Kourseva: Paros Local Solidarity & Exchange Network
Many years ago, local fishermen in Naoussa came up with a plan to ensure they all shared in the night’s catch, even if one or two of them had been particularly unlucky that night. They formed an association to avoid competition and confrontation and demonstrating their faith and mutual respect for the seamanship and professionalism of their colleagues. They called their cooperative ‘Kourseva’.
Today, as the consequences of the economic crisis start to have serious effects on many people’s everyday lives, a group of proactive and community-minded young people have formed a local solidarity and exchange network named after the fishermens’ co-op in an effort to “mobilize, get over apathy and pessimism and tackle the crisis head on. All together, thinking creatively, we can find ways to help ourselves and one another materially and psychologically.”
A meeting was held on 28 April in Paroikia inviting everyone to come and find out more. The idea is simple – a ‘money-free’ exchange network for products and services, through a system of classified ads ranging from vegetables, cheeses, wines and fish to building services or language lessons, house cleaning or hairdressing. Members of the network exchange their products or skills either on the basis of an immediate transaction (for example, someone offers potatoes and chooses from the network’s classifieds what specific product or service they want in exchange) or a deferred transaction using exchange currency units. All members of the network start with the same number of units and when someone grants a service or product, they are ‘paid’ in these units which function like currency: every member can use exchange units to buy anything on offer in the classifieds.
Social exchange, or bartering, networks exist all over the world and are recently starting up and operating successfully in many parts of Greece. Some readers will remember the Pegasus Bartering Network we set up in 2000 (see the February 2000 issue of Paros Life & Naxos Life), though it was difficult to keep offers up to date and relevant in the days before the technology was widely available to facilitate exchanges. Today this kind of system is far more viable.
The Kourseva team studied a number of existing networks before setting up the Paros prototype (http://cyclos.no-ip.org:8088) and chose the name to symbolize how belonging to the network provides so much more than its obvious practical aspects. A local exchange system also promotes homemade and local products, traditional arts and crafts, creates a sense of solidarity and builds trust within the community. As the Kourseva team puts it: “By working all together we can achieve a lot. We invest in life and in people; we advocate positive thinking and optimism. Let’s COmmunicate, COdecide, COoperate and make a difference!”