By Toria Longwood
Sitting around a backyard firepit, organizers Claude Awad and Sean Bozkewycz told the first general meeting of the Revelstoke Alternative Goods and Services Exchange (RAGSE) that there are now 22 users in the local system. Using $tokes ($tk for short), the members trade within the group for material items or useful services. The information is entered and tracked on an international website where anyone can register for free. The Internet address is www.community-exchange.org .
Once on the site, one clicks Canada as the country and then Revelstoke Alternative Goods and Services Exchange to get the sign-up form. There is no cost to join but a small portion of the $tokes involved in every transaction is siphoned off into an Administration Account to pay for the website and software as well as those doing necessary work for the group. A decision was made at the meeting to compensate group work at $tk10 per hour for now.
During the introductions, those gathered voiced their motivations for joining the exchange. Some of these included a sense of intimacy that stem from negotiating trades and an enhanced feeling of connection to the community when cooperating within a trading network.
Yard and garden work has been the main focus up to now but participants expect a wide variety of exchanges will take place as the system grows to be a regular part of the rhythm of life here. Many noted that the strong seasonality of employment in eco-tourism and recreation mean there are predictable times of year when pooling labour to build or landscape can be done without anyone losing income from their primary jobs. Having an established network to reach out to when more hands are needed – say for harvest, canning, freezing or drying food as well as backyard construction projects, may streamline those jobs which can seem daunting without help.
A promotional video filmed at the Farmer’s Market last week shows one trade being made for seedling plants. The buyer gave his member number and authorized the seller to debit his account for the plants. When the seller charges the buyer’s account, the computer system automatically generates an email notice that gives the buyer 10 days to make any corrections needed. The informative video can be seen at http://youtu.be/43yips5gzu0.
The meeting established two structural elements that will support and extend the efforts of the organizers to date. One is an Admin group that will take care of things to do with using the computer-based accounting system. “It’s not rocket science,” said Awal but he acknowledged that having a few people able to help out will lighten the weight he has been carrying as sole administrator. In addition, some people committed to doing community outreach work, spreading the word of the group’s existence as widely and quickly as possible. It was generally acknowledged that diversity in offerings is key to success in establishing a sustainable trading network. Anyone interested in putting energy into promoting RAGSE can check the self-titled Facebook group to find out when a publicity group meeting will be held.
Some local businesses have joined the exchange and are accepting $tokes as complete or partial payment. As time goes by, this trend may strengthen and allow valuable trades that do not replace cash purchases since, at the seller’s discretion, the buyer pool can be widened to include those without much national currency when overstocked situations arise or at traditionally slow customer traffic times.
Michael Beauchemin, visiting from Golden, said their group, called Golden Hours, is about the same size as RAGSE but their medium of exchange is time, measured in hours. One feature of both groups being part of the international umbrella organization is that there is the possibility of portability of a user’s credits while travelling and there may be some inter-community trades possible with our neighbours just up the road. The system is so flexible that creative use of the tool can easily be imagined and emergent properties may abound once “critical mass” is achieved.