Latest News in the World of Complementary Currencies

IRTA’s 2018 Convention Award Recipients Honored

IRTA is pleased to announce this year’s 2018 Convention award recipients and thanks each of them for their valuable contributions to the barter industry. This year’s major award recipients are: David Wallach Outstanding Achievement Award Mary Ellen Rosinski, Tradesource Paul St. Martin Outstanding Achievement Award: Karen Welch, We Trade Network Legends of Barter Award: Ric Zampatti, The Barter Company Gary …

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Learn the ancient art of pickling

Ever wondered about the traditional art of pickling? We’re running a pickling workshop this Sunday 30 September between 10.30am and 12 noon at Myatt’s Fields Market with a live demonstration of this ancient and eco-friendly skill. Never waste produce again: guaranteed! Book a place by emailing Sean at

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[PhD Offers] Call for Proposals for Up to Three PhD Scholarships – Monetary Orders in Capitalist Modernity

The Hamburg Institute for Social Research is offering up to three scholarships for doctoral projects that seek to analyze empirical phenomena of monetary (dis-)orders with the aim of further developing debates on monetary theory. Proposals should focus on studying empirical phenomena that have not yet been considered by research or be dedicated to re-visiting previously […]

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The Response: Disaster Collectivism and Community Resilience

Last year was an awakening for people all across the United States. 16 climate change fueled disasters left the country  with a death toll in the thousands and $300 billion in damages. The severe storms, wildfires, inland floods, crop freezes, drought, and tropical cyclones touched nearly everyone in one way or another.

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LocalPay technical options

This document outlines a range of technical options and estimated costs of each.

Technical projects by nature are notoriously hard to cost because by nature each one is breaking new ground and risks are hard to calculate. For projects to work to a predetermined budget, the technical risk must be priced in from the beginning and this takes the form of high salaries for developers to meet specific technical goals. There are many mIf the goals are softer, if some corners can be cut, if some features are considered optional – i.e. included only if the essential things are completed.

The below estimates are based on the cost of hiring developers at commercial rates and writing all the software ourselves. CoopDevs prides itself on executing nonprofit projects at below these types of estimates by identifying developers with intrinsic motivation and putting a lot of time into collaborating with adjacent projects. We have identified many adjacent and potentially adjacent projects, some with developers, some with funding. See this Proposed solution for federated social & economic network(s) for more details.

Who are CoopDevs?

CoopDevs is a team of professional software developers committed to working on local and solidarity economy projects. They currently maintain a network in Spain of over 100 time banks, and manage the software for an international project, Open Food Network, which provides open source platforms for managing logistics and money for veggie box schemes. Like us, CoopDevs are very cautious about using blockchains and tech which is too new because long term impact and project sustainability is more important than wowing their clients. They are currently involved in several projects, including one Horizon2020 project, Platform Labour in Urban Spaces (PLUS).

CoopDevs plan projects of this scale using the following 5 phases

  1. Specification – a lot of talking to decide what exactly needs building and how
  2. Prototyping – building the core system, perhaps trying different approaches.
  3. Development – Building the features and configuration and user interface
  4. Pilots – Trying the software with real users, and iterating with their feedback.
  5. Migration & Launch – Translating the data from the old system to the new when users are ready.

CoopDevs identify various skills required in different proportions depending on the project.

  • Product owners, to ensure the project really serves the organisation.
  • System administration, to set up infrastructure, and make it run efficiently
  • Backend development, to code all the databases and logic running on the server
  • Frontend development, to make the user interface (the mobile app)
  • User experience designers, to design the app so that users find it intuitive
  • Project management to ensure all the above are in harmony

Technical vision

We are working towards a world in which any local community can set up and own a node on a global alternative economy network. In public they might be a LETS, a time bank, a transition town, a mutual aid network, or a babysitting circle, or book club. Technically they would be just a node, publishing certain types of data object between themselves and sharing with other groups they designate. Some groups would be hosted on machines they own, others would work together to share those costs. Thus members of a group could see say, the posts of its neighbouring groups, and register their interest without having to create an account in a new platform.

This functionality is already familiar to most of us through Facebook, but only for the sharing of simple posts. Recently web standards have been established to make possible the sharing of new types of data, independently of any one platform or social network. We envisage not only news posts, but offers, wants, events and even complementary currency payments going between groups.

A new standard protocol called ActivityPub allows communities using independent web sites to federate around content management. Content is shared with neighbouring communities, who can edited, tagged or answer it according to their permissions. One social network Mastodon was built using ActivityPub and it is growing impressively. To us, starting with the ActivityPub protocol offers two major advantages to community groups:

  • they can operate independently AND as part of a network, sharing and interacting around content as needed.
  • they can share backend software components while customising their user experience in their own apps

I co-authored this document inviting other social networks considering their future to consider ActivityPub.

This diagram shows how a web server would host all the data and services for a community currency system, making some of it available for reading and writing through various ActivityStreams. Each actitivity stream would serve one function of community. For each activityStream there would be a component which could be easily incorporated into a mobile app. Administrative functions are often provided through a separate app. Data in each activityStream could be shared with any other community implementing these web standard protocols.

Sub projects

We identified and estimated the cost of four technical options to accomplish this in varying degrees. Each options involves a combination of the following seven software projects. This table shows the price of each project, a few details, and the secondary benefits.

Project Description Wider benefits
ActivityHub Server
Each ActivityHub would host all the user profiles, authenitcation data, content and logic while allowing sharing with other hubs. It would have many configuration options and features. It would have no user interface but be controlled only through a REST API. It could be built to serve many groups as one, or ideally, one group per instance. Our partners have already started work on this. This is critical infrastructure. Many kinds of implementation already exist, (the most prominent being mastodon) and we are forking another. Our work here should be widely used by resilient communities.
ActivityHub Provisioning
If we have one ActivityHub per group, there will need to be a provisioning system to manage the creation and updating of large numbers of instances. This involves quite a lot of complexity. These kinds of platforms will be widely needed and the cost could be much reduced if we find somebody else working on this. If we are the only ones building this, it could be widely useful.
Every software needs a user interface. Modern appliations often have one app for users, and another app for administrators. Each network will want a slightly different UI but they would share a lot of code. Useful to local currency groups running OUR ActivityHub Server
Holo Client
Every network (or every group) would have its own holo app, and data would be shared between apps using activityPub. ActivityPub integration would be useful to other holo projects who want different versions or variations of apps to share data.
TimeOverflow 2.0
Timeoverflow, CoopDevs’ existing timebanking software’s minimal feature set would be expanded to meet the needs of CES and Community Forge, so all four networks would be able to use the same software. The new version would implement activityPub to enable content federation between instances. A new REST API would be needed to enable the application to run headlessly, i.e. independently of the front end. ActivityPub integration would be useful to other holo projects who want different versions or variations of apps to share data.
Network services
While ActivityPub enables asscociated groups to federate content, we want to provide two services at the global level, enabling member-to-member interaction regardless of relationships between their respective groups. First would be a global marketplace for the solidarity which could be filtered by location, keywords, and preferred means of payment. Second would be a payment system between groups, meaning a global complementary currency payments network. (Both are already prototyped; funding could be sought seperately) Our hopes for impact reside here, where all the groups interact and become greater than the sum of their parts.
Each networks stores its data in its own format and will need a separate migration process into the new system. There will be efficiencies from doing these processes all together. Some benefits if/when other local currency networks decide to use our ActivityHub / Holo App

Four approaches

Shared hosting
The shared hosting option is similar to how CES and all the timebanking platforms currently work. The network provider runs the application on their server offers the sofware ‘as a service’. This means all groups’ data is stored together, typically in the same database. It means groups have very little freedom to configure, alter, hack or skin their software but all alterations must be done by the network provider at a time and cost of their convenience. Any group seeking autonomy must become a network provider for themselves which is difficult.
1. Piggybacking Timeoverflow EUR400K would enable sharing of costs henceforth, but do very little for other networks or to shape the future.
Time Overflow 2.0 + Network services + Client + Migration
2. Shared ActivityHub EUR450K – Each network would have one software instance which would be built to serve many similar groups. Networks would be connected using ActivityPub but groups would have very little control.
ActivityHub Server + Network services + Client + Migration
Full decentralisation means that any group could set up its own hub, maintain its own data while still participating fully in the network. This is expensive because it entails not only packaging the hubs to make them easy to install, but also publishing and testing updates to the hubs, and doing version control and ensuring backward compatibility. Community Forge offers full dencenralisation using Drupal’s provisioning platform Aegir, to give a Drupal instance to every group.
3. Decentralised ActivityHub EUR650K – For full independence each group should host (or choose where to host) its own data, and who to share it with. However this requires building and maintaining a provisioning platform, which is a software project in its own right.
ActivityHub Server + ActivityHub Provisioning + Network services + Client + Migration
4. Holo EUR550K requires writing less software because there is no server side, and no API to communicate between clients and servers. Every instance of the app runs exactly the same code and stores a shard of each group’s data. The drawback of Holo is that it is a very new technology and so entails the technical risks of not working, political failure of the project, not being widely adopted. And the Holo coders could be more expensive than other developers.
holo Client + Network services + Migration
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Report from HUMANs 2018 General Membership Meeting

Hello! Our HUMANs 2018 Annual General Membership Meeting was a smashing success, resulting in some deeper common understandings of where we are in our collective and individual site work, a new currency design and policy, and a great new Board of Directors. Here are our notes, taken collectively and still in progress. Here are the…

The post Report from HUMANs 2018 General Membership Meeting appeared first on Mutual Aid Networks.

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What will blockchain mean for communities and the Brixton Pound?

Blockchain, the Brixton Pound and activism Discover and discuss what the blockchain could mean for Brixton, community activism and the Brixton Pound. Blockchain promises a lot, but what is it, and what impact could it have socially and economically? Can it foster inclusion—and what will it mean for those who don’t participate? Guy Davies, Blockchain […]

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Tour of Portugal

Luisa and I toured Portugal in September 2018 to find out the best places to build a resilient life.

Portugal has been hit by recession since the 2008 Great Financial Crisis but not been in the headlines like Greece, Italy and Spain. We say a tourist boom going on in both Lisbon and Porto which is probably assuaging the situation somewhat. We noted that after Holland & Czech Republic, Portugal is the only EU country with a liberal drugs policy, and we heard nothing of the rise of the extreme right which is happening throughout the rest of Europe. As in other regions of southern Europe, chronic emigration from the country and the country side has led to empty dwellings and occasionally whole villages and low property prices.

The following are the places we would consider being, with a few ‘vital’ stats.

Ecoaldea Janas
Link | Map | Airport: < 1h | Green: 3/3 | Foreigner density: 1/3

This project emerged out of the Transition Town group in a small village in the National park near the Atlantic coast just north West of Lisbon. A cooperative was formed to sell and exchange produce in and around the village. Members were running their own enterprises as part of the cooperative. It aims to encompass the whole village. There are five permanent people (I think maybe 2 of them are children) and many short and long term volunteers – we just met one of them. The web site stresses that they are not an ecovillage but just cooperating on the basis of economy, which I liked. The site is I think 3 Ha with an eccentric stone house in the middle. There are also several more temporary building around used for longer term volunteers and courses. They are producing lots of food including baby trees, cider, pigs, sheep & mushrooms. There was an unused aquaponic facility. They run courses especially on building and carpentry. They were open to the idea of having a software engineer, saying that ideas for projects and income would come, saying for example that a device was needed to let the hens out at daybreak and that such tech could be marketed.

Link | Map | Airport: < 2h | Green: 2/3 | Foreigner density: 3/3

Tamera is an offshoot of an experimental living project in Germany with 150 permanent residents. Emphasis is Peace. This part of south Portugal is very dry, so our tour started by the reservoir they created, 12m deep [pic] and the people were confident that water would remain abundant! They are producing lots of food and completely vegetarian at the moment. There’s a team working on animal cooperation (rather than killing): wild boars disturb the soil as needed, rats are under control! There is one cluster of 30 families trying to live entirely using a solar energy and what they can grow. Another area was the Political Ashram but it wasn’t clear what happened there! Many neigbouring projects around are not visible online and hence under the radar. Sometimes Tamera requests skilled specialists who can then stay on favourable terms. Tamera is mostly famous as a place for experimentation in male/female relationships and its reputation sometimes a bit sordid or sensational. But the 2 hour tour stressed other aspects of their work and said that the peace we all seek begins in the relationship between the sexes.

Freixo de Meio
Link | Map | Airport: < 2h | Green: 2/3 | Foreigner density: 1/3

This vast tract of land has been procured by a rich family and its cooperative ethos restored. Members of the nearest village are growing and packaging many food products, as well as experimenting in various ways, for example with agro-forestry, and processing acorns into food. We saw several food processing machines and learned about some of the problems of keeping them running and optimised. The farm accommodated a few volunteers but most workers lived in the village.

Link | Map | Airport: < 1h | Green: n/a | Foreigner density: 3/3

Shawn was a founder member of Community Forge and for many years has been visiting interesting places and building pizza ovens. Living in Lisbon for the last 5 years he has a strong network of relations and a history of projects around production of bread and beer. We visited him in tiny premises where he was helping a friend start a bakery business and supporting a social micro-brewery. Shawn believes that the time is near for a complementary currency for micro-producers to make a circular economy.

Serra d’Estrela region

Over the past 20 years, numerous northern Europeans have moved to Portugal for a different lifestyle, and though they are all over, there are many pockets where they are more dense. Many of these pockets are in the region to the west of the Estrela mountain and national park. We found there an international community where everybody seemed to to be growing their own veg, living with little money, socialising with each other, learning Portuguese and creating their own cultural activities. Every weekend there was a market somewhere, though maybe for social reasons more than economic! The Portuguese seemed to be welcoming of the foreigners, especially those bringing youth and childhood back after their young left the villages for the city and migrated to other countries seeking jobs. Everywhere there are many empty or decrepit down houses. This area was devastated by forest fires last year, forcing some foreigners to leave and others to rebuild their homes from scratch. Our host Steve ran a local currency for several years, but it never gathered enough momentum to work without constant stimulation. We visited 3 pockets:

Sao Joao da Boa Vista
Map | Foreigner density: 2/3 | Airport: < 2h | Green: 3/3

  • foreigners more aged, thinly distributed so everything he did required the car.
  • vegan cafe working informally with local produce

Sao Pau
Link | Map | Foreigner density: 2/3 | Airport: < 3h | Green: 3/3

  • Younger crowd who all know each other
  • Many more expected to come in next years.

Map | Airport: < 3h | Foreigner density: 3/3 | Green: 3/3

  • The densest pocket of foreigners in and around a village in a valley.
  • lots of young families
  • high level of cooperation especially after last years fire disaster
  • Steiner school nearby, and new alternative school opening in Benfeita

Here’s some more data which may be of interest.
Portugal’s house prices are a bargain

Winter and summer mean temperatures:


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Free creative session for songwriters

We are delighted to announce a free event for aspiring, current or ‘used-to-be’ songwriters. On Friday 28 September at 7.30pm at the cafe, the South London Songwriter’s Lodge present the Songwriter’s Showcase. South London Songwriter’s Lodge, is a songwriters support network made up of an eclectic group of songwriters. The writers are at varying stages […]

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IRTA’s 2018 Convention a Huge Success!

IRTA’s 2018 Bally’s Las Vegas Convention was full of energy from start to finish. One-third of the 100+ attendees were from new companies to the barter industry. Many have said it “was the best IRTA Convention ever!” Tanya Galdamez, from Crescent City says, “General Honore’s speech was invigorating and humorous. The seminars were super informative – and with no yawning! …

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