In Uruguay, there are about 50 members in two nodes of the Global
Exchange Network at the time of this writing (february, 1999).
Translated from the Spanish by Stephen DeMeulenaere.
The Global Exchange Network is in Uruguay
A Market with a Human Face
The current methods of exchange in the regular economy impose a
growth model on people in various parts of the globe. In Uruguay, a node
of the Global Exchange Network, first formed in Argentina, has been
created, where the "prosumers", using no money, exchange goods and
services without profit, only the satisfaction of sharing.
Since September of 1998, this first Uruguayan node of the Global
Exchange Network was initiated by a community organization in Quilmes,
near Buenos Aires, Argentina, which has been operating for four years.
Everything starts with the offer to exchange, in ways that are different
than the formal market for meeting the needs of the members. Using the
internet, the Argentina Global Exchange Network was able to share its
experience with our country. Many systems with thousands of members are
located all around Argentina.
In the Global Exchange Network, everything is exchanged except
money. Money in its current form does not exist. The method of exchange
used is the credit, a unit of exchange which can only be used in the network,
a bond for facilitating exchange of goods or services or another equivalent.
In other countries in Europe and North America, new methods of exchange,
separate from the traditional market, are developing rapidly and are referred
to as "social money", denominated as "community currency".
Each person who joins the South Node in Montevideo receives 500
credits, credits which can be used only in the network to "facilitate multi-
reciprocal exchange with other members of the network". The agreement to
exchange is made between each one of the members. It is not permitted to
negotiate with credits. But for all, there exists a compromise between
detachment from one's desire and money relations between people.
In the Network, everyone is a "prosumer", a term created to mean a
relation between all members of society [first used in Alvin Toffler's 'The
Third Wave']. Rather than seeing individuals solely as consumers, the
concept of the "prosumer", a conjunction between consumer and producer,
more accurately describes the role of members in the network.
The South Node
"The Exchange Club is a network of self-help and mutual assistance
between people, without personal or organizational profit", says Alvaro
Antoniello, coordinator of the Montevideo Node and one of the founders of
the system. "This network recognizes and counts the needs and potential of
each individual, carried out in a space where people can relate and trade
with each other to meet their needs, and free themselves from the tiranny
of the market."
Talking to the members who have joined the Node in the last 5
months, they are working to build solidarity and revaluing of the
individual as producer and consumer of goods and services, as active
members of society, because "when we demostrate mutual respect and
solidarity, we revalue ourselves and each other at the same time",
Although coming from the word "alternative", the development of a
new method in a neighbouring country seems to suit this country well.
Also from the city of Porto Alegre contacts have been made between other
Latin America cities which hope to build this complementary exchange
system into a formal market.
"By all means, even if people don't like the word "market", an
alternative system is still possible", argues Antoniello, because it uses an
intelligence that has been developed by a group of people and distributed
over the Internet, an electric network of information which escapes the
dominion of its creators to go somewhere, and at the same time, the
potential to go everywhere.
Diversity, Creativity and Responsibility
The Montevideo Node has yet to reach its goal of "aspiring to offer a
wide range of goods and services and stimulating the creative capacity of
each one of its members." However neither in the South Node, nor in
other networks in other countries has the Global Exchange Network
removed a member from its system. The criteria for joining is merely
voluntary, and it is also from this that the creation of 'Quality Circles',
organs within the organization designed to improve the level of quality of
products and services offered by/to the prosumers.
The Uruguay network, in addition to regular trading between its
members, would like to develop a series of goods and services which could
be traded at a higher frequency to broaden the use of the credits. From
university professionals to sociologists, psychologists, farmers,
veterinarians, writers, builders, electricians, engineers, carpenters and
painters could benefit. The benefits of acupuncture treatment for various
problems are well known.
Between the goods that we see available in the network, it is possible to
trade ornamental plants for bread. But the members hope that this system
will make major development possible, including the forming of
enterprises and work groups to produce goods together. Antoniello
continues, "we hope to build a market economy with a human face, where
each prosumer is responsible, because we don't develop the future leaders of
the community square without a direction joining all the members of the
The Credit as Social Money
The unit of exchange used in the Global Exchange Network is the credit.
It is considered to be a medium objective in facilitating the exchange of
equivalents between prosumers.
These credits can't be saved for interest, nor can they be turned into
wealth, nor can they be amassed. Rather they can only be used by the
members of the Node to realize the possibility of exchange.
Initially, as there is not yet another way, the credits have the same
representative value as money. A prosumer that offers a service in the
network recieves an equivalent in credits for his or her work, which would
normally be paid for in pesos.
Nevertheless, the characteristics of the system are intended to build
solidarity, where in definition, they have established the motto that,
"everyone wins, because no one wins when one loses."
Possessing credits suggests the willingness to provide goods and services
in the network, but it must be remembered that credits are not negotiable,
existing only as an intermediating function in the network.
In Argentina, where the exchange has entered national dimensions and
their activities result in the congregation of thousands of people, discussion
has turned to setting the value of credits for a good or services, or correlating
the value to some other good. Also, the cases in which the offer of a certain
product is unable to meet demand implies the possibility of price inflation
in credits, and the consequent change in the value of credits relative to the
In these cases when it has been observed that the conduct of a prosumer
is raising the price in credits for a particular good or service, an interesting
result occurs. The moment one joints the Exchange Network, a
compromising mode of behaviour is assumed. If one prosumer does not act
properly in the network, that person quickly loses not only that customer,
but all of the customers of the network.