new skills to meet these needs.
We are all of many things. Our consumer culture and big box habits have obscured and dulled this sense of our abilities. Doing things for others and cultivating our abilities are important parts of the gift economy that emerge in the practice of local currency projects like BarterWorks or other LETSystems (Local exchange trading systems).
Building community through economic transactions might seem a little too idealistic, but perhaps these little steps of providing for one another, might just grow into communities of abundance. We invite you to help us try.