Community Exchange News

 No.1, 10 March 2003

 Community Exchange News is the Newsletter of the SANE Community Exchange System (CES) group



Welcome to Community Exchange News. This is the first of what we hope will become a regular publication of the SANE Community Exchange System group. Its purpose is to provide news about the CES group and information on how to use the system to best effect. We will provide regular news items about what is happening in the group and tips on how get most out of the system. Later we could use it to advertise new offerings and wants.

We would like this to be your Newsletter, so if you have anything to say, anything to complain about, anything to announce, anything to advertise, anything at all… please send your contributions to the Editor at ces(at)

Get involved!

We have signed up a number of new members to the SANE CES but very few have listed their offerings and wants, or participated in any trading. Because this is a pilot project, SANE would really appreciate your feedback. We need to know what your first impressions were; why you haven't jumped right in. You liked the idea, got your password and then we never heard from you. It would really help us if you could give us a moment of your time and let us have your feedback. Let us know how you found the system, how you think we could improve it and what is needed to encourage people to trade. Let us know what is holding you back.

What were your first impressions when you visited the site? Were you intimidated by it? Is there nothing in the Offerings List that you want? Do you believe that you have nothing to offer, or are you just waiting to see what happens?

It is vital to get your feedback because the very success of this pilot project depends on the enthusiasm of its members. Your participation is of equal importance.

We are all aware that the current monetary dispensation of this country does not serve the majority of its citizens very well. Let's do something concrete about it and demonstrate that there are other ways of doing things. Let us take on with 'missionary zeal' the goal of creating many such CES groups around the country, especially in disadvantaged areas. While one of the aims of this Newsletter is to generate enthusiasm and increase understanding about how the system works, the ultimate aim is to introduce community currencies in as many areas as possible so that we can begin to tackle the problems caused by our defective national money system.

So get in there and join in!

If you hate browsing the internet and find web sites intimidating, please get in touch with one of the people offering CES training. Tim Jenkin (021 685 4741 or 083 354 9374) and Karen Jordi (021 685 2157 or 072 387 5661) will show you how the site works and how to prepare a set of offerings for advertising on the site. The CES is designed to work for those who do not have computers too. Later we will publish paper versions of the Offerings List, but for now it has to work electronically. Paper documents cost (conventional) money and until we need to, no claims of a Rand nature will be made on participants.

The most important thing is to get trading. Even if you haven't entered your offerings look through the list (or do a search) and 'purchase' something from another member. You DON'T need a positive credit balance to get started. Remember, the numbers in your account merely reflect what you owe the community (what you have bought) and what value you have delivered (what you have sold). They are not 'amounts' of anything, just a measure of values. There is no stigma attached to having a negative balance, provided it doesn't get out of hand.

CES Public Events

Two public events are planned for March and April: the first will be an information event, tentatively planned for 26 March, and then a trading event for 12 April.

The information event will be a public meeting where a speaker will introduce the concepts of CES/LETSystems. A data projector will be used to demonstrate the SANE CES pilot project, and people will be able to join the CES group on the spot. Please try to make it to this event and bring along as many people as you can. The more people we have, the greater the chance of making a success of this event.

The 12 April event will be a 'CES fair' where people come along with their 'offerings' and do actual trading – even if these offerings are listed in certificate form. One of the functions of a CES is to build community, so do make a note of this event which promises to be a lot of fun. Think of it as a sort of 'bring-and-buy' but using the CES local currency. People will be able to join the group at the event so as to be able to participate.

Advertising your 'offerings'

Although one doesn't like to use such a term, you need to 'market' yourself when you advertise your offerings on the 'Offerings List'. This means that you should present your offerings in such a way that the Offering title makes it absolutely clear what you are offering. People scan through the list and stop on your offering if the title looks interesting. Try to use titles that are specific, but if you do use a general title such as 'Desk Top Publishing' then in the Description field explain all the services that you offer under this title.

As the list gets longer people will prefer to use the search facility rather than look through the Offerings List. If you have a title such as 'Desk Top Publishing' with only minimal description, then if someone is searching for 'business cards' and that is what you do but don't have it explicitly stated in your description, you won't be found.

A future enhancement will be to list offerings in categories, so always create offerings that are not so broad that they can't be categorised. For example there might be separate categories for 'Entertainment' and for 'Food', so an offering such as 'Party food' would span both of these categories, but which one would you put it in?

Remember too that people in South Africa tend to use British spelling so if you advertise 'counseling' but someone is searching for 'counselling' you won't be found!

The biggest problem people face is what to offer. Most of us think we can only offer what we do professionally, like being a pre-school teacher or a conflict resolution consultant, the sort of services not needed on the CES! But this is just not true of most of us. We are all good at something and there are very few of us who are not multi-skilled. You just need to think about it for a while. Maybe you can sew, or paint, or are good at gardening, or do haircuts etc. There are so many ordinary services that people want. Don't exclude yourself because you don't know what to offer. One member, Karen Jordi (021 685 2157 or 072 387 5661), will help you compile your offerings. Rather put down a wealth of offerings and then cut back on some of them when you find you are earning enough Talents through just one or two of them.

The Offerings List is for goods too, so if you have anything that you want to sell put it on the List. You can advertise absolutely anything: old books, junk in your attic or garage, fresh herbs from your garden, flowers, food, unwanted gifts, toys, clothing…

Advertising your 'wants'

Is there anything that you want but it is not offered in the Offerings List? Advertise it in the Wants List. Here you can put your wish list of things you want, like a massage, a hiking partner, a lift to someplace far, accommodaton, a house-sitter, a child minder, a pet minder, companionship, a book... Absolutely anything!

When others look through your wants they might realise that they can do or deliver what you are asking for, even if they have not offered it on the Offerings List.

You don't need credits to trade

One of the most difficult concepts that members have to get their heads around is that you don't need to have anything in your account before you can begin trading. Our 'money', Talents, is a unit of measure like a kilogram or a kilometre. Instead of measuring weight or distance it measures the value of the goods and services we offer. In the same way that you can't put a kilogram or a kilometre in your back pocket, you can't put a Talent there. You can only say my service is worth 100 Talents per hour and when you deliver that service the number of Talents is recorded against your name as a credit and against the buyer as a debit. It simply measures the values that have been delivered.

Because you cannot 'own' or 'possess' a Talent you can't have a supply of them in your account before you begin trading. Every Talent (credit) has to have an equivalent debit. For this reason you can begin trading immediately with a zero balance in your account. As soon as the seller registers that you have bought something, your account is debited. A negative balance in your account carries no stigma, as it does with our conventional money. It is not a debt in the sense that you owe a particular person something. Your negative balance simply means that you owe the community goods or services to the value of the debit. When someone purchases something from you, that debit will be reduced and could turn into a credit balance if it is more than the original debit.

A healthy balance is one hovering around zero (provided you are doing some trading!). This means you are getting as much out of the system as you are giving to it. A large negative balance is not healthy if it remains in the red for a long time. This could mean that you are exploiting the system. Likewise, a large credit balance is not healthy as it means you are giving more than you are getting. It does not mean you are 'rich', it just means you have a large claim on the community and that you are not giving others the opportunity to earn credits.

A large credit could be considered as a 'saving', a deferred claim on the community, but the concept of interest is completely alien to the CES. It is not possible to 'borrow' Talents, and no need for it either. We are trading our skills and goods directly, without an intervening exchange medium.

Who is the 'seller' and who enters the transaction details?

In the same way that many people find it difficult to come to grips with the idea that there does not need to be a 'supply' of our currency, Talents, it is difficult to grasp the concepts of 'buyer' and 'seller'.

The 'seller' is the supplier of any goods or services requested by another (the 'buyer'); the 'buyer' is anyone who receives goods or a service from another. This might seem obvious, but some members find difficulty with these concepts when it comes to payment time. There is confusion about who should issue the Trading Slip and who should enter the transaction information into the computer.

Think of it this way. When you go to Pick 'n Pay and bring your goods to the checkout, Pick 'n Pay is the 'seller' and you are the 'buyer'. You present your credit card and it is the checkout attendant (the 'seller') who enters the transaction information. The shop's account is credited and your credit card account is debited – exactly the same as our system.

It has to be the 'seller' who enters the transaction information; if it was up to the 'buyers' it would not be in their interest to enter the information, for doing so debits their account. Imagine if Pick 'n Pay had to wait for all their customers to enter the information about the groceries they have taken home. It would never get done!

When the 'seller' enters the transaction information the respective credits and debits are resolved immediately. The 'seller' does not have to wait to be paid, and the 'buyer' does not have to wait for his or her account to be debited.

It has to be the 'buyer' who issues the Trading Slip because it is the 'buyer' who is giving notification to the 'seller' that his or her account may be debited.

Think of a Trading Slip as your 'money', as your 'cheque', for paying the 'seller' for the goods or service you have received. As with a conventional cheque, a Trading Slip is just a notification that an 'amount' may be transferred from one account to another. In our system nothing is transferred, of course, but it is nonetheless a notification to the 'seller' that the 'buyer's' account may be debited and the 'seller's' credited.

A Trading Slip is your means of payment, as well as your receipt for the goods or service received. The counterfoil (kept by you as 'buyer') is your record of payment and also your notification from the 'seller' that the good/service was delivered.

Join the SANE CES

Do you know anyone who might be interested in joining the SANE CES pilot project? Please encourage them to join by writing to ces(at) All they need to do is request an Account Number and Password. If they wish to know more about Community Exchange Systems and Local Exchange and Trading Systems (LETS) they should visit the SANE web site at Clicking on "SANE Trading" from the home page has some short introductory information on the SANE CES.

Future issues

As indicated, we want this to be your publication. Please submit anything you want to say about the CES to the editor at ces(at)

In future issues we hope to include your feedback so that we can grow and improve the system. Feedback is vitally important for developing the system, to ensure that it does what its members want and serves the community interest.

If there is a demand for it we can include new offerings in the Newsletter, so that members are made aware of what has been added to the Offerings List. We may include the whole Offerings List with future issues too. This will allow you to print it out and make it available to others.

Editor: Community Exchange News

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