Unify Toronto Dialogues is hosting a series of conversations and workshops to inquire into our possible economic futures. We plan workshops on alternative currencies, economic systems and practices, community and Earth-based economies, and our personal relationship with “prosperity.” We invite you to join us for one or all of these experiences in a shared inquiry, an inclusive dialogue welcoming all voices and perspectives.
More details below.
Monday March 30 6:30 (sharp) - 9:00 pm
OCADU Lambert Lounge, 100 McCaul St, Toronto, ON M5T 1W1
Graphic Record of the dialogue by Gillian Goerz of Gillian G. Illustration:
We challenged the dominant conception of the economy as primarily about money issued by banks. If we accept the view that money and credit are represented by only a single government-sanctioned currency, then our exchanges with each other at a peer and community level are also colonized by that mode of account.
The huge distortion caused by the financial sector's disconnection from the real economy of everyday life has led many to seek ways of building resilient, self-supporting communities less constrained by limited access to national currencies.
In this Dialogue, we asked how economies can run independent of the global market, exploring together several models for relocalizing economic activity to support communities in becoming resilient to the destructive effects of globalization.
- Josephine Grey, Founding Director of Low Income Families Together (LIFT), and Roxy Cohen, who are getting ready to launch the UpLIFT Community Credit Exchange.
- Angela Miles, a founding member of Toronto Women for a Just and Healthy Planet, former LETS member in Toronto and Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and professor of community development at OISE, U of Toronto.
Host David Burman, co-founder of LETS Toronto (Local Exchange Trading System), spoke of the difference between a deliberately scarce currency like the Canadian dollar and an economy based on abundance, like mutual credit exchange, e.g. LETS.
Follow-up message from UpLIFT Credit Exchange Coordinator:
This is Roxy from the Unify Toronto event on alternative economies in Toronto. I am following up with the timebank research that I promised to send along. I apologize for the delay in follow-up but some family issues came up that set all of my work back (everything is good now).
I have attached research that I have compiled on timebanks. This is by no means an extensive report, but more of a launching off point to learn more about time banks.
If you would like to sign up to the UpLift Credit Exchange, Click here!
Please connect with me if you just want to talk more about time banks as well. In talking through the concept I always learn something too!
Thank you again for bringing your curiosity and passion to the Unify event,
LIFT Program Coordinator
Notes from the Dialogue (by Paul Overy):
We need to reconnect with the land
→ The Iroquois and Mississauga of New Credit sought to share the land with the newly arrived and take only what they need and share respect
Just as it is absurd to think that you could run out of inches to build a house, it is absurd to think that there can be insufficient money
→ Yet scarcity increases value
Most money comes from debt created from nothing
→ banks only need 6% reserves
→ debt money → requires constant growth
→ steal from the commons to maintain wealth
The financial sector supports production sector
In 1971, Richard Nixon floated the US$ to fund the Vietnam war
→ all other currencies had to float too, and were no longer tied to anything tangible
→ profitable for only the few
Mutual credit and local economic systems (described more below)
- Locally produced: Canadian Tire money, Air Miles
- LETS (Local Employment and Trading System) (described more below)
- time banks (described more below)
- local currencies
- SwapSity, since 2008: general barter, swap meets and curated entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur coming soon
When the conventional economy dries up, local economy thrives
- Devalue scrip daily → don’t hoard
- The Future of Money (book): Blends local & global economy
- The German-speaking part of Switzerland has had a parallel economy since 1920s
- 40% of population lives from one paycheck to the next
- average $20,000 debt
LETS (David Burman):
- from 1983 in Courteney, BC, 1990 in Toronto
- built on reciprocal relationships
- "Capitalism that Marx would have loved"
- Abundant local currency
- Can’t run out
- Foster independence
Roxy Cohen & Josephine GreyUpLIFT Community Credit Exchange (Time banking)
- Money is currency – 1 h = 1 h
- Indirect barter
- Redefining work & valuing all tasks
- but hard to value goods & services
- Time banks are booming, especially in Italy & Spain
- Barcelona’s economy: 50% is time banking
- Time banking software is available
- Volunteering not an option for the poor
- Pros can include prep time
- Need to value growers’ work
- Time is inherently equitable-all have same amount
- Need to be able to manage easily
- online platform is key
- But not all have Internet at home
- need a place where there is a curated offer list
- Can use text messages to note transactions
- LIFT is based in St. Jamestown
- but has partnerships
- good to start neighbourhood-based
- key is face-to-face contact
- link to St. Mike’s – determinants of health networking with other time banks
- Aim to have 1000+ members → tipping point
Angela Miles: Alternative economies have important differences. Comparing LETS and Time banking
- LETS: $ are abundant, time is not
- LETS: creates debt-but that’s OK
- problem if people don’t spend
- can interrupt social exchanges & gifts with measurement & valuings
- seek to tax and spend LETS $
- LETS doesn’t equalize value of work
- LETS reflects market value of services, while time banks are an equalizer
- Time Bank: questions needs
- Develops more appreciation for what we have
- reduce waste
- Women undervalue their services and are more in the gift economy
- Men gain humanity in their access to economic benefits
- Reclaim public banking
- It’s all basically about relationships, not measuring
- Measuring separates the economy from relationships & spiritual relations
- We need to manage exchanges among strangers
- But valuing of offerings is potential source of conflict
Highlights of Small Group Discussion:
How might we create a viable community-based economy?
· Relationship is key
· Must avoid in-breeding and membranes of exclusion
· A system can build relationships and community across differences
· Learn to share more of ourselves
· Hoarding impedes flow
· Exchange itself is divisive
§ seek to build up the gift & givings
§ loosen up the flow
-using value interrupts the flow
· The different models are complementary
· We need to prototype diversity
-create fertile soil for when the collapse comes
· Most value elements of exchange more than relationships
The power of the big picture
· We need to take a leap of faith and trust
o “I am we”
o Exchange divides
· Community-based economies are transitions
o We need to use scarcity wisely, to manage resources
Research on local currency and local exchange:
From the abstract: We identify LETS as a social movement rooted in the alternative milieux of greens, feminists, New Agers and so on, comprising those committed to experimenting with new ideas and identities. LETS have the potential to strengthen these milieux and thereby reinforce civil society within a locality, enhancing the benefits from a web of personal networks and extending them through weak links. LETS might also act as seed beds for new skills and practices which spill over into wider social and economic networks. Thus, by promoting networks which facilitate flows of information and innovation, and thereby building the capacity for responding to social change, LETS could contribute to Community Economic Development. LETS form part of a cultural rather than technological innovation milieu.
by David Burman, LETS Toronto, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, 7 June 2000
Summary: This research project was conducted to find out how much Toronto LETS members thought their system enabled them to get the products and services they needed, made it easier for them to cope with problems in daily life, and made it easier to interact with one another. We also hoped that the research process would get people thinking about their involvement in LETS. We started by finding out what the community wanted from the research, we trained telephone interviewers, we interviewed LETS members in depth by phone and in person, and conducted focus groups. This report is on the focus group part of the research.
Since the Occupy movement announced “We Are the 99%” in 2011, the "Too Big to Fails" have become even bigger. The mountains of personal and nationalized debt have become a commonplace, and society has ignored the immanence of another financial collapse. The 1% are richer (in monetary wealth) than ever in history. But the global economy is engineered to grow inequitable wealth while destroying the natural wealth that we all depend on for our survival.
At the same time, we are seeing the emergence of new ways of thinking about wealth and money, of doing business, of exchanging with each other and with the earth, that reflect the age-old world views of connectedness held by indigenous peoples throughout the world.
So our questions are: What will the new economy look like? How can we reclaim our rights to economic arrangements that work for our planet, and for us, for our families and citizens in urban communities?
How might we extract ourselves from the colonizing effects of globalized capitalism? What would our communities be like if we could grow our food, produce the energy we need and create structures that enhanced the interaction with each other and the environment?
For us to survive on this planet, a new economy would have to reflect the Earth's economy where nothing and no one is wasted. For we know that the human economy is entirely dependent on the health of the Earth's economy.
Stay tuned for invitations to upcoming sessions.
REPORT: First session Jan 26: Setting the context
Idle No More as a love story
Monday January 26 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Peace Lounge, 7th Floor, OISE-University of Toronto
252 Bloor St W (St. George and Bloor)
What might an economic system based on the traditional teachings of balance and harmony look like in a modern urban context?
How best can we indigenous and non-indigenous city dwellers learn to bring about the necessary changes in governance and economic relationships that will enhance the quality of life for all of us?
The Report (By Paul Overy):
The Idle No More (INM) movement was begun by four First Nations women…and then their circle grew.
- INW built on what resistance movements have in common with the two key points being protection of the land and women’s jurisdiction.
- Simple words, making links and taking action are key, as are decolonization and reindigenization.
- Resistance begins locally, separate from established political structures.
Love the people you’re with even if you hate them, but try to be with the people you love.
- We need to return to indigenous forms of organization as mechanisms to express our collective will.
- We need to create healthy cells which live comprehensively, benign, in love.
- We were all indigenous; race is a construct of colonizers. We all can learn to be indigenous, in relationship with the land and connected to spirit.
All exchange is part of the economy.
- We need to support each other, to reduce dependency on the larger economic and political units. The aim is to be autonomous and self-sufficient, not to make something for sale.
- “Power needs to be distributed to the maximum” Dee Hock
- Yet it is hard to coordinate new ways and to remotivate people.
- Showing up is not enough. People need to qualify to take on new roles and commit to responsibility to each other.
- We need to go beyond the survival mindset.
- We need to decide how we want to relate to each other. This includes administration, policies, self-government (tribe model) and acknowledges many forms of wisdom. But it was stated that the legitimate overarching social structure in this place, including governance, is indigenous, and if not electing to be part of it, groups need to be in right relationship with it.
- Use administrative and policy skills to manage other skills, in order to develop rigorous relationships to meet real needs.
- We need to develop communal skills and experience, yet we are addicted to the status quo.
- We need to hospice the death of the old economy and midwife the new way.
Radicalization is a search for meaning.
- We need to reignite the relationship between elders and young people.
- Residential schools sought to break this relationship. When children returned from the residential schools, they and the elders did not know how to communicate.
- Be grateful for your gifts – avoid envy. This allows appreciation of others’ gifts.
Having a land base is key to renewing the nature connection.
- We need a reciprocal economy in harmony with nature.
Work from the scar, not from the wound. Some healing has to take place first.
- This provides objectivity and a foundation.
- Stories are our only defence—they are a methodology.
- We need a culture of listening, too….
We need to create a new space for change to happen… in cities.
- We need new social units of people.
- Let’s have conversations to work it out, to share ceremony and rituals.
First and foremost, change needs to start within us, inside us and grow from there. Our first responsibility is to raise our own vibration.