Collaborative Credit Systems

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Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater:

"Today, in the non-profit sphere there are six main networks, some serving exclusively timebanks (Timebanks USA, hOurworld,, and some aimed mostly at LETS (German tauschreise, Community Exchange Systems (CES), and Community Forge). CES comprises 4 subnetworks, each running on different machines with different governance. Together these systems are servicing tens of thousands of people who transact with each other regularly. They are very different to both the cryptographic currencies like Bitcoin, and the local vouchers like Brixton Pound, because the currency is issued into circulation as a credit, or IOU. They are “Collaborative Credit Systems” (CCS), which "involve participants monetizing their trust in each other by creating new agreements and symbols concerning exchange of value” (Bendell et al, 2015, p 5). They are described as collaborative, as they involve “voluntary collaboration between people and organizations, rather than compulsory arrangements between banks and governments, to issue and transact credit" (Bendell et al, 2015, p 9). Over the past 15 years, many of these complementary currencies systems have been migrating off their spreadsheets and bespoke web applications and onto a handful of online platforms (Slater 2010). Usually the software is offered as Software As A Service (SAAS), but sometimes can be downloaded and run autonomously, and occasionally hosted by a third party. It is these web applications and their networks of users they support which are critical to the future growth and shape of this sector.

Another form of CCS exists between businesses. In most countries the commercial barter or reciprocal trade sector exists and enables participating businesses the option to trade with each other without using the national currency or banks. At present, the world leader in this sector is Bartercard, a UK listed company with franchises all over the world. Several other networks survive in that market especially in USA (Bendell et al, 2015).

Having inhabited this sector for some years, its fragmentation is painfully obvious to us. There are social spaces such as Thinkbarter for the commercial barter systems, Digital Currency Council and various corporate conferences for digital currency entrepreneurs, and a Skype chat for the community-focused activists, but vanishingly little cross-pollination. In particular, people interested in cryptographic currencies and the Blockchain on the one hand, and community-oriented nonprofit currencies on the other, have not had systematic means of learning from each other." (