Category Archives: Emerging paradigm

The Financial Times discovers mutual credit clearing

Journalist Edward Posnett, in an article that appears this weekend in the Financial Times magazine, describes the origins and operations of Sardex, a mutual credit clearing exchange that I visited last month and reported on here.

Posnett’s article, The Sardex factor, is fairly well written and begins with the subtitle: When the financial crisis hit Sardinia, a group of local friends decided that the best way to help the island was to set up a currency from scratch. You can read the full article here.

While I consider Sardex to be among “the best of the breed” and a trade exchange model worth replicating, it is by no means unique. Posnett’s article is well worth reading but I fault it on two counts, first for ignoring the scores of similar commercial trade exchanges that have been operating successfully around the world for the past several decades, and secondly for failing to emphasize the crucial importance of the value proposition that mutual credit clearing provides—the provision of liquidity to a local or domestic economy, independent of the banking system and without the disruptive and destabilizing imposition of interest.

There are several well run commercial trade exchanges but as I said in my interview at Sardex, most trade exchange operators are too complacent and satisfied with their modest levels of business success.

The ‘special sauce” that seems to make Sardex stand out is the underlying values and social mission of the founders. Their primary purpose in launching their credit clearing exchange was to help improve the local economy of their home island. I hope that will continue to inspire their operations and development in the years to come.

They have tried to assist entrepreneurs in six or seven other regions of Italy to replicate their design and operations, but told me that the results have been disappointing. I’m speculating that it may be for lack of that “special sauce.” If that’s the case, then successful replication will require that they work selectively with social entrepreneurs who share the same values and mission of serving the common good.

That seems to be quite a rare breed right now, so these people will need to be nurtured through a process of selection and education–perhaps somewhat akin to what the Jesuits have historically done. The need is for people who have the right values, strong motivation, and technical competencies to create the new socio-economic paradigm.

The interview that I gave at the Sardex offices during my visit focuses on The Changing Picture in Complementary Currencies and can be viewed in the post below or on YouTube at The pictures that I took are in my online photo gallery at,

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The changing picture in complementary currencies

During my August visit to the Sardex trade exchange on the island of Sardinia, they recorded (on August 13, 2015) this short interview. In it I cover a few important points on the liquidity problem and how commercial trade exchanges help to solve it.

Newsletter — Summer 2015

Upcoming Ireland Events and My Remaining Tour Itinerary
My Activities in Greece, an abbreviated sketch
The Greek Crisis

The summer has gone pretty much according to the plan I laid out in my Spring Newsletter, with of course the inevitable addition of things that have popped up spontaneously. I’m sorry I’ve been too busy to report about all of it, even though I’m sure many of my readers would want to know. My main reason for writing now is to highlight the agenda for the remainder of my summer tour in case some of you happen to be in the neighborhood of Ireland, Scotland or England. I hadn’t really planned to visit Italy but here I am—in Rome after visits to Tuscany and Sardinia (more on that below). I’m now in Ireland for the final events of my summer tour.

Here’s what I’ll be doing.
Ireland Events and My Remaining Tour Itinerary
25 to 27 August 2015. I’ll be at Cloughjordan Ecovillage to participate in the P2P Summer School program on The Art of Commoning. Then on Friday, 28 August, I will give a lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, followed by a panel discussion. And on Saturday, 29 August, I will conduct a workshop at the same venue. Here are the details.
Friday August 28th 19:00 – 21:00
Talk: The Liberation of Money and Credit
Where: CONNECT (Formerly CTVR) Dunlop Oriel House, 34 Westland Row, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin.
On the evening of Friday August 28th, Thomas Greco will give a presentation on The Liberation of Money and Credit, outlining the fundamental importance of reclaiming the credit commons and showing how communities and businesses can reduce their dependence on bank borrowing and conventional, political forms of money. After the talk Thomas will join a panel with Michel Bauwens and Kevin Flanagan of the P2P Foundation, Dr Rachel O’Dwyer of Trinity College Dublin and Graham Barnes of Feasta for a Q&A session.

Saturday August 29th 10:00 – 16:00
Workshop: The Exchange Revolution: Taking Complementary Currencies and Moneyless Trading to a New Level
Where: CONNECT (Formerly CTVR) Dunlop Oriel House, 34 Westland Row, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin.
On Saturday, Thomas will run a workshop for currency activists, practitioners, researchers, and social entrepreneurs on The Exchange Revolution: Taking complementary currencies and moneyless trading to a new level, also at the CONNECT venue in Dublin. Anyone with a specific interest in developing and extending the impact of community currencies, mutual credit, and other complementary exchange mechanisms is invited to attend.
Both events are sponsored and hosted by CONNECT (formerly CTVR –, at their Dublin city centre venue and supported by Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability ( and P2P Foundation Ireland.
Both Dublin events are free but people are asked to register at:
Tuesday, 1 September, at Queens College, Belfast
Evening Lecture, Communities, Currencies and the Commons: Democratising money creation & enterprise after the Euro-Greek crisis, with Thomas Greco at Queens College, (Senate Room) at 7.30pm (registration at 7.15pm) hosted by the School of Law partnered by Positive MoneyNI. The talk will be followed by panel discussion.
Coordinator – William Methven,

From Belfast, I will travel to Edinburgh, Scotland for a few days of exploring, then to London. I’m scheduled to fly back to San Francisco on September 9.
My Activities in Greece, an abbreviated sketch
Altogether, I spent a little more than three weeks at the Kalikalos Holistic Summer School during the months of June and July. Kalikalos is located on the Mt. Pelion peninsula where the views are spectacular, the mountain villages delightful, and the nearby beaches inviting, all of which provides a good balance of work, play and living in community with people from diverse places. In this ever-changing community of students, workshop leaders, volunteers, facilitators-in-residence, and staff, everyone pitches in to prepare meals, clean up, and share their special gifts. The daily program routine leaves plenty of time for recreation and many people choose to go down the mountain to the beach in the afternoons (about a 20 minute ride) or to hike the ancient donkey trails that connect the villages. Healthy living is a fundamental aspect of the Kalikalos experience with plenty of opportunity for yoga, meditation, tai chi and whatever other modes of centering people care to share. Meals are vegetarian and based mainly on fresh whole foods and traditional Greek ingredients—local olives. olive oil, feta cheese, locally baked bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, and vegetables from Kalikalos’ own gardens.
During my first week there I gave two presentations and conducted sessions in which we played two of my simulation games, Money Monopoly and Free Exchange. Then in July during the workshop on Solidarity Economy, I participated in most of the sessions and gave two presentations on the money problem and exchange altenatives.

While my work on exchange alternatives in Greece has been mostly with private groups and activists, I have developed proposals for creating domestic and community liquidity at all levels ranging from the bottom upward to include grassroots initiatives, business associations, municipal governments, and even the national government. I will be publishing specific details about these proposals in the near future. I am also continuing to work with colleagues in Volos on laying out the framework for a nationwide network of localized credit clearing exchanges.
During the last weekend in July I conducted a two day workshop in Athens for a sizable group of participants interested, or active in programs to create complementary liquidity. In the first session our discussions were based on my slide show on the Greek situation, and in the second, my presentation on the issues that need to be addressed in Taking Moneyless Exchange to Scale. That slide show is posted on my website at

On Wednesday, July 29, I was interviewed on Porto Kali internet radio in Athens (in English with Greek translation). You can listen to it at _________________________________________________
The Greek Crisis
The Greek debt crisis has been all over the news lately so most everyone is aware of it, but most people are not aware of the underlying causes or what is being done to the Greek nation by the financial and political powers-that-be. Several of my recent posts at have dealt with that topic. In addition, there have been some very good recent articles that clearly explain it. These three are especially enlightening:
GREECE’D: We Voted ‘No’ to slavery, but ‘Yes’ to our chains, by investigative reporter Greg Palast.
The Rest of the Story About Greece: EU’s economic demands seek to derail small business and local communities, paving the way for multinational corporate giants.

• Ellen Brown’s fine article “Guerrilla Warfare Against a Hegemonic Power”: The Challenge and Promise of Greece

And if you want to understand the larger agenda of which the Greek situation is indicative, be sure to listen to Ellen Brown’s interview with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, Greece-y Mess – 07.08.15, at
Last week I had occasion to visit the Italian island of Sardinia and spend a few hours meeting with the founders and managers of a commercial trade exchange called Sardex.
I’ve known about Sardex since almost its beginning five years ago and have corresponded over the past few years with Giuseppe Littera, one of its founders, but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to get an inside look at their operation. I came away with a better understanding of how they operate and the impression that the Sardex structures, procedures, and protocols come closer to optimal than any other trade exchange I’ve seen. It appears to be a developing model that can be both scalable and replicable.
You can read my brief but more complete report here, and. you can get a pretty good picture of the distinctive features of Sardex by viewing Giuseppe Littera’s presentation (in English) that was made at a conference in Volos, Greece, in 2014. You can find it on YouTube at,
All best wishes for a playful and enjoyable summer,

Sardex, an emerging model for credit clearing exchanges?

Last week I had occasion to visit the Italian island of Sardinia and spend a few hours meeting with the founders and managers of a commercial trade exchange called Sardex. Here below is an abbreviated report of what I learned. The pdf version of the report can be found here.

Sardex, a brief report
by Thomas H. Greco, Jr. August 15, 2015
I recently spent a few days on the Italian island of Sardinia conferring with the founders and administrators of Sardex (, a commercial credit clearing exchange that has been notable for its success in organizing small businesses and service providers on this island of about 1.6 million people.

I’ve known about Sardex since almost its beginning five years ago and have corresponded over the past few years with Giuseppe Littera, one of its founders, but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to get an inside look at their operation. I came away with a pretty good understanding of how they operate and the impression that the Sardex structures, procedures, and protocols come closer to optimal than any other trade exchange I’ve seen. It appears to be a developing model that is both scalable and replicable.

I will not attempt to provide here a comprehensive report or detailed analysis, rather I will highlight a few major points and provide some sources of additional information for those who are interested in doing their own research.

Some highlights:
Current membership: ~3,000
Current transaction turnover: ~1.5 million euro equivalent per month
Expected turnover for 2015: 50 million
Velocity of credit circulation: 12 times per year
Employees included as sub-accounts: 1,000

When I asked about the key factors that account for their success, here is some of what I was told:

1. Founders are dedicated to the mission to relocalize and rehumanize the economy and to reconnect people by enabling the creation of interest-free local liquidity based on the production capacity of local businesses.

2. Social solidarity and cultural cohesion, while very important and part of the mission, were NOT a pre-existing factor that would account for their early success. In fact, they have had to work hard to develop social solidarity and cooperation amongst their members, but this is now changing. One account broker told me, “I can see how behavior of many of our members has changed. When the financial crisis first began, they were starting to lay off employees or cut their wages, and they were reluctant to spend their euros. This made matters worse as the circulation of money slowed down. But as they began to participate in the process of earning and spending trade credits, they began to increase pay to their workers and to invest in their education. In one case, when a member’s shop was burglarized, other members stepped up to help by donating some of their trade credits to help their fellow member recover from the loss.”

That anecdote demonstrates the differences in behavior that results when people experience scarcity compared to when they experience abundance. In this case, the scarcity of euros caused behavior to change in the direction of reduced willingness to spend and the contraction of overall economic activity. But their experience with trade credit was much different. Realizing the greater availability of trade credits, and finding it easier to earn them, leads people to experience abundance and to be more generous and spend more liberally.

3. I was surprised to learn that the Sardex revenue model relies mainly upon initiation fees and annual membership fees (collected in euros); and that they had decided early-on to stop charging fees on transactions. For me, that approach is counter intuitive in that I have long held the view that recruitment would be most successful if membership were made easy, low cost, and risk free, and that it seems reasonable to apply the principle that users pay in proportion to the amount of services they receive. In this case, that principal would mean that those that receive more credit clearing services should pay more. Well, this may be a case where successful practice trumps rational theory. Marketing specialists should look closely at the dimensions of this phenomenon.

There is however some logic in this approach in that, since the cost of participation is relatively fixed, members should seek to maximize the benefits of their membership by trading more within the network. Initiation fees are set according to the size of the business and range from 150 to 1,000 euros. Annual membership fees are likewise based mainly on turnover and range from 350 to 2,500 euros.

4. Strong member support by an effective staff of brokers who help to arrange trades, especially for those that have high earning capacity to avoid excessive accumulation and high positive trade credit balances.

5. Recruitment strategy tries to replicate the supply chain, i.e., bring in businesses that are the suppliers of existing members or prospective members.

6. “Solidarity threshold.” Requirement that members offer their goods and services for trade credit at the same prices as their euro prices, and that payment be accepted 100% in trade credit on all transactions of less than 1,000 euros. “Blended trades,” i.e., payment in a combination of trade credits and euros are allowed on larger purchases, according to a sliding scale).

7. (a) Restrict membership to companies that have a registered office in Sardinia. This promotes social solidarity and excludes large multi-national corporations. (b) Avoid “saturation” (accepting too many members that offer the same line of products or services).
[While I am fully supportive of the former of these, and would indeed, permanently exclude multi-national companies, this latter practice of avoiding saturation I consider to be of use only in the initial stage of establishing credit clearing as a credible means of exchange and an effective source of local liquidity. Ultimately, I believe that membership must be open to any community-based small or medium enterprise (SME) that meets the basic qualifications for membership. Of course, not all of them will qualify for lines of credit.]

8. Fully compliant with reporting and tax regulations. Transparency is a matter of fundamental importance.

9. Emphasis on monetizing the unused capacity of members. Connecting unused supplies with unmet needs is a primary benefit of credit clearing services.

The Sardex company has been consulting with other groups to replicate their system in seven other regions around Italy. In the future, Sardex is planning to initiate a rebate program to bring consumers into the trading community, which will enhance the circulation of local trade credits, make Sardex better known, and stimulate more sales for their business members.

Here below is a list of a few of the many reports and sources of information about Sardex. Readers are invited to add others as comments.

From an idea to a scalable working model: merging economic benefits with social values in Sardex, by Giuseppe Littera, et al, at the London School of Economic, Inaugural WINIR Conference, 11-14 September 2014, Greenwich, London, UK.
You can get a pretty good picture of the distinctive features of Sardex by viewing Giuseppe Littera’s presentation that was made (in English) at a conference in Volos, Greece, in 2014. It is to be found on YouTube at,
Report (in Italian) in the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica: Dalla Sardegna al resto d’Italia. Sardex inventa la moneta complementare. “Abbiamo ripensato l’economia.” [English translation needed.]

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Seizing an Alternative, Pomona College, June 4-7 – Free Plenary Sessions, Scholarships, and other reasons to participate.

Here’s a portion of the latest informational brief about the upcoming conference. You’re invited:

Don’t stay away!

(I mean, really, when is the next time you’ll be able to get together with hundreds and hundreds of people rethinking civilization from the ground up?)

            Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization             June 4-7, Pomona College, Claremont, CA

ATTEND FREE PLENARY SESSIONS at Bridges Auditorium, Pomona College, Claremont, CA:

Bill McKibben: 7:00 p.m. Opening Night

FRIDAY, June 5
John B. Cobb, Jr.: 9:00 a.m.
Vandana Shiva: 7:00 p.m.

Herman Daly-John B. Cobb, Jr. discussion moderated by PRI’s Warren Olney (recorded):
  9:00 a.m.
Sheri Liao: 7:00 p.m.

SUNDAY, June 7
Wes Jackson: 9:00 a.m.

Southern California Edison makes ADDITIONAL STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS (limited) available. To apply, write to

Read More…

Seizing an Alternative-sign up now

Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization
June 4-7, Pomona College, Claremont, CA
This promises to be the conference of the year.
Get all the details and register here.

Beyond Money—Learning the basics of value exchange

We need to get beyond the confusions and obfuscations that surround the concept of money.

To do that we need to distinguish between what money is, i.e., its essence, and what money does, i.e., its functions. Conventional definitions of money, the ones that are universally taught in schools and universities, tell what money is supposed to do, not what it is.

The essence of money is credit. It is the issuer’s i.o.u. or promise to reciprocate, i.e. to provide real value to the market and accept his currency back as payment for it.

With that in mind, we can begin to make sense of money and effectively address the problems that arise from conventional forms of money.

Conventional thinking lists money as having these functions:

  • Medium of exchange—what we use to pay one another.
  • Store of value—what we use to save our temporary surplus.
  • Measure of value—what we use to quantify the market value of all the things that we buy and sell.

But, as I have argued for almost 30 years, these are separate and distinct functions that need to handled by distinct and different means. (For more about that see my book, Money and Debt: A Solution to the Global Crisis, Part III).

Let’s focus on the exchange function, for this is the fundamental and proper role of money, and this is where attempts to solve our global financial and economic problems must begin. Anyone who has studied my work will know that I have thoroughly articulated these concepts in my books and my various presentations. But theory and practice develop together, each informing the other, and finding ways to improve the process requires that we look at both.

Over the past several decades, numerous innovations in the exchange function have emerged, including virtual commodities like Bitcoin, LETS systems, community currencies, and commercial trade (“barter”) exchanges.

Of these, the greatest market success has been achieved by commercial trade exchanges which enable their member businesses to buy and sell without using conventional money. Rather, trading is enabled by using the members’ own credit in a process called credit clearing which simply offsets debits from purchases against credits from sales. (For a more complete description of how this works, see my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, especially Chapter 10).

Over the past 40 years, much has been learned from the operation of commercial trade exchanges, and while they have achieved some modest levels of success, they have barely scratched the surface of the potential market for credit clearing services. It remains for exchanges system designs and procedures to be optimized and standardized and for local exchanges to be networked together into a vast moneyless marketplace.

The trade exchange industry has two trade associations that have been instrumental in helping practitioners to share information and in promoting standards and best practices. These are the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA) and the National Association of Trade Exchanges (NATE). But over the past year a new voice, Bartertown Radio, has emerged that seeks to disseminate the knowledge and wisdom of practitioners to a wider audience. Its mission is to provide an “Educational Program for Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Barter Exchanges, Owners or New Owners of Barter Exchanges or anyone interested in Alternative Economies.”

Broadcasts are archived and can be accessed on demand at the Bartertown Radio website. Particularly relevant is the April 18 broadcast featuring Richard Logie, a man with 20 years of experience as a trade exchange operator and software platform developer. During that interview, Richard shared his experience and knowledge about a wide range of topics including the factors he considers in allocating credit lines to exchange members, how tax issues are dealt with, and ongoing efforts to establish and enforce good standards of operation. That interview with Richard will be continued next Saturday, April 25 at 11 AM Eastern time (UTC-5). Be sure to tune in at .

Other archived broadcasts that may be of particular interest are the April 5 interview with industry leader, Harold Rice of the American Exchange Network, and the interview with yours truly from December 13, 2014. Besides operating his own trade exchange company for almost 40 years, Harold Rice has provided consulting services for entrepreneurs and other exchange operators. He is a fount of knowledge about the details of exchange operation and has special expertise in accounting and tax issues.

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