LETS in the Developing World Project
The "LETS in the Developing World" project is a research and implementation project focusing on rural and urban communities in the region surrounding the city of Santiago, Chile. We can now report our initial progress to you as we move to the next stages of our work.
This project grew out of contacts made following the publication of an article on LETS that was published in "Down to Earth" magazine in New Delhi, India this spring, which motivated me to begin focusing on this area. The Instituta Ecologica Politica, (Institute of Political Ecology) in Santiago had been making contact and information requests about LETS and other microcredit/mutual credit systems during their trips abroad, requests which had reached me in Canada and Christina Svendsson in Sweden. It became clear there was a lot of interest in the project, and it was growing fast.
At the very same time, the International Development Research Council (IDRC) in Ottawa, Canada, responded to a funding query I had submitted nearly a year ago. They stated their interest in the project, and requested an outline of the research program. They liked the initial outline, and agreed to put the project in line for funding, up to $20,000 Canadian for the fall of 1997. They would assist with the publication and dissemination of the research results. The funding, however, is limited entirely to research and not implementation.
An initial announcement of the project to econ-lets brought a number of interested
people together, some with more time on their hands than others, and we have formed a team
to develop the project and carry it forward to implementation. Our project team
Our group supports a twofold mandate: to support the introduction of LETS to so-called developing countries, and secondly to conduct research and implementation projects with host organizations to design the methods by which a LETS can be assimilated easily into the social, cultural, economic and political frameworks of the locality, region and country.
Our group is now developing the details of the project, and communicating with our project partners. Broadly speaking, our project will implement and study a LETS-type mutual credit system, testing a variety of transaction, monetary and administration structures, along with microcredit and related capital-generation for self-employment programs. That covers everything, and so we will be designing the project to fit within parameters.
The Instituta Ecologica Politica (IEP) is an Ecology House organization in Santiago, which also manages citizen action and an ecological economics project. They are working with 50 counties in the Santiago area, and are very interested in implementing LETS and related mutual credit/microcredit systems. Mr. Rodrigo Cerda is the Executive Director.
Recently, we have also received a second partner in Santiago, the Project Planning Group (PPG) which runs an email Conference on Financial Systems for the Rural Poor. The PPG is an "international consultative group specialized on designing income generation programs for the poors. Technology innovation, transfer and environment assessment; training and organizations development; financial services; marketing support; and, local and regional networking for planning, management and development." Dr. Jorge Bertini, Director of PPG, is an international consultant for several international organizations, governments and institutions, specializes in Financial Services for the poor, with extensive work in Latin America and Asia.
In Canada, the Victoria International Development Education Association (VIDEA) in Victoria, British Columbia, is working to become the Canadian Partner of the project, which is a requirement of our funders. Mr. Sandy Ockenden and Ms. Maeve Lydon have extensive experience in Community Economic Development, and are familiar with and supportive of the LETS.
Our group communicates regularly via email, and except for the concrete implementation of LETS and related participatory research in Santiago, much of the work will be conducted using the Internet, to focus our resources on research and results rather than plane tickets.
As our project proceeds, we will be building a website to act as an information and resource site for groups wishing to start a LETS in their community that have the capability of accessing the internet, but may not have a wide range of technological options. More importantly, we hope to be providing start-up packages for groups wishing to start a LETS in their developing country, but who lack the technical and technological capabilities (such as telephones, photocopiers, computers and internet access) that were formerly required to qualify for support.
The complete absence of support up until now for groups lacking in such technologies has resulted in very little to no implementation of LETS-type mutual credit systems in the developing world, while microcredit projects such as the Grameen Bank are spreading rapidly with large-scale support from the United Nations and other foreign aid agencies.
Stephen DeMeulenaer Project Coordinator
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