November 29, 2011; Source: National Public Radio | The mother of invention. . . . In September, in the midst of a financial crisis, the Greek parliament passed a law that gave barter networks nonprofit status. This aids a phenomenon that has already taken place in some areas, including Lagos, where unemployment is at 20 percent and five hundred members of the local barter network already exchange fresh octopus for vegetables and English lessons for ironing. In difficult times, says Christos Papaioannou, a founder of the network, people change the way they survive. Papaioannou says the worse the economic crisis becomes, the more people feel confused and at a loss. Lagos is one of a number of localities using a currency called a local alternative unit, or a “TEM” in Greek. The currency is not only in use between individuals but also can be used at some shops in the area.
“When [people] lose their jobs, the whole world collapses, they have to believe in themselves, not in the power of money and their employer,” said Papaioannou, who believes that the network offers a sense of community and self-respect.
We do not know yet how widespread the barter networks are in Greece or how fast they are growing, but in light of the recent “Bank Transfer Day” we think that these kinds of efforts by local communities to take more control over their economies—often through nonprofits—should be carefully watched as a potential trend.—Ruth McCambridge