The term LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) was coined by Michael Linton, a Brit living in Canada in the 1970s, but the idea has been around in one form or another for about two hundred years, maybe even longer. Local people have exchanged skills using community-based currencies since at least the 1830s.

By the Depression of the 1930s, local currencies were being combined with barter networks and people continued trading their goods and services even though they had little work and no money. There were networks like these worldwide and some, in Germany and Canada, became so successful in alleviating poverty and cutting unemployment that eventually the banks managed to get the law changed. (Even now they say it is hard to operate a non-commercial community exchange system like LETS in Germany).

Here in Britain, the first schemes using the LETS name started in Norwich and Stroud in Gloucestershire in the 1980s. Recessions and crashes of the 1980s and 90s stirred up a lot of interest in LETS and by the mid 90s there were over 400 active groups with a total membership of over 20k people. LETS was paper-based, supported by single-computer spreadsheets and databases, but in recent years there has been an increasing move to online management of accounts - this system uses software called Local Exchange.

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