With just a few days to go until Lab Fellowship culminates at Demo Day this Thursday, we’re delighted to share our final Meet the Fellows blog!
Dave and Dil are part of the core team of the Open Credit Network: a non-profit, multi-stakeholder co-operative of businesses building a Mutual Credit trade system for SMEs in the UK. Mutual Credit is an alternative money system, allowing businesses to exchange products and services and access interest free credit, circumventing the finance gap that small businesses face from mainstream providers. At the same time, the network builds trust and community, contributing towards an economy where small businesses can collaborate and thrive.
How does it work? When SMEs join the network they list the goods and services they can offer, and those they need, in a shared directory. Every member is given an interest-free credit allowance, shown in their account balance – not on the basis of traditional credit ratings, but on the value of goods they offer, their turnover and their transaction history. Businesses can increase their credit limit by offering and exchanging more through the network. Pricing is simple, as one mutual credit unit is equivalent to one pound; when an exchange is agreed, credit is transferred, and account balances updated.
Unlike bartering systems, Mutual Credit does not rely on a direct exchange of goods or services with another business in the network – businesses can trade independently with anyone in the network, with the credit system recording all exchanges and keeping the network’s overall credit balance at zero. To learn more about Mutual Credit, watch Open Credit Network’s introductory video here.
Several Mutual Credit systems operate across the world, such as WIR bank in Switzerland, Sardex in Sardinia, and Grassroots Economics’ community currencies in Kenya. Dave and Dil are building on the success of these models, applying them to the UK market, and innovating the governance structure. As a co-operative, businesses in the Open Credit Network will not only be able to trade through it, but also manage the network together, democratically. In this way, Open Credit Network aims to develop the world’s first truly co-operative B2B Mutual Credit system in a highly developed economy. Crucially, they are going for scale – targeting 1% of UK SME trade within a decade.
While on Lab Fellowship, Dil and Dave have been working on outreach to SMEs to build their network, focusing first on co-ops, and developing the social, legal and technical systems and frameworks needed for their network to operate. In March, they established their first trading loop: a community development organisation rented desk space from a co-operative venue, who got advertising space from an environmental website, who got fundraising advice from the community development organisation.
During Fellowship, they have particularly valued the Lab’s convening power and systemic approach. Dil comments:
“The Lab is unique in offering support to finance initiatives that actively seek systemic change. The ethos of the lab is not superficial, but goes deep. At the same time, it manages to walk the line between outsider and insider status, bringing together parties who might rarely meet otherwise.”
To ensure that Open Credit Network works for businesses, and to build engagement and trust, Dave and Dil have been running co-design sessions – a short series of online conversations that cover key topics for different stakeholder groups. They are currently hosting a series with business network convenors, which includes sessions on governance, economic management, and SME needs.
Open Credit Network are keen to hear from Lab community members who would like to participate in co-design sessions, as well as from SMEs, co-operatives and business federations that are interested in joining the network and being part of building a more sustainable and democratic UK economy.
To be put in touch with Dave and Dil and find out how to get involved with the Open Credit Network email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about Lab Fellowship here, and follow #LabFellowship on Twitter on Thursday for live tweets from Demo Day!