As followers of this blog will know, Lowimpact.org are partnering with the Open Co-op to develop a mutual credit network for the UK. Well, we now have a website and a new name – the Open Credit Network.
Here’s more information on what mutual credit is all about.
The first thing we’d like to say is pretty please, can you spread the word – re-blog this article, tweet, like, share – in fact tell anyone you know who owns or works in a small business. Right now, we’re looking for expressions of interest. Small business owners can click the ‘express interest’ button on the OCN homepage, and they’ll be added to the list of businesses who have already signed up. Here’s the button again for good luck:
Initially, businesses will be invited to participate in trading loops. After we’ve refined the system, we’ll be launching an online directory, so that members can find products and services that they want, and initiate trades themselves.
The Open Credit Network
The OCN is a co-operative that will include the businesses that are members of the network. We will also use free / open source software. This approach is very important to us. We’re not in this to extract profit from our members, and we don’t want to be secretive. We want to make our systems freely available for anyone, anywhere, to set up a co-operative network, that can then plug into a global ‘credit commons’, that one of our team is building.
This means that although we’ll have to work out some kind of fee structure in future, to cover the costs of running the network, we’ll never extract profits from our members.
Here’s more about who the Open Credit Network are.
Around 100 businesses have expressed interest in the scheme – everything from farmers, accountants and graphic designers to weavers, IT specialists and printers. Each business listed some of its ‘offers’ and ‘wants’.
For now, until we have a directory, we’re trying to find loops involving 3 or 4 businesses that can trade with each other, so that all their accounts return to zero. So, business A provides something for business B, which provides something of the same value for business, C, which provides something of the same value for business A.
Trades can be partly in mutual credit and partly in cash. One credit is equivalent to one pound. This is just as a temporary measure of value – credits can’t be exchanged for for pounds, or vice versa.
We’ve now completed our first trading loop, which involved three businesses, two of which are co-operatives. Several potential loops jumped out, including food boxes from farms, textiles, eco-holidays, accountancy and web services.
But eventually, we settled on Lowimpact.org, Community Regen and Outlandish. The idea was that Lowimpact.org would provide a banner advertisement for Outlandish, who would provide web services for Community Regen, who would provide fundraising advice for Lowimpact.org. We contacted those companies to suggest a trade to the value of £100, but in credits, rather than cash.
Everyone agreed, with one small difference. Paul at Community Regen revealed that by a bizarre coincidence, he was already a customer of Outlandish. He rents desk space from them, in their office in Finsbury Park in London. Polly at Outlandish agreed to provide £100 worth of desk space to Paul, who has already started to provide advice to Lowimpact.org, who have provided a banner ad for Outlandish.
The trade itself involved filling out a little form, which took around 20 seconds. We then approved the trades, everyone’s account was credited, then debited back to zero, and voila – we all had something we want, without having to come up with scarce cash.
Here’s what Paul, of Community Regen, said about the trade:
I can see transactions that don’t involve money becoming very attractive for small businesses, who often have problems with cashflow. I have a small business that is all about connecting and networking with other organisations and businesses, and mutual credit is all about connecting and providing mutual support, so it feels very natural to me – very rewarding. I’ve already had deeper conversations with people at Outlandish. It builds trust between participating businesses, which just makes sense to me. It’s a no-brainer, really.
And here’s Polly at Outlandish:
It feels great to be right at the start of a network designed to facilitate trade outside of the normal realm of monetary exchange. It’s great that like-minded businesses can be connected in this way, without having to contribute to banks’ profits. Hopefully it will also help us to extend our network of suppliers, and to find suppliers that operate ethically. I found the trade itself really easy.
And here’s Dave of Lowimpact.org:
It works! Three happy trading partners. From our perspective, we’ve started to get good advice from Paul, and we’ve already lined up a second trade with an accountancy firm in which we’ll use mutual credit as part of the payment for producing our annual accounts. We’re already having conversations with businesses that are quite unusual – based on trust, and a desire to build a different kind of world. It feels like a much better way to do business, which makes me believe that there is huge potential here for bringing about wider, beneficial change.
What you can do
Plus, as mentioned above, it would be great if you could spread the word. Thank you!