UK LETS and Complementary Currencies
Development Agency


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Management Styles
Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) have been running in the UK since 1985. The basic theory of LETS was established by the LETSystem Trust, but the task of co-ordinating the development of LETS in the community fell to LETSlink UK, which was founded in 1991, in order to meet the demand for support by the growing number of local groups springing up around the country.

By taking account of feedback from member groups the LETS Info-pack was developed. Along with background material, it recommended a form of organisation to support a LETS, using paper-based administrative systems, that required a high-level of team-work. Much of the administration can now be done online, but a high level of co-ordination is still required.

Usually referred to as the Core Group, the management committee for running a LETS has to combine the requirements of a democratic community-based organisation, with the demands of running a technically-based system whose purpose is to continually replenish itself by outreaching into the social "market-place". It has to be said that there's a lot more to it than at first meets the eye.

Our first model (S) - Single - refers to an individual running a LETS solo - which is possible if you are multi-skilled and are prepared to work around the clock. However, most people enjoy being part of a team. If that's just two, the work will be divided according to the talents of the partners, probably along the lines of Publicity and Administration roles (PA). Below are four different portrayals of working teams of three or more, which have the potential to scale up to match the number and skills of the people involved, and the extent to which they are able to delegate tasks.

In (CAST) the organisers have a good grasp of what is involved, and they all
multi-task, covering a selection of other functions in addition to traditional committee roles. The key feature is adopting a portfolio of tasks to suit individual talents, thus achieving a balance of power.

This person chairs meetings and might also like to be the co-ordinator, contact and outreach person, possible producing editorial material for a newsletter which is put together by the Secretary.
This role covers all the technical aspects of running the system. It will suit the aspergic individual whose delight is saying little but doing all the bits that the others think are really boring, but could also include training.

Writing up minutes of meetings, designing publicity material, updating the website, listing events and communicating both with members and the outside world can form a valid portfolio of tasks for the literate individual.

The sterling accountant role can extend to overall administration, budgeting and fund-raising, organising buddies, and managing outreach portfolios, ensuring that local currency is applied creatively to community projects.

(ACE) describes three hands-on individuals, who may not need to meet up formally, except for an AGM, because they are getting on with the job, and communicating all the time.

T his covers everything to do with running the actual system, ie creating accounts, keeping a member list, displaying offers and wants, and enabling communications, and transactions. The paper-based model involves photocopying, cheques, postage, and databases, and requires team-working to spread the administrative workload. With the advent of web-based systems these functions can largely be automated, freeing up energy for other things - NB web-based systems do not run themselves, but are only the back-end to the real work of running LETS. However a sound technical system is the essential foundation.

This means maintaining an overview, having lots of good ideas, being a people person, and having good communication skills. This role requires flair, being able to chair meetings, field enquiries from the general public and the press, sell the services of the LETS to incomprehending others such as volunteering organisations, political groups including anarchists, council officers, and funders, and generally ensuring that the LETS has a public profile.

This is about creating occasions for members to meet, given that people rarely contact unknown others off a list - they usually prefer to follow up when they have already met the person socially. An effective events officer will not only plan events and outings and encourage members to help organise them, but will also outreach to existing organisations who run events, for example complementary health centres and alternative theatres, and persuade them to accept local currency in full or part-exchange for tickets.

(MAP) can also be run by a trio, but has the potential for diversification by developing into three teams, who each run their own co-ordination meetings. It can be presented as a hierarchical model, with the management group overseeing the activites of the other two.

This harks back to the tradition voluntary sector requirement for the roles Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, who jointly run the organisation by means of formal meetings to decide policy and oversee the work of the other two groups, who may prefer to focus on the daily tasks of running the system, and send in reports to the management group. Having separate teams like this may work well when there is an "older generation" who are not too sure about going online, but who have valuable advice and long-standing contacts in the community.

As before, this team between them cover the actual work of running the system. Even with a web-based system, some specialisation may be needed as numbers expand. For example the roles of Membership Secretary, Directory Editor, and LETS Accountant, can have their counterparts in a web-based system, and there may be the additional need for people who offer Technical Support to make sure the system is backed up and new members receive initial training.

This role can cover everything from designing flyers, to placing adverts, dealing with the press, making sure the LETS is listed in local websites run by the council and voluntary sector organisations, to getting on Facebook, running Socials, producing a Newsletter, running a brochure website, monitoring a forum, liaising with groups such as Transition Towns and adopting volunteering projects.

(LAMP) is really a network of local groups, where the emphasis is on arranging for members to meet up, and enrolling them into the system, with as little bureacracy as possible. The other roles work together to provide centralised support.

In this model the Local co-ordinators are key. They are multi-tasking networkers who just want to link people up. They are supported by a technical system which enables them to enrol people as and when. In time they might gather a team around them.

This individual works in the background providing technical support, backing up data, and ensuring the website is kept tidy. In order to keep the workload manageable s/he will make sure a buddy system is in operation. There is potential for evolving into an administrative team.

This will be a co-ordinator, or in a more substantial scheme, it will be a committee who carry out the traditional Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer roles, deal with funding, delegate work to individuals, and oversee the scheme.

The emphasis here is outreach in the community. This wily and politically aware individual will liaise with groups such as Transition Towns, work with officialdom, sell the LETS idea to volunteer bureaux, commandeer plots of land for growing vegetables, organise swat teams, and also co-ordinate brokers for member groups, eg drivers, gardeners, childminders etc.

Whichever way a LETS management group configures itself, the essential functions are described by the acronym: LETSdoIT - Mary Fee © Feb 2009 (admin-at-letslink.org)

© Published by LETSlink UK, 12 Southcote Road, Tufnell Park, London N19 5BJ