Community Exchange News

Community Exchange News is the Newsletter of the Cape Town Talent Exchange


  1. Administration: Assistance wanted
  2. Markets: Next Cape Town Talent Exchange market day - 21 April
  3. News: More local area offices opening
  4. New Members: Introduction to the CES
  5. New exchanges: Eleven more exchanges join the CES network
  6. Statistics: Growth of the CES
  7. Statistics: Trading Figures
  8. Web Site: Multi-language interface in development
  9. Tip: How to correct errors in your statements
  10. Theory: Money, the 'operating system' of the economy
  11. Press Statement: SANE Board Member Awarded Ashoka Fellowship

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Back issues

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The Talent Exchange — where your wealth is your talent

1. Administration: Assistance wanted

The Cape Town Talent Exchange has grown at such a rapid pace that it is now an entity that requires a lot of input to keep it going and ensure that it gets bigger and better. It is by far the largest and most dynamic LETS-type complementary currency group in the world, and if it is ever to achieve its founders' dream of one day challenging the conventional money system then it needs to be developed and steered by people who share that vision.

The exchange is looking for people to assist in the following areas:

If you would like to assist in any of these areas write to ctte{at) and let us know what you can do. No one will be expected to volunteer their services for nothing. The CTTE has an effective levy system and everyone will be paid for their efforts. So if you have been looking for a way to earn Talents, here is your opportunity!

2. Markets: Cape Town Talent Exchange Market Day - 21 April

The next Cape Town Talent Exchange market day will be this coming Saturday, 21 April. Bring your friends, family and colleagues to get a taste of all the amazing things the CES has to offer.

Where: Chapel Street Primary School, Woodstock
Date: Saturday 21 April 2007
Time: 10am - 2pm

Please come share your 'talents' and take up a stall…

We are looking for the following:

If you would like to book a table or get involved in any way please contact markets{at) Please let us know what you will be selling and if you have any special requirements.

To get to Chapel Street take the Searle Street exit off the Eastern Boulevard (the last turnoff before town) and head down Seale Street towards the Main Road. Chapel Street turns left off Searle Street.

We look forward to seeing you there!

3. News: More local area offices opening

The three local area offices mentioned in our last newsletter, in Delft, Harare (Khayelitsha) and Masiphumelele, are now operating. Each office has been supplied with a computer and has a staff of well-trained operators. Next step is to turn these offices into local CES shops and distribution points. Most of the Talent Exchange members in the areas served by these offices do not have email, so if you would like to contact a seller (provider, supplier) in one of these areas write to delft{at), harare{at) or masi{at) The co-ordinators in these areas will receive the emails and pass on the messages to the person concerned. The co-ordinators in these areas have been trained to operate as brokers, so if you are looking for a plumber from one of these areas, for example, contact the local office. You can find the contact details of these offices from your personal CES account. Look for Masiphumelele Local Office (SANE1411), Harare Local Office (SANE1989) and the Delft CES Local Office (SANE1990).

At least another three offices, possibly more, are going to open up in the Khayelitsha area. SANE is working with the VPUU (Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading, an outfit set up by the City Council and funded by the German Development Bank) to promote the Talent Exchange in that area. Small enterprises are being funded by the German Development Bank and a condition of their funding is to give back to the community ten per cent of the value of the funding they receive. They will do this by providing their services through the Talent Exchange, and in this way give something back to the community. They will also benefit from their membership of the Talent Exchange by being able to access the vast range of goods and services available on the exchange. Many of these services are normally unaffordable for small, start-up businesses.

4. New Members: Introduction to the CES

Every first Wednesday of the month there will be an Introduction to the CES meeting at the SANE office in Kenilworth. If you want to understand what the Cape Town Talent Exchange is all about and how to use the web site, come along to one of these introductory sessions. The aims and theory of the CES will be discussed and you will be shown how to use the CES web site so that you can get the most out of your membership of the Cape Town Talent Exchange.

The SANE office is at 1 Haven House, 2 Mains Avenue, Kenilworth, Cape Town, 7708. Tel: 021 762 5933. Haven House is the three-storey building behind the Friendly Seven/Eleven on the corner of Main Road and Mains Avenue. The entrance to Haven House is at the left hand end of the building. Go through the gate after the shops and the door is immediately on the right hand side. You will see signs for SANE, which is on the first floor.

The next meeting will be on Wednesday 2 May, so come along if you want to find out how to get the most out of the Talent Exchange.

5. New exchanges: Eleven more exchanges join the CES network

Since our last newsletter eleven more exchanges have joined the CES network, bringing to 63 the total number of exchanges in the network. The latest are:

  1. Zuvuya - Return pathway to the stars
  2. Local Exchange Trading System Winnipeg
  3. Sistema de intercambio Chobita
  4. Northern Suburbs LETS System
  5. Dublin Community Exchange
  6. Performing Arts Network of South Africa, Western Cape
  7. Ashland Community Exchange System
  8. Warranwood LETS Live
  9. Tuljun Boolaroo Cooperative Ltd
  10. Central Coast LETS
  11. Auroville Community Exchange

Zuvuya - Return pathway to the stars is in Howick, Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal; Local Exchange Trading System Winnipeg is in Winnipeg, Canada; Sistema de intercambio Chobita is in Almagro, Argentina; Northern Suburbs LETS System is in Dianella, Western Australia; Dublin Community Exchange is in Dublin, Ireland; Performing Arts Network of South Africa, Western Cape is in Cape Town, South Africa; Ashland Community Exchange System is in Ashland, Oregon, USA; Warranwood LETS Live is in Ringwood North, Victoria, Australia; Tuljun Boolaroo Cooperative Ltd is in Calen, Queensland, Australia; Central Coast LETS is in Woy Woy, New South Wales, Australia; Auroville Community Exchange is in Auroville, India.

6. Statistics: Growth of the CES

There are now (1 April 2007) 9,009 registered users of the Community Exchange System (including the international exchanges). There are 63 separate exchanges in 10 different countries. The Cape Town Talent Exchange is the largest with 2,286 users. The following table shows the growth of the Cape Town Talent Exchange:

Year New Users Trades Ave/Day Talents Ave (T)
2002 10        
2003 365 1112 3 132589.10 119.23
2004 576 4780 13 596726.24 117.97
2005 562 5073 14 892362.68 164.05
2006 598 6741 19 1081864.23 153.81
2007* 190 1408 15 332659.35 227.65
Total 2301 19114 13 3036201.60 150.99

* As at 1 April 2007
** The disparity between the user figure above (2,286) and the total of registered users in the table (2,301) is due to the fact that some users have left the system.

7. Statistics: Trading Figures

March 2007 produced the highest monthly trading figures ever, while January was an anomaly with figures much lower than the average of more than T100,000 in recent months. There was no market in January, which partly accounts for the low figure.

Period Trades Ave/day Average (T) Levy (T) Total (T)
January 213 7 289.56 2267.06 63942.32
February 539 19 197.79 4259.18 110869.43
March 655 21 223.86 5605.02 152230.34
2007 1407 16 232.44 12131.26 327042.09

* As at 1 April 2007

Statistics: T3,000,000 milestone passed

The Cape Town Talent Exchange passed the three million Talents mark in March! The latest million was achieved in 10 months, the second million took 12 months while the first million took 27 months. Let's get to one million Talents per month and beyond!

8. Web Site: Multi-language interface in development

There is just one new web site feature to report this month, though some significant changes are taking place in the background. We are being approached by groups from all over the world who want to use CES but because the web interface is only in English it has not been able to expand to the non-English part of the world. This is where some of the biggest complementary currency groups are found.

We are busily working on creating a multi-language interface for the CES. This involves extracting all the English text out of the source code, because currently the interface text is embedded in the code. By placing all the English text in separate text files it will then be easy to have the texts translated into other languages. Eventually all users of CES will be able to select the language of their choice.

Currently we are having the text translated into Spanish, Norwegian, Korean and Japanese. The latter two provide other challenges!

For South African users of CES it would be good to have the interface translated into different South African languages, such as Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu. Any volunteers? Actually, you will be paid (in Talents) for your efforts.

Exchange Rates

The new feature that has been added to the user interface is the "Exchange Rates" page. Click on the [This Group] button at the top and at the bottom left of the "This Exchange" page you will see "[View] Exchange Rates". This lists all the exchange rates between the currencies of the different CES exchanges around the world. There are two columns: the left column shows the exchange rate of the remote currencies to 1 Talent, and the other column shows the exchange rate of Talents to 1 one unit of the remote currencies.

These "exchange rates" are estimates of the relative values of the respective currencies. They are vaguely related to the international money market rates, but of course they do not fluctuate like the "official" rates. There can be no money market in the CES because our money does not exist, and so can't be bought and sold. CES 'money' in this context is just a numerical ratio between the values assigned to similar products and services in different places.

9. Tip: How to correct errors in your statements

Every month after the monthly statements have been sent out, a number of people write in pointing out errors in their statements, usually expecting the administrator to correct them immediately. While it easy for the administrator to fix errors, it is not always possible for the administrator to determine if an error really is an error. Sometimes people say they have been incorrectly debited for something that they didn't buy. In certain cases it is clear that the entry is an error and that the seller who entered the trading details into the computer has debited the wrong buyer. Other times there is no way of determining if the allegedly incorrect debit really is incorrect.

How do these errors occur? In the Talent Exchange it is the seller who enters the transaction information, not the buyer. This makes every seller a 'teller' in the system. In the conventional banking system they do not trust sellers to enter any information into their internet banking accounts; only buyers can make 'online payments' by 'transferring funds' to their sellers. This is called a direct debit because buyers directly debit their own accounts and credit their sellers'. This does not eliminate errors and banks will tell you that many people incorrectly 'transfer funds' to the wrong account. While the payee is usually happy to receive the funds, the payer has a problem and it can be a lengthy process to get the payment reversed by the bank. The recipient of the funds might already have spent the money.

Tellers in conventional banks are trained operators and usually check both the payer's and payee's details given on a cheque or other order to transfer funds. Sellers on the Talent Exchange are not trained operators and so the chances of mistakes being made are greater. When entering a trade the seller is given an opportunity to confirm that the details entered are correct, but often the seller does not check and so the wrong buyer can get debited. This happens most frequently after a market when sellers are entering a lot of trades from a trading sheet. Sometimes the wrong account numbers are given by buyers (usually not maliciously but in error) and sometimes handwritings are so bad that the seller wrongly interprets the account number. While sellers should compare the names that show up on the confirm page with the names on the trading sheet, this often does not happen and so the wrong account holders get debited.

If you spot an error in your monthly statement, or your online statement, don't immediately contact the administrator and demand that it be corrected. The administrator did not make the error and is not obliged to correct it. Your first step is to contact the seller, who is the person who made the error. The seller's details are available from the web site. If the seller did not enter the transaction(s) then s/he will tell you which co-ordinator entered the transaction. You then need to get the seller or co-ordinator to reverse the transaction by deleting it. There is a window period of ten days in which to do this, after which the record cannot be deleted. In that case you need to contact the administrator who has a 30-day window period. You will need to convince the administrator that you did indeed not buy anything from the seller who entered the allegedly incorrect debit. The administration does want to get into a dispute about whether something was bought or not.

If you have email you should receive an email every time your account is debited. It is at this point that you should take action to get an erroneous debit reversed. The contact details of the seller are given in the email so contact the seller immediately and have it sorted out.

If you have exceeded the 30-day window period your final recourse is to enter a counter-trade. If you have been debited, say, T100 then enter a 'sale' against the erroneous seller for T100. This will credit your account and debit the other person's, taking you back to the status quo ante. The problem with this, of course, is that you get levied twice. To correct this you could add in a bit extra to cover the levy that you have had to contribute.

10. Theory: Money, the 'Operating System' of the Economy

Computer users are familiar with the concept of operating systems. There is the Windows operating system, the Linux operating system, the Macintosh operating system and many others. While all of these do more or less the same thing by turning an inert lump of technology into a useful device, each operating system gives the user a distinctly different experience. A computer operating system is a set of software rules and instructions that governs the way a digital processor device works.

The concept of 'operating systems' could be applied to many things, not just electronic or mechanical devices. You could say that all living organisms have 'operating systems' that govern the way they behave. Cats are 'hard wired' to act like cats and dogs are 'hard wired' to act like dogs. This is not to say that there are no variations. Each organism has a different life experience that makes it distinct from others of the same kind, but on the whole each member of a species 'operates' like other members of the species. Fish don't behave like chickens, for example!

An 'operating system' is a low-level set of instructions that determines how a thing will operate. It is the 'base system' that is more or less fixed and gives the thing or organism its primary or common characteristics. On top of the operating system usually lie a number of 'higher level' systems that give the thing or organism its unique individual characteristics. A computer program works on top of the operating system and allows the user to get the machine to do something useful, but always within the bounds set by the operating system. An organism's ability to learn and memorise is one of its higher level systems. This gives it its 'personality' that makes it different from other organisms of a similar type.

You could say that our economies have 'operating systems' too, for despite national and regional variations, most economies today tend to operate in pretty much the same way and produce or hope for similar outcomes. We could define the following as some of the general characteristics of all present day economies:

But what is the 'operating system' of our economies that produces these common characteristics?

Some would say the 'operating system' is the built in set of subjective factors that drive human beings. Humans are naturally greedy, avaricious and self-seeking, and to promote themselves they need to challenge their competitors. It's a matter of the 'survival of the fittest'. As human nature is 'hard wired' there is not much we can do about the way the economy works.

If, on the other hand, we believe that human behaviour is largely a product of the environments in which we find ourselves then it is the 'operating system' that produces the self-seeking and competitive behaviour rather than the other way around.

In order to identify the operating system, we need to find what is common in most economies that makes them operate in much the same way. What is common to all modern economies is the way their money systems work. This is hard for most of us to see, for money (as we conventionally understand it) is usually taken as a given and so is not seen as a variable. It is therefore treated as a factor that can safely be ignored because it is something 'permanent' and 'unchangeable'.

The way our money works determines how our economies work. If we are prepared to see 'money' in the broadest possible sense as the set of laws, rules, regulations and conventions that govern our behaviour in the realm of producing our means of life, then it becomes apparent how 'money' produces the general characteristics of modern economies identified above. This is the 'operating system' of our economies.

All national money systems are debt-based. This means that money is issued into circulation by financial institutions when it is loaned in one form or another. These loans have to be repaid, usually with interest or benefit of some kind (i.e. more has to be paid back than was originally loaned). The only way that the extra amount can enter the economy so that the borrowers can earn it to pay back the interest as well as the principal is if more money is loaned into existence by others. The rate at which new money enters the economy must be equal to or exceed the amount of interest that has to be paid back. There is thus a never-ending, upward spiral of debt, interest and money creation. If the amount of new money created is less than the amount owed in interest, the economy enters into recession with the dire consequences that are so familiar, including foreclosures and rising unemployment. This need for the money supply to grow is the driving force behind the need for all economies to grow. They have to grow or the system collapses.

The way that this debt-based money system works explains all of the above-mentioned characteristics of economies today:

In the same way that we can change the operating system of our computers, it is possible to change the 'operating system' of our economies. Obviously this is not as easy as changing an operating system on a computer because it is not just a personal decision! Nonetheless, in the real world it is possible to have more than one 'operating system' running in parallel. By applying another 'operating system' to control our economic affairs we can expect to see different economic outcomes and consequences. Naturally there will be friction between the 'operating systems' but that has always been the case between competing systems and organisms. 'Natural selection' will decide which wins in the end.

Money doesn't have to be based on debt and it doesn't have to be issued into existence by profit-seeking third parties outside the circuit of real buyers and sellers, consumers and producers. In fact money doesn't have to be issued at all and it doesn't need to exist for us to trade. Money can be treated as pure information, recording what has been traded rather than being a pre-condition for trading to take place.

The Community Exchange System is an attempt to create a new kind of money, a prototype of a new 'operating system'. We have shown already that it is possible to trade millions worth of goods and services without having a supply of 'physical' money. Every Talent in 'circulation' was 'issued' interest free by the buyers and sellers of the exchange, showing that it is possible to have a money system without a parasitic 'third force' (banks) sucking the life blood out of the real producers and providers.

Our new kind of money has shown too that:

Encourage businesses, organisations, friends and family to join the CES and help us beta test this new 'operating system' so that we can build a healthier, less destructive economy that benefits us all instead of the wealthy few. Let us bring the 'money power' back to the commons so that we can take control of our destinies and save our beautiful planet from destruction.

11. Press Statement: SANE Board Member Awarded Ashoka Fellowship

The staff and board of the South African New Economics (SANE) Network are proud to announce that Tim Jenkin has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship.

Tim, a board member of SANE, is the inventor and designer of the unique internet-based Community Exchange System (, also known as the "Talent Exchange". It is a much more radical local exchange system than any that has gone before. It offers - as well as the immediate benefits to members of trading without rands - a long-term, real alternative to the debt-based monetary system that now limits the world's economies.

Ashoka Fellowships are given for making a real difference in society by showing unusual social entrepreneurship. They carry a three year stipend to enable Fellows to develop their theory and practice full-time. But their recipients are Fellows for life. The Fellowships carry great prestige; and SANE is glad to share in that accolade.

Tim grew up in Cape Town during the apartheid era and spent many years fighting apartheid from the underground. In 1978 he was arrested by the apartheid security police and sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment. However he escaped with two others from Pretoria Prison after serving only 18 months of his sentence. He lived in exile in London until 1991. During those years he worked for the ANC and developed a unique computerised network that allowed underground operatives in South Africa to communicate with the leadership outside. Since 1997 he has been a director of Unwembi Communications, a prominent web, print and multimedia company in Cape Town. He has been a SANE board member for a number of years and started the CES in 2003.

Issued by SANE, 2 April 2007

The Talent Shop

Is no one contacting you about the goods you have for sale? Bring them to the Talent Shop where they will be sold in no time. You can continue advertising your goods on the site, but give the address of the Talent Shops where they can be collected. This will save you the bother of having to deal with your buyers. You will also not have to worry about entering your trades, as this will be done for you by the shop.

The Talent Shop
1st Floor, 1 Haven House
2 Mains Avenue
Tel: 021 762 5933
E-mail: talentshop{at)

Talent Exchange User Guide

  • Do you wish you knew how to update and delete your offerings and wants?
  • Do you wish you knew how to delete an incorrect transaction that you have entered?
  • Do you wish you knew how to...?

All the answers are available right from your account on the CES web site.

Download the Talent Exchange User Guide. To do so, access your account on the CES web site at or go directly to and download one of the printable versions of the User Guide. You can also view the HTML version on the screen. If you would like to purchase a paper version (for Talents) look under 'CES Services' in the Offerings List to see who you can get it from. Your local area co-ordinator should also be able to provide you with a copy.