Developing LETS, fighting poverty

by Cathy Peattie MSP Falkirk East

Some years ago, in the days when the Scottish Parliament was still a twinkle in the public eye, I took part in a workshop on Local Exchange Trading Systems. After playing the “LETS Trading Game”, I was left feeling very disappointed that I had not been able to get my grass cut, or my “cat sat”.

It did however get me thinking. If LETS could work in Stirling in a Mental Health Project, and in rural areas, why shouldn’t it work within urban communities? I was told by people-who-should-have-known-better that LETS were only successful in middle class areas. Yet it seemed to me, that this kind of mutual approach could work equally well in communities that were “time rich and money poor.

In Falkirk, following interest from a number of local groups, the Voluntary Action Resource Centre (VARC), the local CVS, in partnership with Falkirk Council and Forth Valley Enterprises, secured funding to employ a LETS development officer with administrative support. Development worker Mark Ruskell’s role was to work with local people to develop a local LETS Network.

The team organised publicity events and trading fairs, and worked with local people to help them develop a constitution and systems for trading. In addition, they arranged ongoing training sessions, on a number of issues relating to running successful LETS.

Like all new LETS, the Falkirk System will take time to grow and develop. While it is unusual to employ staff to develop the LETS project, this was seen as a short-term measure to kick-start the Falkirk Network. Forth Valley Enterprises funded an evaluation of the LETS project, which at that time was their first real venture into a local partnership with the community on a social economy project.

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