Category Archives: Exchange Design

Thomas Greco’s 2017 Summer Workshop in Greece

Following last summer’s exciting and successful workshop in Greece, Thomas Greco will again this summer be conducting a workshop in Monetary and Financial Innovation for the New Economy at the Alexandros campus of the Kalikalos Holistic Summer School on the beautiful Pelion peninsula in Greece.

[Edit:During the 2017  workshop Tom will again have the assistance of Matthew Slater and the benefit of a guest appearance by Prof. Jem Bendell of Cumbria University (UK).]

View southward from Alexandros

In this week-long workshop we will examine the problems and deficiencies of both conventional money and local currencies and exchange systems, and delve into the principles and practices of innovative exchange and finance.

Over the past three decades, a great many complementary currencies and exchange schemes have sprung up, gained some degree of acceptance and notoriety, then faded away. This workshop will focus in on the reasons why none of them has become a significant factor in their community economies, and uncover the principles of design and implementation that need to be applied to make exchange alternatives more effective, robust, and scalable. It will also cover new ways of providing entrepreneurs with the resources needed to bring their ideas to fruition and achieve success in the marketplace.

Alexandros Center

Alexandros Center

This course is designed especially for social entrepreneurs, government officials, enthusiastic agents of change, and serious students who are ready to co-create a new sustainable and convivial economy from the bottom up. In this highly participatory workshop, we will use a combination of presentations, discussion groups (some on the beach), videos, and simulation games, to dive deeply into the process of exploring and developing innovative methods of finance, exchange, and value measurement. Participants will have the opportunity to showcase their projects and ideas and receive feedback from the group.

Here is an opportunity to work with one of the world’s leading experts in innovative economics, finance, and exchange, and to collaborate with like-minded peers to create a new economy that works for everyone, while enjoying a delightful summer holiday on the magical Pelion peninsula. Come join us in a process of inquiry, discovery, sharing and collaboration.

The workshop will run from 16 to 23 June, 2017. Space is limited so register early at

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 All the perplexities, confusions and distresses in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, as much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation. –John Adams, second president of the United States.

Just as the political monetary system trends power toward the state, so the system based on true money will release the natural forces that trend society toward private initiative, enterprise and democracy. Pending this fundamental reversal, all resistance to statism is futile. As long as the only available monetary system is political, exchange, that process by which the social order functions, will never accomplish its natural purpose, the development of prosperity and freedom.– E.C. Riegel, Flight From Inflation

A World Without Money and Interest

During my October tour, I gave three presentations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and another in Sardinia, Italy. Two of the Malaysia presentations were at the International Forum on Inclusive Wealth, but I do not yet have recordings of those. The third was an extended presentation and discussion (on October 10) at the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies titled, A World Without Money and Interest: A pathway toward social justice and economic equity. Here below is the video of the proceedings, or you can watch it on YouTube at The audio only is here, and the slides that were used in that talk can be viewed here.

Final Workshop Announcement—Innovative Finance and Exchange

Society is Exchange! – Frederic Bastiat.

All the perplexities, confusions and distresses in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, as much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.
– President John Adams, from a letter to Thomas Jefferson (1787-08-25), in The Works of John Adams

As the time grows near I want to remind everyone that my workshop on innovative finance and exchange is set to begin in about 10 days time at Kalikalos Holistic Summer School in Greece ( It will start on the evening of 24 June and conclude on the morning of 1 July.

While it is described as a “course,” the format will be that of a workshop/colloquium in which everyone plays an active role in an intensive process of inquiry, discovery, sharing and collaboration aimed at:
1. achieving a deeper understanding of sound principles of credit, finance, and the exchange process, and,
2 developing action plans for the design and implementation of robust systems that can be widely proliferated and quickly scaled up to global dimensions.
3. assembling a knowledge base that can provide guidance to others on the same path toward achieving more equitable and sustainable economic structures.

There is still space available for those who feel moved to participate.
Details about the course, fees, and booking are at
Some of the areas that we will explore include:

  • The essence, function, and forms of money
  • The concepts of currency, credit, credit clearing, liquidity, monetization, and basis of issue
  • Various models of private currencies and moneyless exchange
  • Value measurement and units of account
  • Exchange networks and inter-trading

Don’t let finances stop you as will be able to offer a limited amount of bursaries. Please write an application for that to our team at

We offer Greek participants who take part in the week-long workshop a discount of 30%.
The weekend Saturday, 25 and Sunday 26 is being offered to Greeks on a Gift Economy basis which means that you offer what you are able to give. If you want to participate on these terms please send a mail to:

I look forward to working with you.  –Thomas

Bitcoin, Blockchain Technology, and Crypto-Currency

There has been lots of chatter lately about bitcoin, blockchain technology, and crypto-currency. Everyone, including me, is trying to wrap their head around it all. This is what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Bitcoin is a virtual commodity that is created by running some obscure algorithm. The people who get rewarded are the “miners” who burn up enormous amounts of computer time and electricity to create Bitcoin. That makes it akin to mining gold or silver—not a very useful pursuit, and like any commodity, people will prefer to use it as a savings medium or hedge against inflation rather than circulating it as a currency. Bitcoin is NOT the answer to the money problem.
  2. The important thing about blockchain technology is what it can do, what functions it can perform. You hear a lot about “smart contracts” and a secure trail of transactions. It seems to be something that is needed when using digital forms of contracts and transactions conducted over the internet, but provides no new functions compared to what has always been done with paper trails and records, but maybe I’m missing something.
  3. The term “crypto-currency” is ill defined and there is much confusion about the characteristics of such a currency and what it can achieve.
  4. The fundamental principles of reciprocal exchange still hold. The substance of a currency or payment medium is CREDIT. Claims still need to be authenticated and promises need to be guaranteed.

My grand, audacious vision is this:


What they might have is skills, abilities, products, services and credit that is advanced by a circle of people who know them and trust that they are ready, willing, and able to deliver value on demand in the near term.

I have argued that the truly disruptive technology of exchange is a global network of small credit-clearing circles that provide “a means of payment that is locally based and controlled yet globally useful. It makes money and banks, as we’ve known them, obsolete.

My talk in Malaysia in October at the International Forum on Inclusive Wealth ( will be on that topic and will build upon the framework that I laid out in my book chapter, –t.h.g.

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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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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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New Community Currency Hanbook

The New Economics Foundation has recently announced a new handbook. Covering a variety of currency designs from time banks, LETS, and currencies issued on the basis of conventional money payment, People Powered Money: everything you need to know to set up a community currency, is a useful guidebook for grassroots exchange innovators.

The book can be downloaded from