Beating the credit crunch while building community

WF_LETSSubmitted by: Diana Korchien and Rosemary Warrington

Waltham Forest LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme) is a community organisation where members offer and receive goods and services without the use of money.

LETS has been running in Waltham Forest for more than 20 years and the scheme has grown especially quickly over the past two years: there are currently over 200 trading members.

Local alternative trading systems have been around for many years and WF LETS is arguably one of the oldest in London. LETS originated in the U.S. in 1983 and has spread to many locations across the world. The Bristol and Brixton Pounds are more recent and very successful examples of local alternative currencies. The Bristol Pound may even be used by the council to pay local businesses soon.

The underlying idea of both LETS schemes and other local currencies is to strengthen the local economy whilst also strengthening community ties.

Against the backdrop of government cuts, shrinking disposable income and the demographic changes of the borough it is not surprising WF LETS has grown in recent years.

Whilst the scheme has changed a lot over the years, it has not yet broken into social media and digital forms of trading. This is all to change in 2015 along with diversifying the offers of goods and services on the site.

So how does it work? People trade using a unit of virtual currency called the Beam. There is no upper limit on the number of beams you can earn, and one can go into debt by up to 200 Beams. A member may earn credit by doing childcare for one person and spend it later on carpentry with another person, or they may spend first and earn later.

Your wants and offers can be changed at any time in the course of your membership. Here’s a tantalising taster of some of the offers: DIY, music and language lessons, alternative therapies, gardening, loan of tools and equipment, computing, cooking, giving lifts, allotment vegetables, dogwalking, sewing and lots more.

Current wants include: piano lessons, holiday plant watering, book keeping, tree pruning.

WF Lets is holding their AGM in January (check their website for
details) and is inviting people to participate in shaping its future. You can join Waltham Forest LETS in person at an enrolment session, where the scheme explained in detail and you receive help to register your offers and wants.

There are trading events throughout the year, but enrolments are always held at the Hornbeam Centre, 458 Hoe St, London E17 9AH, from 10.30am-12noon on the last Saturday of every month.

The next session will be on Saturday 25th January.

For info about the Waltham Forest LETS AGM to be held in January 2015 as well as other news, please visit the website at http://www.wflets.org.