Barter-economics (bin or move to unconf track)

Inspired by the discussion started in this post.

Edgeryders have expertise and umph in a field of gift and barter-economics as well as practical answers with examples.  So should we build a session dedicated to this subject?

[Matthias] mentionned: The greater topic of non-monetary value exchange might be an area for upskilling – [James] has a lot to say on gift economy for example. And [Alberto] mentioned a session on life after cash ([elf Pavlik] seems an obvious candidate) as one of the options.

Historically barter economies are trending when global or national economies suck, so it seems like a right moment for a session like this.

Topics and the outcomes of such session ca be different depending on what Edgeryders and ER’s chief0barter-economists would be up for.

  • Cashless living? (and not just mere existence)

  • Barter tools? (Once money was an innovative approach to pure bartering, which are more recent tools making barter easy?)

  • Covering areas of barter-economies which scare people off, or at the first glance appear messy and blackmarket-like? Encouraging govs to give it a go and hire us as experts?

  • Moneyless funding planning? (I think [demsoc] knows about this)

  • Something else?

And by the way, anyone knows how things are with alternative economies in Matera and around? I can have a look, but locals will do it better.

It’s a bit of rough idea inspired by the conversation in this post and by older posts, so, please jump in to see if it can be a session as such or a part of some other session.


Upskilling Track - if it takes the form of a “how-to” track on no-cash economy; if it takes the form of a more theoretical discussion then it’s the unConference Track.

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I see this session as a must…

given that so many people here at Edgeryders have first hand experience with alternatives to monetary exchanges - whether plain living moneyless or being bart of more organized barter schemes. Ksenya do you need help with a writeup? I think at this point it’s up to you to choose a format for the session, and then if others are up for they can come up with complementary sessions, there and then

My personal preference is for a how-to workshop because it’s more useful to people who are not experienced in this but may want/need to learn how to reduce their monetary based consumption. And because I tend to think in terms of outputs, I think this model from Shareable on How To Set Up An Open Mesh Network in Your Neighborhood, with clear instructions and conditions where it applies, could be an option (more concise and makes it easier to packetize the outcome of the event later on, when you need to show results outwards). I also like the idea of barter tools and learning how we can benefit from them!

Of course it can be also a discussion on models rather than practical. What do you think?

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We need the expertise!

Yes, this is an important topic and many people are interested. What we don’t have is somebody who volunteers to do a talk or lead a workshop, perhaps because these competences are still relatively rare. f we can get the Dutch scholarship off the ground, hopefully Kasper – who is deep into Bitcoin – could launch one.

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3 maybe’s :slight_smile:

maybe there is a reason that we don’t have a experts? maybe it should be that way?

maybe we could have a session about direct experiences? I believe this subject often falls short due to theoretical abstactions and generalizations. I believe that there needs to be a specific context and need to really have something to dig into when it comes to alternative currencies/economics.  If there are people here who have had direct experiences (successes and failures) I would very much like to hear from them in such a session. I am happy to share my story (if why we chose NOT to use an alternative currency for a specific project).

My inspiration this subject comes from Charles Eisenstein and his book Sacred Economics (available freely in the spirit of a gift here: http://sacred-economics.com/ ). From what I can tell he also practices gifting when he comes to speak … leaving it up to the organizers and participants to give what they can and wish to give. He has been making more and more appearances in Europe. Maybe we could invite him?


Well, some people here do have some expertise, but they don’t seem to have found the energy to volunteer a session yet. We’ll see.

As for Eisenstein, I am afraid I have no love for him. I went to one of his conferences in Brussels and, based on what I heard, his reasoning is weak (arguments tend to start with an unproven statement of the kind “everybody knows that…” and move from there). On the contrary, his proselitizing skills are very strong, and he (at least in that context) was doing the guru thing, telling people what they wanted to hear and basking in the good feelings. Not for me.

This should not stop you from inviting him! I don’t think I’ll take part in this session but hey, you can’t be in all sessions anyway.

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if nothing else

Then if nothing else I’d like a session with you to hear more of your impressions :slight_smile: I haven’t had an opportunity to hear him speak. His book is one of the most thoroughy researched that I’ve come across. There is a shamanic aspect to him (fireside storyteller) I am looking forward to seeing a professional economist challenging him intellectually.

I can relate to what you are saying from his “workshops” where he seems to be appealing to what I call the “shanti shanti” crowd … which is probably what you call the “feel good” audience … and that does bother me somewhat … I’m simply not interested in that (for myself).

Interestingly enough I heard from someone else who went to a presentation given by Charles and he told me that most of the audience did not “hear what they wanted to hear” … far from it … that what he had to say was quite challenging for most of the people in attendance.

Anyways … please pencil me in for a session in this with you :slight_smile:

I find Sacred Economics a bit cheesy to be honest: sort of inspirational, but not practical so far. Though, it might be a good read for those who need a brief introduction into economics.

Here is a brief story of my still failing attempt to start and use very basic, banal elementary barter.

I’m very banal and pragmatic about this. The elements of barter I use on FB have been sometimes very helpful, but I believe it can work better and respond to more needs. I live in a condominium with relatively well off neighbours, but not so well off any longer, because of… well, you know. They have a lot of shit in the cellar which, I can see, no one have been using for at least 3 years. Some of it I wouldn’t mind borrowing and using, and I’m sure I have some stuff that they can borrow or exchange.

Assumption that they want to clean up their cellars is still just an assumption, though based on observation (people trying to pile up and fit more and more stuff in their tiny storage rooms) And the assumption that my neighbours have less and less cash to spend comes from…hm, semi structured interviews :slight_smile: Same, chats with random inhabitants of the condo showed that they like the idea, but send me to the condo authorities…

Barter seems to be “not a tradition” and so far I didn’t manage to engage people to clean up their cellars and help each other to spend money only on stuff which is not already there.

Reasons for that might be:

  1. Historical: people over here have a strong connection to legal authorities and weak horisontal connections. So in order to make this swap shop happen I had to talk to whatever chairman of the condominium, so they can put it in a monthly condominium letter. And we seem to talk in different language… They think I want to make flea-market or something like that and that it will take to much time and hassle. And it will look like shit in the yard, and that if someone visits the condo to buy a flat here they will think it’s full off gypsies.

  2. Idenity-related (also partly historical) Showing that you are not so well off and rather swap something than spending more money is a challenge for identity. Identity in a sense “Good citizen visits IKEA and buys new stuff” and “Bartering cultures are cultures of the uncivilised”

  3. Squeamishness related: it might be that people don’t like using stuff which have been used by someone else. Nevertheless, there are 3 second hand stores a block away which are always full (ok, it’s for charity, though this charities been lately very controversial: church-homophobia&union busting).

  4. Practical: the idea that this low range bartering will take more time than shopping. Or the fact that small scale barter cannot satisfy all the needs and you will still need to buy stuff.

My next step with this experiment is to present it to the condominium authorities in a clean digital format. I’m not a techie, so I’ll show them a wordpress gallery and see what they think. I just feel discouraged a bit, and a bit uncivilised: I don;t knowif it is completely useless and I;m the only one interested or I am just going against normativity, which is totally fine and can be useful.

Half of stuff we have at home was given to us. The difference is that it was given by friends and aquaintances - in this case gift is a normativity. Though it was a pain in the neck to coordinate this gift transaction and to transport gifts from another side of the town. So I’m just puzzled, why is it so hard to start swaping things where you live? Is that most people here need to become extremely poor to recognise the value of adding barter to their everyday consumption?

Why in some cases it is working (student houses for example, and this barter FB group I’m using- but these cases are limited, and that’s why they satisfy very little needs)

It seems to be again, question of normativity and tradition. Sorry if it all sounded like some sort of arm-chair philosophical rant, that what it is, by the way.

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Good point. I want to be

Good point, Alberto. I want to be transparent about the fact that I have no idea know what I’m doing.  I’ve posted the session because to me it’s an important subject and I’ve seen a lot of unMonetise wit around the platform.  My practical experience in barter economy is limited to the use of small facebook group where we exchange old shit - material, but not services. This group constantly makes me think of some dilemmas of barter economy which I have no clue how to resolve. I will go through it in detail if Kasper or someone else with practical unmonetise skills shows up and we keep this session.

I couldn’t find Kasper on the platform. Please, keep me posted on whether he’s coming and what will be the best way to contact him.

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Thanks, I’m very interested in the gift economy, all that is moneyless, and alternative currencies. Bitcoin is far from moneyless but at least it is (central) bankless. And I would like to think about ways of applying ideas from cryptocurrencies to the gift economy. Hitchhiking and hospitality exchange are examples for the gift economy in which I have a lot of experience myself (both “in the field” and through active involvement in the creation of the networks that enable people to hitch and host). It would be great if this “social capital” used for many gifts could somehow be strengthened in a practical decentralized P2P system not unlike Bitcoin. Of course this is just a personal approach. I’ll be happy to discuss the wider field and include topics such as the digital commons (free software, CC, open hardware) and refer to work by scholars such as Benkler and Lessig.

As far as practicalities, just let me know what is desired, workshop or talk, and which topics should be mentioned or covered fully and I’ll make it happen.


That’s the spirit :slight_smile:

Great, [guaka]!

I suggest we keep it simple: there is pretty much only you and [Matthias] (but he’s been silent on the topic) with hands-on knowledge. So the best would be a session based on a talk + discussion. It could be called something like “Beyond Bitcoin: what crypto currencies can contribute to the gift economy”. If Matthias jumps on board, we’ll extend it as he and you see fit. If you like the idea, I would proceed as follows:

  1. create a session proposal by writing it into a post. Go to the workspace and locate the button "create a post". Explain what we'll do in the session, how much time you need and any other things you might need to do it.
  2. before you save it, locate the "LOTE3 activity reference" field and tick the appropriate box (Track 1, 2 or 3).
  3. at this point we'll be able to communicate it.
  4. don't forget to go back to your user profile and tick the "Yes I am coming to LOTE3" box. This helps us plan the logistics...

Phew, good that you showed up

[guaka], thats all sounds very cool.  If I knew something about this subject (or any subject at all well enough) I’d go for something more workshopy… What kind of format you think fits the best? Do you think it’s better to keep it in the “unConf” track or it’ll be more like “Upskilling”?

Yes, please!

This is a subject that occupies me quite a bit. Living in rural Romania gives a unique-extremely-grounded perspective on this. I live amongst what is considered a “poor population” in socio-economic terms, yet I experience such potential abundance … Oh … so much to say:

Romania’s currency seems to be failry stable and untouched (for now) by global agitations

forces are clearly extracting energy from the village setting

parents want to get their children away from vilage life and children want to leave

even exchanges that do take place within the village depend mostly on money

there is very little sign of community or gift economy

almost any infrastructure in the village depends on EU funding and highly politicized cash flow within government parties.

I wonder how it is possible in these settings to stimulate growth (without depending on outside cash)

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Even though it’s a hot topic, I don’t think that it would be worth keeping as a session if it’s purely theoretical, because theoretical stuff we can easily discuss on the platform with no time limit.

I totally agree that such session needs expertise of an experienced gifteconomist, which I’m not.

I mean, we all exchanged stuff at some point in life, but the barter economy to me is quite mysterious process: it happens, it’s super interrelated with a lot of factors. When something is so complex, it might not even worth theoretizing. Not when you just want to make it work somewhere, even on a small scale.

So unless a gifteconomist-practitionner jumps in, I suggest to keep it a conversation instead of a session. It might grow into a session next time, we never know.

Kasper is guaka

hope that helps!

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It freaking helps!


Would love to help with any discussion around this.


Whilst not an experienced economist I have spent the last year reading up on the subject and am in the process of building an app to make it easy for anyone to start their own local sharing network. How can I contribute to this session?

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sounds great

You’re very welcome. I have more questions than experience in this except of using already existing barter networks, and failing setting up my own. Luckily we now have Guaka, and if you join the session it will be a good session.  When I proposed it I was imagining a session which as practical as it can get when it is about economy and currencies.

Are you in the economy app? How is it going? I kept an eye on it, but I might have missed something.

Is the wiki editable for everyone? Please, jump in&add stuff you want to add. By the way, if it does not get practical, but rather theoretical it is fine too.

Few quick thoughts on my small scale barter attempts.

This is a completely selfish attempt to indulge my consumer addiction in spite of my income shortage, with no ambition to change the entire world economic system. My thoughts here  mainly reiterating good old agile basics, which I’m not a specialist in, but anyway…

In a previous comment I was ranting about the difficulties starting small scale barter process. (However, it is starting to look better now with some sort of hybrid mini flea market with barter elements.)

I tried to identify possible reasons for this and mainly complained about two factors:

  • high level of individualism and need for authorization (low swarming levels, if I get the word “swarming” right),

  • and about identity: fear of looking like a poor.

Things which were so far helpful:

• Basic research: talk to people and try to figure out the best ways to present bartering so it is acceptable for everyone to engage in. This answers the identity question. Clear invitation for “sustainably getting rid of old crap” gained consent.

This also allowed me to find equally interested people, without whom I inevitably feel like an idiot.

• Keep this stuff iterative:

  • obvious: nothing gives you more insight than a prototype.

  • don’t push for barter as such, market it as a flea-market and identify early adopters of barter. Funny enough, barter naturally starts for two reasons: shortage of small cash money and the moral difficulty to set the price on something that you think is a piece of old crap.

  • everyone under 18 prefers barter due to the limited access to currencies.

• Assumptions which turned out to be completely wrong.

I assumed that people will find it more comfortable to keep it online (create a wordpress gallery). It turns out that people are more willing to participate to the real life event.

This might happen for several reasons: uploading your old stuff to an online gallery makes you permanently engaged in the bartering activity (which is might be regarded as a sign of destitution), which is more identity challenging. Flea market model is less identity threatening.

Secondly, an online gallery entails a need to engage in the actual bartering process at any time (when someone wants to swap something on something you have), and requires rather extravert mindset. It is easier with city-wide FB groups, as you feel less obliged to answer than to your immediate neighbors.

Also, pictures of ones private old sofa presented for exchange online makes some feel a bit of an exhibitionist, I suppose.

So, no, people in the house I live, don’t want to have their old stuff in the online gallery.

I can think of combining the two: going forward with the online gallery (just keep old stuff), but keep it mainly for promotion of the RL barter day in spring.