Work credits
From: Odysseus Levy (
Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2000 12:11:29 -0600 (MDT)
Oops.  I don't think I made it clear why I posted this message (a title
might have helped too!)

There has been an interesting thread going on about community work
requirements.  The issue that came up was whether it made sense to charge
people who weren't doing enough work. This is quite controversial, and for
good reason. That is where my post comes in -- what about using another
monetary system (aka "LETS")?  I think that might elegantly solve the

And again, yes, this is not a new idea.  The great news is that there are a
number of groups that are sucessfully doing something like this already --
two posters have already given some great links for people who want to learn
more about this kind of system.

But my question is not whether systems like this work (we already know that
they do), my question is does this kind of system make sense for cohousing?
And specifically, what about my idea of charging members a monthly work

To be honest, I'm working up the courage to propose this kind of system to
my own cohousing group.  I've talked to some members already, and they
seemed enthusiastic, but I wanted to see what thoughts and ideas people on
this list might have about the idea.

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l [at]
[mailto:cohousing-l [at]]On Behalf Of olevy
Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2000 9:22 AM
To: Multiple recipients of list

What about using a different monetary system?

There have been some successful experiments where groups of people have set
up their own monetary system to run in parallel with the "official" one.
The idea is this: people exchange goods or services but they don't use
money, instead they add or subtract "credits" from their accounts.  For
example, say I have someone babysit for me and we have agreed on a payment
of 50 "credits". I would write a check to the babysitter which would
subtract 50 "credits" from my account and put it in the babysitters account.

So what does this have to do with community work requirements?  Instead of
charging people extra money, you could instead charge them "credits".  Every
month cohousing members would have two different bills, one would be a
monetary bill, and the other would be a "credit" bill to handle community
work requirements.

What is the advantage of this system? Flexibility.  Many of the cohousing
groups in the Seattle area use a scheduled chore system. This works because
it is simple, but it has some serious flaws.  In my case I tend to travel a
fair bit, and I would end up missing many of the chore dates. The fixed
chore system limits my community input to the assigned list of chores. Also
it assumes that only community members will do community work.

The credit system addresses all of these limits.  For example, I can choose
to pay off my credit balance by fixing someone's computer or by tutoring
their kids with their math homework.  If I find myself with more money than
time, I can choose to buy some "credits" with money from someone who is
willing to sell them.  If someone in the apartment next door wants tutoring
for their kid, I can do it for, say, 50 credits.  If that person loves
gardening, they can turn around and pay off their credit debt by doing some
landscaping work for my cohousing community.

What if some chores don't get done?  There will always be some chores that
are less popular than others (cleaning toilets, perhaps).  If the community
notices that it is harder to get some jobs filled rather than others they
can simply raise the going "credit" payment for that particular job.  If you
raise the rate high enough the job will get snapped up rather quickly.  For
example, if cleaning the common toilets just once a month meant that you
covered your monthly credit charge, I imagine the job would turn out to be
quite popular.

All accounts would be public, so it would become quickly obvious which
families were not pulling their weight.  The credit system would require
some book-keeping, but there are some strange people (like me) who would
actually enjoy this.

This may seem like a radical idea, but there are a number of groups who have
done something just like this and made it work.  I do not know of any
cohousing groups that have adopted this system, but it seems like it would
be a good fit.  What do you think?

Odysseus Levy
Seattle Cohousing
(The bulldozers have just started their work on our land -- very exciting!)

  • work credits Scott Cowley, January 15 1998
    • Work credits Odysseus Levy, August 3 2000

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