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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of the informal economy in community based economic development : the local exchange trading system example Rogers, Lesley A.


The purpose of this thesis is to look at a non-conventional approach to increasing well-being at the community level. This new approach to development is called community-based economic development (CBED). Interest in CBED has been stimulated both by crises at the local level and by global problems. In Canada the impetus for CBED is attributable to three factors: the dependency of small communities on external factors and the alienation it promotes; a globalizing international economy; and the failure of past Canadian regional development planning policies. Community-based economic development is a new approach that seeks to increase community self-reliance. Many different CBED initiatives are currently operating in various regions, communities, and neighbourhoods across Canada. These CBED initiatives have centred on stimulating local employment and income levels almost exclusively within the formal "monetized" economy. This thesis examines a CBED initiative that operates within the "non-monetized" informal sector called the Local Exchange Trading System (LETS). LETS is a barter network that uses a local currency, "green dollars", to facilitate trading between members. To ascertain if the LETSystem can improve well-being at the local level, this thesis has examined three Canadian LETSYstems: Victoria, Cowichan Valley, and Ottawa. Three central goals of CBED were distilled: increased local control; implementation of an integrated approach to development; and sustainable development. The three LETSystems were then evaluated using the above goals. There are two main findings of this thesis. The first finding is that CBED can be, and presently is being, promoted in the informal sector. The second finding is that the LETSystems three examined, pursued goals similar to those of other CBED initiatives and sought to improve community well-being. The continued promotion of CBED by LETS is subject to two constraints: the novelty of the idea; and the lack of variety of goods and services traded. Nevertheless, there exists additional opportunities for the increased promotion of CBED through LETS, increased community development, and an expanded range of employment opportunities.

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