Open Credit Network – Startup Phase
Notes for Members
If you’re reading this, you are a member of the Open Credit Network – a deep and wide initiative to incentivise and value productive work of all kinds through a new type of exchange that does not depend upon debt-based, scarce money.
There’s an enormous amount of theory and design that goes into this, and a compelling Theory-of-Change that it supports – but none of that means anything if it doesn’t work at the simplest level – straightforward trades that benefit members.
This document sets out to be your guide to this first phase of the plan – to make it easy and rewarding to trade with other members, to understand how it works, and to access more information and services if you want/need them.
Thanks for reading!
In the Open Credit Network, members can trade with each other without using standard money. Each trade is valued in Open Credit Units – (OCU), and each exchange results in some OCU moving from the account of the buying member to the account of the selling member. The buying member’s account balance goes down (into the negative if necessary), and the selling member’s account balance goes up. In return, the selling member transfers whatever was agreed to the buyer in goods and/or services.
And that’s it. The buyer has something they needed, and the accounts reflect the agreed transfer of OCUs, just as you would expect from a bank account.
There are some crucial differences, though, that make things much better:
- Trades can happen without the need for hard cash. ‘Blended trades’ using a mix of both are also possible.
- No interest is charged, or paid – a negative balance won’t continually cost you, and positive ones don’t earn anything: it is the trade itself that is the point – it should make both participants feel better off (Yay!).
- As long as your account remains within limits, credit to trade is automatic (negative and positive limits are used to keep everything safe).
- A negative balance is not considered as a debt. As long as you are an active member, you cannot be forced to ‘pay back’ a negative balance, which represents a commitment to trade goods or services to zero out the balance in the future. All trading is voluntary.
- Absence of interest removes from this economy the absolute requirement to grow. Growth is possible, and enabled, but it can be sustainable, on the basis of human and environmental realities.
What does this do? It gives every business access to instant purchasing power within the network – ability to get things you need. And at the same time, it connects every business to a network of other businesses with purchasing power – able to get what they need from you without cash.
The net result is more business for all, without the need for more cash.
If that seems as if it ought to be impossible – as if there is some trick, remember that money isn’t a fact of nature; what makes it work is exactly this one thing – that we all agree to trust that having some numbers in our bank account gives us a future claim on our network to get hold of things we will need (usually the big network that accepts GBP). We don’t need to trust any particular member – it is the network as a whole that we rely on.
The Open Credit Network is a network of trust: members believe that the network will accept OCU for things they need in future. Your credit, and the credit of other members, arises from your shared trust in the network. Build that trust, and everyone can access more credit. Reduce that trust, and its value shrinks.
There is one important thing to say about this: trust gets more fragile as networks get really large (which is why we need the Bank of England and the Treasury to manage GBP). Open Credit Networks rely on strong trust, so networks must be limited in size.
And this brings a clear problem – variety. We live in a complex economy, based on many long and interwoven supply chains for even the simplest thing. Small networks cannot contain this complexity – so that the usefulness of OCU is limited to the things that other network members can provide.
Which is why the Open Credit Economy will need to grow – not as one big network, but as many, many networks; each at human scale, each interacting with others to build a new economy that works for people and planet.
You are part of the early stages of this project. We want to encourage and welcome you to participate to the fullest extent you wish – in trading, of course, but also in governance and development.
The Open Credit Network is being developed as a multi-stakeholder project in common ownership, building tools which will available to all so that it can grow freely and speedily, using a common set of principles and procedures for networks to trade with one another.
For wider discussion of the Open Credit Economy, see ‘Mission’ below.
How to Use the Open Credit Network
We have a series of simple google spreadsheets, where you can see everything – your account, other members accounts, all trades, wants and offers.
- You can see what other members of the Network are wanting to trade.
- You can see all balances.
- You can see a history of all trades to date.
This open-ness is all part of building trust.
NB the very first trades you make will be conducted with direct support from an OCN team member. If you would like support as you make further trades, do get in touch – but otherwise, carry on trading!
- Make contact with the member you wish to trade with:
- Agree a trade as you normally would:
- As a guide, assume that one OCU has an equivalent value to £1.
- Trades can be ‘blended’ – that is, part ££, part OCU, in any proportion.
- There is no obligation to trade in OCU if both parties agree – but please do!
- All contract terms and conditions, explicit and implied, apply just as for a normal ££ trade.
- Buying Member makes an OCU Transfer Request:
- Please, before you do this, make sure that both parties are clear as to when the OCU should be transferred. Is it ‘on delivery’, or up-front, or in stages? Consider Open Credit just as you would ££ for this part of the deal. Initiate the transfer on the day you want it to take place, not before. There is no ability to set a future date for transfers as yet.
- Selling Member authorises the transfer:
- The Selling Member will receive an email with the trade details, requesting an authorisation – in other words, confirmation that they accept the deal. Simply reply with a ‘yes’ to authorise.
- If you receive an authorisation request for a trade you don’t recognise, you don’t have to do anything – it won’t be validated without an authorisation. Answer with a ‘no’ if you’d like to be definitive/get something on record.
- If you believe that the Buying Member has made an error, you could try contacting them directly, asking them to initiate a new transfer with the right details (the first one will be ignored if you don’t authorise it).
- Alternatively, feel free to contact the OCN Team. They will attempt to resolve the situation.
- OCN Team validates the Transfer:
- Once an authorisation is received, the team will validat th transfer as long as:
- all required information is provided.
- the trade as described is within the terms of the Members’ Agreement.
- the transfer amount will not put either member’s balance beyond any limits set.
- Once an authorisation is received, the team will validat th transfer as long as:
- Transfer Confirmed, balances adjusted:
- once validated, the transfer will be recorded in the accounting system. Member account balances will be altered to reflect the transfer. Note that during the startup phase this is a manual process, and won’t happen instantly. Allow up to 24 hours.
In this startup phase, the Open Credit Network is an unincorporated association, operating on co-operative principles. Details are in the Members’ Agreement.
During the Startup phase, Membership is restricted to business that have responded to the Expression of Interest form, and which have been identified by the team as being able to participate fully in a trading loop.
A Trading Loop is a number of members who can form a trading chain, so that each can trade with the next, for roughly the same amount of OCU.
At this stage, with a small number of participants, it is important to make sure that all credit issued can be redeemed, so that no member is left with a large positive or negative that they can’t trade out of.
Further, it is required that all members are bona-fide businesses. In the case of unincorporated sole-traders, the team may decide to make additional enquiries.
The decision of the OCN Team as to eligibility for Membership is final, at this point – but please do get in touch to make your case if you don’t think a decision of ours makes sense.
All Members must agree to all the terms of the Members’ Agreement.
Eligible members will be sent an invitation link to review and indicate acceptance.
The full text of the Members’ Agreement is here.
The Member’s Account shows all the details of all Members’ accounts. This is visible only to Members. Once we have received your confirmation of acceptance of the Membership form you will be sent a link. Please keep this information private, and do not share it with non members.
The Open Credit Network is a membership organisation which runs on trust. What is important is trust in the network, rather than in each and every member.
There is no requirement to trade with any particular member – all trading is voluntary.
It is in each Member’s interest, though, to have a good reputation among other members. All of our actions should aim to preserve and build trust. Please try to avoid disputes wherever possible. Clear and full communication is key – please ask questions if anything is not clear – and be prepared to answer questions carefully in return. Don’t hesitate to ask the OCN Team for clarifiaction or advice on any point.
Nevertheless, it is inevitable that things will go wrong from time to time – whether through force of circumstance, through misunderstanding, or even an attempt to take unfair advantage.
Although Members must understand that the agreements to trade that they make between each other are their own responsibility, and are governed by UK law just as any trade, the Network wishes, as far as practical, to resolve any dispute ‘in house’.
Please bring any issue that concerns you to the notice of the OCN Team. The team will seek to understand the situation and to do what is practical within the Members’ Agreement to resolve the situation.
Remember, this is a membership-governed project; if you’d like to help make it better, in any way at all, please do get in touch.
While we know that building a single network is not enough – for all sorts of reasons – we also know that building a great network that really works for all its members must be the start.
So that’s step one. We’re going to work our socks off to make this network really hum along, so that each member feels it really works for them on as many levels as possible.
And although our deep purpose is sytemic shift, we know that the part of this that absolutely must work is the trading – we are focused on making something that works for small business – that makes business easier, less stressful, more connected.
Only once we feel that we understand what it takes to keep this network dynamic and valuable will we look to move things forward – with regional and local clusters, selling to individuals, connecting with commons organisations, building tools for mutual assurance, assets and larger scale investment, making it possible for many other groups to start networks that can connect together.
Why are we doing this? Why is it worth the bother?
The short answer is that we think that the existing money system – through which all economic development has been channeled for a few centuries – is a powerful driver towards a civilisation crash.
We feel strongly that money which works in a different way is a key requirement for an economic system which doesn’t incentivise people and businesses to destructive short-termism.
Our intention is to do all we can to build an economic system that is complementary to the existing hard currency one – a model that people and businesses increasingly choose to use – not just because it offers a chance for economics that don’t threaten the biosphere, but more directly because it works for them and not the banks.
Through its basic nature, the Open Credit Economy is designed to support and reward a scale of business that provides enough, but doesn’t emphasise greed or incentivise accumulation for its own sake.
Open Credit provides a sufficient money supply for our needs and capacities – not too much (growth and inflation), not too little (depression and poverty), but just enough for a sustainable economy that supports people without wrecking the planet.
At the same time, it reconnects economy to place, as groups are always on a human scale.