The LETSystem Design Manual

2.2 Multi systems

Systems within and beyond the Registry

Each Registry operates LETSystem for those who are on the Registry list. All accounting charges are collected through this primary system.

But groupings of individuals may benefit from special systems which meet their particular needs. Anyone on the Registry list can declare a new system which can then be supported by the Registry accounting services. In this way, a groups of people on the Registry list can easily form additional systems. The members of this group determine their own unit of exchange, organisation, terms of trade, entry conditions and so on.

For instance, systems may be convened for child care, for the members of a housing co-op or a local environmental group. The child care system may exchange in hours, the housing co-op may have credit limits and the environmental system may institute a 10% tithe towards a reclamation project.

Such terms may not be acceptable to all the participants in the Registry system, which is therefore required to remain neutral and operate as a non- partisan service to the community.

Individuals decide whether they want to be in the special systems or not. The following table gives an example of the choices which individuals can make.

Individual choices within multiLETS

Name          ID  Registry  Child Care  Housing  Environment
Jill Brown    jb      +                    +
Pete Wood     pw      +         +
Kim McLeod    km      +                    +
Mary Dalton   md      +         +                    +
Betty Benn    bb      +                              +
Phil Kingham  pk      +

Notice that everyone participates in the Registry System, if only to pay their accounting charges.

In this example, no-one participates in all the systems. Phil Kingham uses only the Registry System. The others also participate in one or two of the other systems. Mary can trade with Betty on the Environment system, and with Pete on the child care system. But if she wants to trade with Kim she can only use the Registry system.

The natural tendency is for people to prefer trading in the smaller groups, as they provide more immediate feedback . On the other hand, the larger systems give access to more goods and services. Within a multiLETS framework, the individual has more choice.

Monthly statements, provided by the Registry accounting services, will give separate details of trading for all the systems that the individual participates in. Regular statements promote continuity and a feeling of security and control amongst the account holders.

Each system has its own unit of exchange which is independent of any other. Participants in a particular system determine their own units. Some will measure transactions in pounds, others will use hours, others something altogether different. Units from one system cannot be used in any other.

Personal money represents personal promises among a defined group of people. If units were to be convertible, this would sanction a type of money market, trading in the promises of others. (This breaches the fundamental LETSystem principle of consent.) In practice, convertibility could lead to the enrichment of those in one system and the impoverishment of those in another. The idea of local money is to prevent such a draw-down on communities, not to encourage it.

In due course, as personal money ideas become increasingly accepted, other systems such as LETShare, capitaLETS, neighbourLETS (see Section 2.3), all related but distinctly different, will also be available through the Registry

Account charges

  • A registration fee is charged. This is a one-off at, say, £10. and should be chosen to provide a cash float for start-up and maintenance of the accounting services in particular. It should ensure that account statements can be sent to participants for up to two years. The registration fee is merely the initial safety net. It can cover costs of "user" cards, ring-binders etc. and thereby establish a common style throughout a Registry. This style can be maintained even when people may be opening accounts through a variety of independent recorders, such as local accountancy practices, Granny Brown's Bookkeeping Service, the Credit Union and so on.

Where £10 is a barrier to those who are hard up, the Registry should work out a way to ensure that no-one is prevented from participating. But the cash float needs to cover every registrant, so that a reliable service can be provided. One solution is to charge in local money and obtain a cash swop from an account holder who is keen to acquire local money.

  • Account charges are levied in local money through the Registry LETSystem. Sticking to the "cost of service" principle, the actual on-going costs of operating the accounts must be recovered from charges to meet phone bills, stamps, etc. "Local for cash" exchanges can be used to convert local money from the service charges into the necessary cash. For practical reasons, account charges must be 100% local.

  • Annual fees are definately not recommended. They are difficult and expensive to collect, encourage people to drop out and in any case they may not reflect the cost of service principle. It is much better to charge accounts directly, in local, each month according to overall costs, as per the number of transactions that have passed through the account. The overall costs include the costs of sending out statements, the phone line, etc.

Providing a service

The above recommendations are based on the primacy of the individual. The organisation is there to serve those who want to use the facilities provided. When someone registers, he or she is declaring and asserting his or her right to issue personal money (see Section 1.3). The identifier with which she or he registers is a further assertion of this basic right and a declaration of the willingness to use local money.

Landsman Community Services Ltd Paper No.2.2 Version No 1.3 17 August 94
Written by Michael Linton of Landsman Community Services Ltd. and Angus Soutar of Robert Soutar Ltd.
Compiled 10-01-95 by Andy Blunt and Adrian Steele of LETSgo Manchester
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