In Uruguay, there are about 50 members in two nodes of the Global Exchange Network at the time of this writing (february, 1999).

Translated from the Spanish by Stephen DeMeulenaere.

The Global Exchange Network is in Uruguay

A Market with a Human Face

The current methods of exchange in the regular economy impose a growth model on people in various parts of the globe. In Uruguay, a node of the Global Exchange Network, first formed in Argentina, has been created, where the "prosumers", using no money, exchange goods and services without profit, only the satisfaction of sharing.

Since September of 1998, this first Uruguayan node of the Global Exchange Network was initiated by a community organization in Quilmes, near Buenos Aires, Argentina, which has been operating for four years.

Everything starts with the offer to exchange, in ways that are different than the formal market for meeting the needs of the members. Using the internet, the Argentina Global Exchange Network was able to share its experience with our country. Many systems with thousands of members are located all around Argentina.

In the Global Exchange Network, everything is exchanged except money. Money in its current form does not exist. The method of exchange used is the credit, a unit of exchange which can only be used in the network, a bond for facilitating exchange of goods or services or another equivalent. In other countries in Europe and North America, new methods of exchange, separate from the traditional market, are developing rapidly and are referred to as "social money", denominated as "community currency".

Each person who joins the South Node in Montevideo receives 500 credits, credits which can be used only in the network to "facilitate multi- reciprocal exchange with other members of the network". The agreement to exchange is made between each one of the members. It is not permitted to negotiate with credits. But for all, there exists a compromise between detachment from one's desire and money relations between people.

In the Network, everyone is a "prosumer", a term created to mean a relation between all members of society [first used in Alvin Toffler's 'The Third Wave']. Rather than seeing individuals solely as consumers, the concept of the "prosumer", a conjunction between consumer and producer, more accurately describes the role of members in the network.

The South Node

"The Exchange Club is a network of self-help and mutual assistance between people, without personal or organizational profit", says Alvaro Antoniello, coordinator of the Montevideo Node and one of the founders of the system. "This network recognizes and counts the needs and potential of each individual, carried out in a space where people can relate and trade with each other to meet their needs, and free themselves from the tiranny of the market."

Talking to the members who have joined the Node in the last 5 months, they are working to build solidarity and revaluing of the individual as producer and consumer of goods and services, as active members of society, because "when we demostrate mutual respect and solidarity, we revalue ourselves and each other at the same time", Antoniello comments.

Although coming from the word "alternative", the development of a new method in a neighbouring country seems to suit this country well. Also from the city of Porto Alegre contacts have been made between other Latin America cities which hope to build this complementary exchange system into a formal market.

"By all means, even if people don't like the word "market", an alternative system is still possible", argues Antoniello, because it uses an intelligence that has been developed by a group of people and distributed over the Internet, an electric network of information which escapes the dominion of its creators to go somewhere, and at the same time, the potential to go everywhere.

Diversity, Creativity and Responsibility

The Montevideo Node has yet to reach its goal of "aspiring to offer a wide range of goods and services and stimulating the creative capacity of each one of its members." However neither in the South Node, nor in other networks in other countries has the Global Exchange Network removed a member from its system. The criteria for joining is merely voluntary, and it is also from this that the creation of 'Quality Circles', organs within the organization designed to improve the level of quality of products and services offered by/to the prosumers.

The Uruguay network, in addition to regular trading between its members, would like to develop a series of goods and services which could be traded at a higher frequency to broaden the use of the credits. From university professionals to sociologists, psychologists, farmers, veterinarians, writers, builders, electricians, engineers, carpenters and painters could benefit. The benefits of acupuncture treatment for various problems are well known.

Between the goods that we see available in the network, it is possible to trade ornamental plants for bread. But the members hope that this system will make major development possible, including the forming of enterprises and work groups to produce goods together. Antoniello continues, "we hope to build a market economy with a human face, where each prosumer is responsible, because we don't develop the future leaders of the community square without a direction joining all the members of the club".

The Credit as Social Money

The unit of exchange used in the Global Exchange Network is the credit. It is considered to be a medium objective in facilitating the exchange of equivalents between prosumers.

These credits can't be saved for interest, nor can they be turned into wealth, nor can they be amassed. Rather they can only be used by the members of the Node to realize the possibility of exchange.

Initially, as there is not yet another way, the credits have the same representative value as money. A prosumer that offers a service in the network recieves an equivalent in credits for his or her work, which would normally be paid for in pesos.

Nevertheless, the characteristics of the system are intended to build solidarity, where in definition, they have established the motto that, "everyone wins, because no one wins when one loses."

Possessing credits suggests the willingness to provide goods and services in the network, but it must be remembered that credits are not negotiable, existing only as an intermediating function in the network.

In Argentina, where the exchange has entered national dimensions and their activities result in the congregation of thousands of people, discussion has turned to setting the value of credits for a good or services, or correlating the value to some other good. Also, the cases in which the offer of a certain product is unable to meet demand implies the possibility of price inflation in credits, and the consequent change in the value of credits relative to the peso.

In these cases when it has been observed that the conduct of a prosumer is raising the price in credits for a particular good or service, an interesting result occurs. The moment one joints the Exchange Network, a compromising mode of behaviour is assumed. If one prosumer does not act properly in the network, that person quickly loses not only that customer, but all of the customers of the network.