Community Exchange News

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


CES membership approaching 200

The SANE CES now has 189 members (6 August) and we are signing up new people every day. This is all without trying very hard. For the first few months the CES was a pilot project and we deliberately kept the numbers low to ensure that it wouldn't fall over. Now that we know it works and is stable, we will be embarking on an all-out membership drive.

You can help push up membership. Simply get one other person to join and we will double the membership! Send any other ideas that you have on membership to the Admin.

Over 300 Trades

On 6 August 317 trades had taken place since the start of the system. This represents a value of T27,981 traded.

Over 300 Offerings

On 6 August there were 323 Offerings in the Offerings List, and growing daily. There are some truly amazing offerings, from acupuncture through to yoga, with much in between. A car has been offered on the system as well as several cell phones, and lots of good, nutritious, organic food!

First employee on the system

Karen Jordi, one of the first members of the CES and a member of the CES steering committee, has been employed by Permacore, and she will be paid solely in Talents. This makes her the first person ever in this country to be paid a 'salary' in a local currency. Her salary will inject new energy into the system as every expenditure has a multiplier effect and gets things going all the way down the line.

Companies and Organisations on the system

Five companies and ten organisations have now joined the CES.

New features

A number of new features have recently been added to the CES web site. You will have noticed that the Offerings List is now broken down into categories, and that the lists have the date when the offering was added and the area of the person making the offering. You can also sort the lists by any of the column headings.

We are trying to improve the appearance of the login page, which is the page that we refer people to when they want to know about the system. We hope to have a lot more information there soon.

We are busy developing a new look for the actual CES web site, which is what you see as your personal account. From the top we plan to have drop down menus instead of static menu items in the middle of the 'home page'. This will mean that all features are available from wherever you are. The first page will be made more appealing and will contain news items about the CES.

Other planned features are:

Events: Observatory Holistic Lifestyle Fair

The "Talent Exchange" has appeared three times at the Obs Fair now, and each time it gets bigger and better. Each time brings a whole new batch of members.

The idea behind appearing at the Fair is for members to get together to sell their wares for Talents and to get to know each other. On sale have been wonderful boxes of organic veggies, herbs, books, household items, the full range of Enchantrix cleaning products, homemade jams, eggs, teas and cakes, massages etc.

Please come to the next Fair, which will be on Sunday 7 September. Bring anything that you wish to sell. You can sell for Talents or Rands; if for Rands you can sell the Rands to 'Projects' (see below) to convert them to Talents. You can keep the Rands of course, but we would be disappointed if you did so!

Tip: How to do a search

The search facility is available from every page of your account. Type in a key word and see what it produces. Often it is better to type in part of a key word as users may explain the same thing in different ways: e.g. "proof" will find "proof reading" and "proof-reading". Some people use different spellings for the same thing: e.g. "counselling" and "counseling". To ensure that people find your offerings describe what you do in different ways as people might search for your offering with different words. For search purposes it is far better to have a lot of description about your offering than just a word or two. As the list gets longer and longer, searching will become more popular and your offerings will simply be missed if they are not adequately described.

Tip: Print yourself some Trading Slips

Many members still find 'shopping' in Talents a confusing affair. They cannot figure out if it is the buyer or the seller who gets the Trading Slip, who fills it in and which part of it is kept by whom.

The problem seems complicated because often it is the seller who provides the Slip. Please, if you are going to buy in Talents go to your account and print out some Trading Slips for yourself. You can even choose to print out personalised Slips that will have your name and account number on them. Cut them out and staple them into a 'cheque book'.

This way you will not be confused when you purchase something. Think of your book of Trading Slips as your cheque book. Use them in the same way as you would conventional cheques, with the one fundamental difference: you write your name on the Slip, not the seller's.

Remember, it is the seller who enters the details of the trade into the computer. Your Trading Slip serves as your medium of payment, your 'money', and the counterfoil is your notification of payment.

Trading Slips are not essential to effect a trade but they are a legal bill of exchange if signed by both parties and will eliminate any disputes later on if you keep them.

Tip: Offer what you can do, not what you are

Scanning through the Offerings List one gets the impression that a lot of people are offering the services that they provide professionally (out there in the 'bad old' economy). While many of these services are valuable to the CES community, some of them are a bit obscure and unlikely to attract much custom in a small community that is on the whole looking for the basics.

Offer what you are (professionally) but offer too what you can do. All of us are multi-skilled and can do more than what we do when we go to work. Think about what you can do, what ordinary, practical skills you can offer. Perhaps you know some carpentry, how to fix leaking pipes, broken electronic goods, broken tools. Perhaps you know how to sew, to darn socks, to fix sagging curtains or get rid of garden moles! Think about it. There must be many things you can do. These are the kinds of things that people want.

Many of us start out with a superior attitude: "I'm not going to mow someone's lawn", "I'm not going to wash someone's car". No one is compelling you to undertake 'menial' activities but helping each other with small, basic things is what builds community. These are the things that will get the system going and earn you some Talents. When circulation increases people will come to you for your more 'professional' offerings and you can then drop the 'menial' ones.

Our appeal is: don't be scared to get your hands dirty. It is better to earn some Talents at a low rate at the start than to earn nothing for your 'high-rate' offerings that no one really wants at this stage.

Personal comments on the CES

From an initially sceptical "newbie" to the system, I believe that the only way one can appreciate and understand fully the amazing potential that the CES offers, is by actually joining and doing some trading. There's no point at all in just looking blankly at the website and wondering "what can this do for me"? That's kind of what I did. It's natural to feel a bit nervous at first because it's a totally new concept and needs a bit of a mind shift.

To reap the benefits you have to JOIN and get yourself into the system. Believe me once you've done this, there is an amazing feeling of community when you start trading. Buy a few wonderfully fresh veggies, get a haircut or a relaxing neck massage. After you've "bought" a few things you can't help getting a feeling of "wow, look at all these things I've got and I haven't handed over a single cent". That feeling of being cash-strapped disappears.

Once "you're in" you may be surprised how many people contact you in return to avail themselves of your own offerings and goods. This is the intention of the CES. To keep our wealth within the community. If there's one good thing you do today, make it the decision to join the CES.

Janet Fitt

I have been doing some trading and every time I do so it gives me a most satisfactory feeling.

I have engaged a senior citizen as a debt collector to chase up the more than R10,000.00 owed to my business this month. She is not computerised and so needs some education to understand what we are doing. We put her in touch with someone who can help her.

My partner Nadine and I go to Fruit and Veg City once a week but because we are just the two of us we don't take full advantage of the bargains. We now buy them all and sell some of it on to Russell for Talents. It is a way of supplying basic needs to a family in short supply and converting Rands into Talents. It is not our intention to become green grocers, but in the longer term it would be great to start a Food Co-Op based on the CES membership. I was involved with the Constantia Wholefood Co-OP in the early days and so have some experience. Imagine being able to fund food from Talents!

Robin and Nadine

Sell your Rands for Talents!

Are you deep into the red and not able to sell your services? Well now you can buy your way back to the black with that bad stuff called Rands.

A virtual user called 'Projects' has recently been created. The idea is that Projects will provide the service of selling Rands to people or organisations who require them for financing community projects. Participants who want to get out of the red, or just anyone who wants to increase the number of Talents in their account, can sell Rands to Projects. Projects will credit them with the same number of Talents, which will of course debit Projects by the same amount.

Projects will keep the Rands (or put them into a conventional bank account) and then sell them for Talents to people or organisations running community projects. Those involved in the projects will be encouraged to make most of their purchases in Talents but where goods and services are not available in the system, the Rands will be available to purchase them in the 'bad old economy'.

In this way the CES will be able to finance meaningful community projects both with community and conventional money to ensure their success. Projects will be able to maintain a balance around zero - the ideal balance - through this buying and selling of Rands.

Through the normal 'Member Balances' of your account you will be able to monitor what is happening, to ensure that there is no unacceptable activity.

If you would like to sell some Rands, please write to projects(at)

Non-existent money the answer to theft?

This article appeared on the ITWeb web site ( on 4 August. It was in response to our Update sent to members after reports appeared about hackers stealing money from the accounts of ABSA on-line bankers.

By Georgina Guedes, ITWeb Journalist

[Johannesburg, 4 August 2003] - If money doesn't exist, you can't steal it. This is the view of the South African New Economists Network (SANE), in the wake of the Absa identity theft.

SANE is an affiliation of organisations and individuals who state they are "concerned about the social and ecological consequences of economics as it is conventionally taught and practised".

Their alternative to conventional economics is to form an online Community Exchange System (CES), where members can trade services or talents with one another, keeping tally on a points system. These points differ from money in that they are of no value to their holder except as a mechanism to exchange for another service. The sum of all the debits and credits on the system always equals zero, making it impossible to ‘steal' credits.

"It seems like money, but in this system, the money gets created at the trading interface so that there's no actual supply of money, it exists instantaneously, so it's really a score system," explains Tim Jenkin, administrator of the SANE CES.

"You can't steal this money, because it doesn't exist, it's just numbers in a computer, which is really what actual money is anyway, but all the debits and credits must equal to zero."

He points out that if someone wanted to mess with these figures, they simply couldn't, because any members with erroneous debits reflecting on their accounts would deny the thief had performed any services for them.

The SANE CES started over five months ago, and already has over 200 members who have performed several hundred trades, from car oil changes to hairdressing services.

"This is a worldwide movement," says Jenkin. "Mostly these groups are paper-based with a central administrator. We're unique in that we're doing it over the Internet, just like online banking."

Although the CES system seems to have an international following, Jenkin says the idea is to keep it local. "When it grows, we want to split it up into groups so that people can trade in their community. This is unlike conventional money that goes into the bigger centres and then out of the country. There's always that leakage of money from the community, and in this way you can keep the wealth in the local economy."

He adds that it is still possible to trade outside the community as all these systems will be linked.

"There's no reason why the whole economy couldn't run on this whole system, except for convention."

Buy, buy, buy to get circulation going

Although our system has no currency to circulate, economics works in pretty much the same way as it does in the 'bad old' economy. When you purchase something from someone their account is credited. That creates the feeling for the credited that they are now 'solvent' and can purchase something from someone else. In other words, when you buy something there is a 'multiplier effect' right down the line. Each purchase creates 'purchasing power' for someone else and they are encouraged to purchase something from the next person.

New members often ask what would happen if everyone went out on a binge and just bought and bought. Well, we wish everyone would! If every member went out on a 'buying spree' they would have to buy from others, so on average everyone would be both a buyer and a seller. That would really get things moving and everyone would benefit.

At the moment it appears as if a lot of people are holding back, waiting for someone to contact them so that they can 'earn' some credits before going out 'shopping'.

Let us repeat once again - and this cannot be repeated often enough - you don't need credits before you can trade! Get out there and 'spend'. Don't wait for credits before going into debit. No one is going to shake a finger at you for going into debit so why hold back. Only if you seriously go into debit and make no effort to eliminate that debit will the CES finger-wagging committee come and scold you!

Please people, get out there and buy. We know that trading this way is often a little more inconvenient than popping into your local store, but we are just at the beginning. Maybe one day there will be stores where you can spend Talents, but we will never get there if we are all sitting waiting for custom.

Remember, "what goes around, comes around". By 'spending' Talents on someone else's goods and services you increase your own chances that someone will call on to provide what you are offering.

Some offering ideas

All of us live in houses, I hope, so why not offer accommodation for visitors from other parts. The CES lends itself excellently to this kind of service. Imagine if there were people all over the country offering accommodation. You could travel wherever and stay somewhere without having to pay hotel rates. You would get to know a lot of very nice people too!

All of us have old books and all sorts of odd implements and unused items in our garages, storerooms and attics. Drag them out and offer them on the system. Any old toys, children's clothing, surplus kitchen items. Sell them for Talents.

Offer your computer as a 'node' where those in your area who do not have a computer can come to check and use their accounts. Alternately offer to enter others' transactions for them and provide them with printouts of the Offerings and Wants Lists.

Why not buy goods for Rands and sell them for Talents! That might seem crazy at first but think about it for a while. Most services tend to be much cheaper on the CES than 'out there', so if you can buy some goods cheaply for Rands and offer them at a markup for Talents, you would be getting those services considerably cheaper than if you bought them in the 'bad economy'. You could never go wrong if you offered food items for sale, or anything else that you know would be snapped up by the Talent-flush.

Remember, the CES is about building community so offer things that are useful in your immediate community. No one is looking for an astronaut, an anthropo-palaentologist or a coastal management consultant! The CES is your community support network.

SANE CES Administration

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