The LETSystem Design Manual

3.2 LETSystem Organisation

A LETSystem is like a club, but to think of it as a formal Association can be misleading. It's more like a community that comes together to hold parties or meets regularly on Sundays to play football. A core group is useful in getting the system up and running. But for the day-to-day running, a committee approach brings unnecessary bureaucracy and can be contrary to the spirit of the LETSystem.

In a LETSystem there is always enough information to allow participants to regulate the system themselves. There is no need for a separate group to "govern" the system. But organisers are needed to make the system work. Like all other participants in the system, they are accountable to everyone involved.

Once it becomes clear who does what, there is no further need for regular meetings, constitutions and other legal paraphernalia. All that is required is that responsibilities are clearly laid out and consent to those arrangements is freely given. This is easily achieved through the account- holders' agreements. (These are agreements between account-holders, not an agreement with a central or higher authority.)

System Administration

Keeping it in mind that work needs to be kept to a minimum and that all running costs are recovered from the account holders, the following organisation is recommended:

1) The Recording Co-ordinator takes responsibility for keeping the accounts. Since this function is performed by the Registry Co-Ordinator (see Section 3.1), any systems attached to a Registry can do without their own Recording Co-Ordinator, and rely on the Steward for liaison with the Registry. The tasks are to:

  • ensure that all entries are made according to the instructions of the account holders
  • make available accounting information when it is required by the account holders
  • keep the administration account in balance
  • levy charges (after consultation with Advisory Group and Stewards) to recover costs of accounting administration
  • carry out valid requests from LETSystem Stewards (see next section)

Note that this is a co-ordinating role and the accounting work can be shared amongst other participants. Both the co-ordinating and the accounting work should be rewarded in local currency and charged at cost to the account holders. (A flat fee per transaction is the fairest way.)

2) The stewardship role is about looking after the LETSystem as a whole and maintaining its integrity. A Steward (sometimes called the trustee in other countries) is responsible for:

  • setting charges in consultation with the Recording Co-ordinator and Advisory Group
  • acting in the best interest of account-holders in general to:
    • suspend accounts or
    • instruct the Administration to refuse to record a transaction (in cases of anti-social behaviour which is damaging to the operation of the system).
  • working with the Advisory group to resolve complaints about stewardship
  • monitoring development and liaising with other groups.

The idea is to keep intervention to a minimum. This job is generally unpaid, and should stay so until there is good reason for a change.

3) A self-selected Advisory Group is composed of account-holders who are not involved in other aspects of organisation. They put themselves forward at an early stage to act as sounding boards and to advise the Steward or the Recording Co-ordinator.

This role is one of observing and communicating. As with stewardship, the advisors are unpaid.

Other activities

It is vital that system start-up and development activities are kept separate from system administration. Account holders pay for services as they use them. It is totally unfair and counter productive to expect the first few users to cover large initial development costs for systems which will eventually benefit many, many people. It's like opening a hairdressers and asking the first day's customers £1000 each for a haircut. Development funding is provided externally and those active in development can charge their efforts through a LETShare (refer to Section 2.3 and Section 5.3.)

The directory/noticeboard is also a separate function which does not require the involvement of anyone outside the directory group. Once a system is up and running, the directory can be provided by this independent group as an offer through the system. Costs are recovered from users of this service as they are incurred and are transferred to those who operate the directory.

The same applies to organisation of socials etc. Users feed back directly to the group concerned.

No need for constitution

Some development groups may need a constitution or some form of incorporation. But the LETSystem, when organised on the above lines, requires nothing more than clear account holders agreements.

The LETSystem is based on the idea of community where there is interaction but no ownership. If the system is organised in the above way, responsibilities are limited and clearly defined. No profits are made. Any assets such as computers can be leased or rented. Ownership is not an issue, so there is no need for constitutions, formal decision making, regular meetings etc.

Recent research has shown that account holders are very happy to leave the running of the system to responsible individuals. Experience also tells us that the committee style of organisation is associated with a particular way of thinking which is often associated with volunteerism, make-work and political activity.

The answer to the constitution problem is incredibly simple. Don't constitute. There are no reasons for, and every reason against doing so.

Landsman Community Services Ltd Paper No.3.2 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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