Community Exchange News

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


  1. CES: Section 21 Company formed
  2. Admin: SANE becomes CTTE
  3. Web Site: How do I ...?
  4. New Features: New Virtual-Rand trading facility
  5. Concepts: Credit and Debit limits

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Back issues

If you would like to read back issues of Community Exchange News, they are all on the web site at You will also find the Newsletters of other exchanges on the CES network in the same place.

The Talent Exchange — where your wealth is your talent

1. CES: Section 21 Company formed

This Newsletter aims to inform you of recent developments in the CES and the possible direction of its growth. Starting with a single experimental exchange in Cape Town in 2003, it has now grown to become a global trading network with over 140 discrete exchanges in 19 countries.

Though there was considerable debate in the early years about an appropriate constitution for the CES, no formal structure was ever adopted. To remedy this situation and facilitate future developments a new company called Community Exchange Systems has been registered in terms of Section 21 of the South African Companies Act. The first directors of the company are Tim Jenkin, a co-founder of CES, chief programmer, Registrar of the CES and Ashoka Fellow; Don Northcott, a founder member and early chairman of the Cape Town Talent Exchange (CTTE) - out of which the CES grew; Dawn Pilatowicz, top trader and Administrator of the CTTE; and Ken Meek, a member of the CTTE from inception, a top-ten trader and legal advisor to the CES. There are at present also four additional subscribers (Guarantor Members): Peter Adams, Glen Adams, Ian Gilfillan and Perry Norgarb, all active traders within the CTTE.

The main reason for registering the CES as a Section 21 company was to ensure a transition to a democratic system of governance and administration, which will maintain the integrity of the system as it expands. The system has come to rely on a relatively small number of committed people for its continuity. Some members of the global network of exchanges have expressed concern about this and during the last few years have suggested changes that could be made. These include:

1. The CES Software

There is considerable support for the CES software to eventually be placed in the public domain. At present it operates from a single central server, which makes it vulnerable to hardware failure, malware or other forms of attack. While the current software is not proprietary, it is overly dependent on a single individual for its effective and efficient long-term functioning. There is much talent and many programmers interested in converting the software to an open source format. This can only be achieved if the software is placed in the public domain. Going public with the software will take it to new levels of functionality, which the current economic situation desperately requires.

Our challenge is to create a reliable, efficient and professional system. We hope to achieve this despite our limited access to resources in comparison with the powerful players in the present financial world. Our system will need to grow, probably relatively quickly, to service an exponentially growing number of participants who are victims of the implosion of the global financial system. It will need to function reliably with 24-7 availability using hardware and software capable of processing large volumes of data.

Ways of remunerating those who keep the system operating and the ongoing governance procedures will also need to be incorporated into the programming. Funds to meet the requirements of an open source system are more likely to be made available to a legally constituted, non-profit company in which continuity is guaranteed.

2. Business Users

The CES is a mutual credit system. Such systems have proved to be highly successful in different contexts, including the commercial 'barter' exchanges and the Wir Business Circle Cooperative established in Switzerland in 1934 (approx value of trade in 2004: 1.65 billion Swiss Francs equivalent).

Mutual credit systems work best where the users have similar power and influence. Our challenge is to establish a system that will accommodate small, medium and large-scale businesses - as well as individual traders - integrated into a system that benefits all citizens of a country. In accepting this challenge it is essential that as many local businesses as possible be encouraged to join the system. A properly constituted system is more likely to be acceptable to these businesses.

3. Security

The aspects of security that need to be built into the system to make it trustworthy and able to counter fraud and attack by predators will require considerable resources to make it successful. A company structure is more likely to be able to acquire such resources.

4. Governance

The CES Company has been established as the umbrella body of a system consisting of a number of independent trade exchanges, each of which will ultimately function in a manner that adheres to an agreed Charter. The process of drawing up a draft Charter is almost complete. Debate with member exchanges will lead eventually to the adoption of such a Charter. In order to do this a democratic system of governance needs to be established so that the views of all traders are taken into consideration with regards to the functioning of the system.

5. Proposed Governance Structure

It is proposed that the main governance structure be:

  1. The CES Board, voted into office by the Guarantor (Subscriber) Members.
  2. The Guarantor Members, who will ensure the continuity and effective functioning of the CES. These will be delegates elected by Member Exchanges.
  3. A governing body in each exchange with delegates elected from each sub-area of the exchange.
  4. The administrators and coordinators in each sub-area.

6. The Cape Town Talent Exchange Committee

At present the tasks that ensure the smooth functioning of the CTTE tend to be performed by the board members of the CES. It would be advantageous if this responsibility could be taken on by an independent committee that would eventually become the governing body of the CTTE, allowing the CES Board to focus on the overall or global issues. A list of required functions in both the CES and the CTTE has been drawn up. Members will be encouraged to look at this and consider ways in which they might assist. A member's meeting will be held in the coming months to discuss developments and formulate a plan for the future.

7. Additional Guarantor Members

Initially the majority of Guarantor Members will be drawn from the CTTE, as this is the largest exchange in the CES and where the board of the CES Company is located. This unbalanced situation will be corrected as membership numbers in the other exchanges grow.

The main responsibility of the Guarantors will be to elect CES Board Members. It is also likely that Board Members will be elected from amongst the Guarantors. Another possible function for these members could be to assist in convening Community Insight Councils to give traders in sub areas, or coordinators within the exchange, insight into the workings of the CES and a voice in guiding the development process. Later on an appeal will be made for volunteers and/or nominations of suitable candidates.

8. Projects and Funding

The CES has registered with the online donation system GivenGain ( This will make it possible for donations via GivenGain in national currencies to be paid into the CES bank account on behalf of a Community Enterprise that is registered and trading in one of the CES-approved exchanges.

A description of a Community Enterprise project with specific details of items required (with costs), that can only be obtained with National Currencies, will be posted on the GivenGain website. Donations made will appear on the website and proof of purchase of the items will be provided online to satisfy donors that their funds have been properly utilised.

Please inform us of any other donation systems of which you are aware

2. Administration: SANE becomes CTTE

To make the Cape Town Talent Exchange more identifiable to other exchanges and to delink it from any particular organisation, the previous SANE account number prefix has been changed to CTTE. Thus all Cape Town account numbers now start with CTTE and not SANE. If your account number was SANE6789, for example, then it now becomes CTTE6789.

The SANE prefix will continue working for a while but it will be phased out in due course. Please try to use the CTTE prefix from now on.

Each exchange has its own prefix and it is by these prefixes that we identify which exchange a user belongs to. At login the system also requires the exchange prefix to identify which database to use.

3. How do I ... ?

A new HOWTO section has been added to the User Guide. The same questions are often posed to administrators and coordinators, and so to make their task easier these common questions have been compiled into a single HOWTO. Please have a look at them before you phone or send off an email to the admin. Your answer is likely to be there.

To access the HOWTO, log in to your account and look for CES Information - User Guide on the left hand side. Click on the 'How do I...?' link.

Here are a few items from the new HOWTO:

I debited the wrong buyer. How do I correct that?

Click on 'My Statement of Account' in the middle of your personal home page. That will display your most recent trades. Click on the Description of the trade with the error. That will bring up the 'Edit/Delete Transaction' form. Click the [Delete] button to delete the trade. After that re-enter the trade with the correct buyer.

I entered the wrong amount for a trade. How do I correct it?

Click on 'My Statement of Account' in the middle of your personal home page. That will display your most recent trades. Click on the Description of the trade with the error. That will bring up the 'Edit/Delete Transaction' form. Correct the amount and press the [Update Record] button.

I entered a wrong description for a trade. How do I correct that?

Click on 'My Statement of Account' in the middle of your personal home page. That will display your most recent trades. Click on the Description of the trade with the error. That will bring up the 'Edit/Delete Transaction' form. Correct the description and click on the [Update Record] button.

I have to cancel a trade. How do I 'refund' the buyer?

You need to delete the transaction. That will eliminate the buyer's debit and your credit.

Click on 'My Statement of Account' in the middle of your personal home page. That will display your most recent trades. Click on the Description of the trade that you would like to cancel. That will bring up the 'Edit/Delete Transaction' form. Click the [Delete] button to delete the transaction.

4. Web site: new Virtual-Rand facility about to be launched

Many users, in particular businesses, have found it difficult to come to terms with the way the Talent Exchange performs its monetary functions. Most of us have grown up with the idea that money is something 'out there', separate from ourselves, that we have to use to get the things in life that we can't provide for ourselves. Life itself is about how to get hold of as much of 'that stuff' as we can. Businesses are entities designed explicitly for 'making money' and for most the measure of success in this game is the size of the bottom line.

The Talent Exchange takes a different approach, and that approach is embodied in our slogan "Your wealth is your talent". We do not see money as something separate from ourselves. WE are our money, and we trade ourselves through our unique skills and talents. We each specialise in one or two narrow things and concentrate on providing those things so that we can become really good at doing/providing them. We use the Talent Exchange as the 'memory of the community', to keep a record of who does what for whom or who gives what to whom.

Many have a problem understanding how this could be considered as money, but this is in fact what the conventional money system is supposed to do too. The problem arises when money is treated as something separate from ourselves, for then that 'something separate' becomes available for appropriation and control. The conventional money system thus belongs to 'them', while the CES money system belongs to 'us'.

To help those who have difficulty making this leap we are about to launch a whole new feature to the CES site that will ultimately be available to all CES users worldwide. We are calling this the Virtual-Currency facility (or in our case the Virtual-Rand facility). Even though we see this as a step backwards, we are introducing it because we want to assist businesses in particular to come to terms with the new way of 'doing' money.

What is it? The Virtual-Currency facility will allow CES users to trade with their national currencies (Rands, Dollars, Euros etc.) in the same way as they trade with their CES currencies (Talents, Green Dollars etc.).

How does it work? Users will 'purchase' the Virtual Currency (Virtual Rands, Virtual Dollars etc.) by depositing money in the bank account of their CES exchange. That money will just sit there and not actually be used in any trading. All trading will be done at a higher, virtual level. Thus when you sell something your account balance will go up and when you buy something it will go down, just as it does in the CES. The web interface to do this will be the familiar CES transaction interface, so there will be nothing much new to learn. Ultimately if you want your national currency back (Rands, Dollars etc.) you will be able to redeem your Virtual Currency for the national currency. The hope is that you will never need to redeem the Virtual Currency and that you will be able to keep it in the system in order to trade with others.

If a seller finds that you (as buyer) do not have sufficient 'funds' in your account, the transaction can be taken back to the regular economy (i.e. the trade falls outside of the CES Virtual-Currency system). Alternatively the seller will be able to accept the balance in CES credits (e.g. Talents) thus providing a free credit system linked to the Virtual Currency.

What's the point of it? Firstly, to assist those who need a 'stepping stone' to real 'free money', a money that has no owners and no controllers. Secondly, our aim is to create a true local or community currency. This can only happen if the money is 'contained' and not allowed to leak away from the community, taking with it its life blood and spirit.

What are the advantages? Below are listed some of the advantages of the Virtual Currency:

Probably your first question is: "If sellers can directly debit my account then what's to stop them just debiting everyone, redeeming the currency and running off with the money?" This can't happen. Remember, the transacting is happening at the virtual level. No 'real' money moves from account to account. When a user decides to redeem some Virtual Currency their trading record will be examined before the redemption takes place. If anything looks suspicious the currency will not be redeemed until there is certainty that everything is above board. Also, all transaction entries are accompanied by an email, so if someone debits your account mistakenly or fraudulently you will know about it.

How do I get to use it? Initially the facility will only be offered to businesses already registered with the Talent Exchange; later to all. It is businesses more than others that need a 'stepping stone', so that they can come on board and begin to offer some real products to the trading community. Our hope is that they will see, after trading with the Virtual Currency, that there is really no need to 'back' it with official money. That is just a waste of time and, well, money. Once there is a circle of trusted traders they will begin to see that they can trade even more efficiently with free-standing Talents and not need the 'crutch' of debt-based, national money to feel secure.

Shortly businesses will receive a notice inviting them to sign up. After providing their regular bank account details (this is required for redemption payments) they can begin to trade. There is no requirement to deposit money, but obviously if no one deposits anything then no trading can take place. If a user wants to purchase anything they will have to deposit money first; it they have a good product to sell then they can attempt to 'win over' some of the Virtual Currency so that they can spend it on something else. The idea is that the Virtual Currency will 'circulate' at an increasing velocity inside the exchange and so not have to constantly be 'topped up' to cover the increased trading.

5. CES Concepts: Credit and Debit limits

What are credit and debit limits and why do we need them in a community of givers and receivers promoting the notion of abundance? Surely limits create a shortage of the currency, taking us back to debt-based conventional money where those of us who are short of the stuff have to borrow it from those who have a surplus?

Credit and debit limits are absolutely essential for the health of an exchange. In the Talent Exchange we do not impose 'hard' limits where the system stops working if you breach them. Our limits are 'soft' in the sense that they represent a recommended point beyond which it is in no one's interest for you to venture. Thus if someone goes over their debit limit it means that they are very unlikely to give back to the community goods and services in sufficient quantity to 'clear' what they have taken. We all suffer because they are in effect 'stealing' or living 'parasitically' off the community. Likewise, if someone goes over their credit limit it means that they are finding it difficult to spend their credits and are not giving others the opportunity to earn them. Most likely they will become frustrated and leave the system because they will believe it does not provide for their needs.

Limits are not a fixed quantity. Everyone starts with credit and debit limits of T5000, but if you prove that you are a capable trader (i.e. you always sell as much as you buy; you earn as much as you spend) then you can 'push' your limits to the unlimited. The limits are not there to restrict trading, just to keep it balanced.

Some new users join with the mistaken belief that the starting T5000 debit limit is a line of 'free credit' 'given' to all new users who join. In other words, you can spend up to T5000 before doing anything, or even that you can freely grab T5000 worth of goods and services and then disappear!

That is most definitely not the idea of the T5000 debit limit. Your limits should be seen as the outer bounds of a 'safe zone' within which you should always try to remain. To ensure absolute health all users should attempt to keep their balances as close to zero as possible. This does not mean that you should not trade, but simply that you should aim for your mean balance over a period of time to be close to zero. This indicates that you are getting the most out of the system: you are giving as much as you are receiving. Zero Point is the magic health formula for the Talent Exchange. The entire system adds up to zero (total sales = total purchases; total income = total expenditure) and if we all keep our balances in the region of zero then we know it is working and everyone is happy. If we have a situation where many users are over their limits at either end, then we know that we have a seriously sick exchange and that it will soon die.

CES 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 CES User Guide. To do so, log into your account on the CES web site at On the left hand side of your home page you will see the User Guide in various formats. Download either the PDF, OpenOffice or MS Word versions. You can also view the HTML version on the screen.