Monday, October 3, 2011

Battered by economic crisis, Greeks turn to barter networks

The Economic Times just wrote a short profile on Volos, Greece who is responding to the country's precarious economic relationship with the EU, by developing alternative economies based on a blend of credit and barter. "Part alternative currency, part barter system, part open-air market...People sign up online and get access to a database that is kind of like a members-only Craigslist. One unit of TEM is equal in value to one euro, and it can be used to exchange good and services. Members start their accounts with zero, and they accrue credit by offering goods and services. They can borrow up to 300 TEMs, but they are expected to repay the loan within a fixed period of time." The NY Times also covered this and added, "Members also receive books of vouchers of the alternative currency itself, which look like gift certificates and are printed with a special seal that makes it difficult to counterfeit. Those vouchers can be used like checks."

The Greek government is taking notice as citizens are designing economic safety nets that remove hard currency from the equation. This isn't an economic secession, but a pragmatic parallel economy based on collaborative behavior to share and exchange necessary services and goods to maintain their lives. Solidarity in the face of adversity seems to be the motivating force for the design of this service system.

Worth noting also is the sense of contribution that has been cited as a reason for participation. One member was quoted, "You have much more than your bank account says. You have your mind and your hands.”

Absolutely fantastic!