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Communities re-invent bartering to beat the economic crisis

How a small community in Greece creatively developed a co-existing currency while facing the Euro crisis

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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I remember reading about how Greek people inventively and creatively cope with the financial crisis. There were several articles about communities such like the city of Volos which created the TEM, a new currency based on bartering. It started as a grass-roots initiative that has since grown into a network of more than 800 members (in 2012).

Here are some excerpts from the Guardian which subtitle is evocative: "Communities set up local currencies and exchange networks in attempt to beat the economic crisis"

"(...) In this bustling port city at the foot of Mount Pelion, in the heart of Greece's most fertile plain, locals have come up with a novel way of dealing with austerity – adopting their own alternative currency, known as the Tem. As the country struggles with its worst crisis in modern times, with Greeks losing up to 40% of their disposable income as a result of policies imposed in exchange for international aid, the system has been a huge success. Organisers say some 1,300 people have signed up to the informal bartering network.

For users such as Ioanitou, the currency – a form of community banking monitored exclusively online – is not only an effective antidote to wage cuts and soaring taxes but the "best kind of shopping therapy". "One Tem is the equivalent of one euro. My oil and soap came to 70 Tem and with that I bought oranges, pies, napkins, cleaning products and Christmas decorations," said the mother-of-five. "I've got 30 Tem left over. For women, who are worst affected by unemployment, and don't have kafeneia [coffeehouses] to go to like men, it's like belonging to a hugely supportive association."

Greece's deepening economic crisis has brought new users. With ever more families plunging into poverty and despair, shops, cafes, factories and businesses have also resorted to the system under which goods and services – everything from yoga sessions to healthcare, babysitting to computer support – are traded in lieu of credits.

For many it plays a double role of supplementing lost income and creating a protective web at this particularly difficult moment in their lives," says Yiannis Grigoriou, a UK-educated sociologist among the network's founders. "The older generation in this country can still remember when bartering was commonplace. In villages you'd exchange milk and goat's cheese for meat and flour. (...)"

Other article (with video): http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17680904

This reminded me of Andres's post on the 

Things that I find inspiring: 

  • How communities can be creative in harsh times and develop new forms of currency

  • Bartering, an old system, reinvented to adjust to the challenges of our current world

  • "A form of community banking monitored exclusively online": role of technology in reinitiating an old form of exchange

  • A support system: some hope for the people suffering from the crisis and a sense of control. 

  • Can this replace the current system? can two currencies co-exist?

How might we disrupt our financial system by re-inventing old exchange mechanisms?

How might we be inspired by traditional exchange mechanisms?


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Photo of Shane Zhao

Anne-Laure, congrats on being mentioned in our community highlights blog! Check it out in the latest issue of ReFresh here: https://openideo.com/blog/refresh-01

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Photo of Shane Zhao

Oops. I gave you the wrong blog link. Here's the correct link! https://openideo.com/blog/refresh02

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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks for mentioning my post and giving the right link. :-)

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Photo of Shane Zhao

Glad to have your perspective in this challenge:)

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