TEM Local Alternative Unit - Greece
“Part alternative currency, part barter system, part open-air market, the Volos network has grown exponentially in the past year, from 50 to 400 members. It is one of several such groups cropping up around the country, as Greeks squeezed by large wage cuts, tax increases and growing fears about whether they will continue to use the euro have looked for creative ways to cope with a radically changing economic landscape.
“Ever since the crisis there’s been a boom in such networks all over Greece,” said George Stathakis, a professor of political economy and vice chancellor of the University of Crete. In spite of the large public sector in Greece, which employs one in five workers, the country’s social services often are not up to the task of helping people in need, he added. “There are so many huge gaps that have to be filled by new kinds of networks,” he said.
Even the government is taking notice. Last week, Parliament passed a law sponsored by the Labor Ministry to encourage the creation of “alternative forms of entrepreneurship and local development,” including networks based on an exchange of goods and services. The law for the first time fills in a regulatory gray area, giving such groups nonprofit status.
Here in Volos, the group’s founders are adamant that they work in parallel to the regular economy, inspired more by a need for solidarity in rough times than a political push for Greece to leave the euro zone and return to the drachma.”
“The group’s concept is simple. People sign up online and get access to a database that is kind of like a members-only Craigslist. One unit of TEM is equal in value to one euro, and it can be used to exchange good and services. Members start their accounts with zero, and they accrue credit by offering goods and services. They can borrow up to 300 TEMs, but they are expected to repay the loan within a fixed period of time.
Members also receive books of vouchers of the alternative currency itself, which look like gift certificates and are printed with a special seal that makes it difficult to counterfeit. Those vouchers can be used like checks. Several businesspeople in Volos, including a veterinarian, an optician and a seamstress, accept the alternative currency in exchange for a discount on the price in euros.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/world/europe/in-greece-barter-networks-surge.html)
From the Tepsie report, Informal Citizen Networks in Greece:
"The Local Alternative Unit (ΤΕΜ) was launched in 2010 in the city of Volos, on the East Central coast of Greece. It is a digital exchange Unit which is used for transactions that take place within the framework of the local Exchange and Solidarity Network which covers the entire prefecture of Magnesía.
The network grew very quickly and now includes more than 1200 members, among them teachers, doctors, babysitters, farmers, hairdressers, etc. who interact with each other online. All transactions are recorded in a special electronic system, so that any network member is able to offer or search for products and services in any given time. The concept is simple. The members sign up online and get access to the specific database where they can offer or search for services or products. The exchanges are conducted with the use of TEMs which are transferred into and out of each others' accounts online.
For individuals with no access to internet but also for those who are afraid of the internet (given its impersonal characteristics which can leave many people with a feeling of mistrust and fear), the network regularly organises open markets where members of the network provide assistance to citizens in registering themselves as members and exchanging goods with the use of TEM. These organised open markets also provide an opportunity for people to gather, exchange views and opinions and familiarise themselves with this alternative means of exchange. The network’s organisers have established a close collaboration with the local municipal services so that they can have access to trading points hosted in the city. It is very important that the municipality of Volos actively supports TEM through awareness raising and promotion activities.
The network also provides its members with printed vouchers of the TEM which can be used like cheques. Several shops and local business participate in the network by accepting these vouchers in exchange for a discount on the price in Euro, or they support them by offering facilities or equipment to the network (e.g. the server for the network was donated by a private company).
When one of the founding members of this network was asked two years ago about the network’s future perspectives and goals, he commented that “we want to see other similar initiatives emerge in other Greek cities in order to closely work with them. I mainly refer to cooperating with them because our aim is not to create a nationwide network but rather to initiate cooperation among autonomous networks in Greece”. Two years later, we can affirm that the development of similar initiatives have been realised in different Greek cities. However, their collaboration in terms of ideas exchange, provision of assistance among them as well as the provision of opportunities to members to use any of the collaborating networks when visiting or staying in another city, remains to be seen.
In terms of impact, TEM has enormous benefits for the local community. Now that unemployment is rising and people cannot meet their everyday needs, the TEM network represents a radical solution as its members can purchase products and services without using traditional currencies. It should be emphasised that the network does not aim to substitute the official state currency, but rather to provide a supplement for people who cannot meet their own needs. Therefore, TEM is an alternative way of supplementing lost income or of satisfying the everyday needs for living.
In addition, for most of its members, such a barter system fosters a new sense of community. TEM presents a different way of building a stronger community and a more resilient local economy. People report feeling happier and having more control over their lives."
- Kalimeri, T., Papageorgiou, T., TEM: Local Alternative Unit, 13 September 2011, retrieved 10 April