Greece: Alternative Economy
A Crisis can Turn into a Chance
A crisis can turn into a chance. Skala Ecovillage takes the economical crisis in Greece as a chance to learn more and practise alternative economoy systems. From 22 to 28 of October, SKALA Ecovillage, Greece, explored together with the experts Matthew Slater and Stewart Noble, the issues of money and alternative and solidarity economy. Anna Fillipou, co-founder of SKALA, reports.
During last five years, Greece has been in the eye of an economic cyclone. A cyclone, which, as we all know, has a tremendous impact on the lives of billions of people. Now, economists and politicians are trying to find ways to extend Greece's debt, without even considering whether it should be repaid. We wonder if it is an opportunity to redefine the measure of the value of money. If we stop using GDP as an indicator of economic success and if we set our resources in productive activities instead of military spending, security and inefficient ideologies, if we declare that "we do not want to be part in this madness", how can we regain control of our productive resources and how do we do it with dignity and not with violence?
Matthew Slater, software activist from the UK, co-founder of the Swiss NGO Community Forge, alternative currency consultant, advises communities to create and manage complementary currencies, enabling:
- promotion of local resources
- increase in social cohesion and social dynamics
- increasing economic resilience
- promotion of local autonomy
- reduction of environmental impacts
With him, Stewart Noble (with decades of practical experience in supporting local economies without money), showed us how we can create new "cells" of alternative economy.
Stewart Noble founded and/or supported most of the LETS in Scotland - local exchange trading system - and explained to us in a direct and practical way what are the LETS. LETS is a mutual aid system based on a community, where people exchange goods and services by evaluating in terms of local currency instead of spending cash.
The great attraction of alternative economy in a time of uncertainty is because a certain amount of cash, that would otherwise be spent on services such as hairdresser or language courses etc., can be saved as people instead pay each other in kind.
More specifically, in workshops with Matthew and Stewart we dealt with :
- Offers and needs between us (SKALA Ecovillage) but also with the local community .
- Relations with the local community - what can we offer to the local community and the world? What do we need?
- Afterwards Matthew led us in the trading floor game while Stewart put all the offers and wants into his SAM software and produced a printed directory:
- We looked at new offers and wants directory, wrote some cheques for imaginary transactions, entered them in SAM and browsed the results.
On Monday morning, Stewart left for Crete, promising to return in the spring and develop some LETS systems in Greece. For the next two afternoons Matthew led the workshops as follows :
1. How does money flow through SKALA and members?
Map collective and individual economic inputs and outputs
2. Core business ideas.
Ask everyone what kind of work creates flow, is effortless for them
Discuss - where are the harmonics in the group
Enquire: what is the economic situation now - how could it be developed?
On Tuesday we worked on the following themes:
- Land Ownership and commitment
- Ask everyone to plot on 4 axes: how much of them is in SKALA - heart, relationships, capital, income.
- Enquire: What do other ecovillages do about ownership, commitment, participation in governance, and helping to shape the vision.
- Ask everyone what would encourage them them to move towards the 'full' commitment.
- Discuss: Is it possible and helpful to make full commitment (on those 4 axes) but for review after a time period, such as 5 years?
On Wednesday we put the topographic maps on the table and dreamed on the map, plotting the new professions of our eco-villages, which impressed us all so, to commit to the Christmas season to evolve more with the help of the method Dragon Dreaming.
All participants agreed that it was a really valuable process. As a project, our steps led us already to the process of an adequate legal structure and commitment of the people involved, so now we are more aware, how we can move on to the next steps.
With the help of Matthew and Stewart we began to have an idea, that money is actually "common good". We wondered if using LETS or time banking systems, we create a reality, where we measure the slightest exchange activity, which would lead us to a very narrow way of living and being and we saw that the road to abundance and grace passes through justice. Especially here in Greece in times of economic crisis, we want to create a basis of transparence and justice on the financial level and parallel to go for the abundance and grace to our relationships and exchanges.
We felt for the first time so strongly and clearly the great political importance of the issue of money in the creation of an alternative social model and we are determined to work for it. It is an issue associated with deep insecurities, fears, social and systemic patterns, illusions and political power. During these days, we went through a difficult issue, thanks to the delicate and confident handling by Matthew Slater and Stewart Noble.
I was honoured to be invited to SKALA ecovillage in Greece. Anna and Nikiforos are 3 years into their fourth attempt to build a community on their property near Thessaloniki on which currently abide 7 adults plus 3 volunteers and some children. I'm still not sure what they thought I would bring, but their main concern is to take the project from merely living together to building a future together. Nikiforos is a highly skilled engineer running a family business 50 km away putting all his income into SKALA. Most of the others are paying a fixed rent for basic accommodation but not investing in the project. SKALA is producing some soap and jam which yields an insignificant income. So there's not much of an economy for me to get my teeth into.
Despite my feeling desperately unqualified everyone seemed agreed that it had been a valuable process. Certainly bringing certain thoughts and feelings to the surface is critical for building a future together, but for me it is interesting that Anna and Nikiforos felt unable to do this within the usual ecovillage process. Time will tell whether our time together will yield fruit, whether the inhabitants will remember these conversations a year from now, and whether I should be spending less time programming and more time with humans.