LETS: A community development
LETS: A community development

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LETS: A community development

5 Comment on the audio clips

The benefits mentioned in the clips included a skills outlet, developing organising and networking skills, improvements to the members' self-esteem, and better social contact than before. There were also practical benefits in terms of getting help with household, gardening and computing problems. Any disadvantages were hard to identify. People were enthusiastic about their experiences. Through involving someone like Jan Hurst, the disadvantages of self-help with its tendency towards rather closed and similar types of membership had been avoided. However, Roger and Rachel found that LETS Get Together members couldn't offer them what they wanted for their wedding plans. One way round this was the development, in Greenwich and elsewhere, of exchanges between different LETS schemes.

Jan Hurst stated that the council wanted to do something to encourage community development across the whole local population that it was responsible for, but it was clear that people living in particular localities were seen to need more support. By helping to set up LETS Get Together, whose members included disabled and non-disabled people, she acknowledged that an intervention may have been necessary if barriers to participation were to be overcome for some people. She had a slightly different view from that of the members. She referred to the social and economic regeneration aspect of LETS, but none of the members did. Perhaps this was because she was taking a broader view, seeing LETS as ‘non-directive’ community development: a means to more fundamental changes.

You might have thought that ‘the sky's the limit’ once people begin to take control of meeting their own needs. In other parts of the UK, LETS schemes have been used in quite distinctive ways. For example, some LETS schemes have been developed with the needs of users of mental health services in mind, others offer complementary therapies generally; the range of possible offers is unlimited. In Greenwich, the LETS scheme has been used to support basic education, with a college offering computing, numeracy and literacy to members and allowing them to pay using LETS tokens. However, from what you heard on the audio, it's clear that LETS may be a means to further change, rather than a solution on its own.


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