( the system is available in both Polish and English )
Wzajemniak is a community – or a club – created to facilitate the exchange of goods and services whose value is counted in points serving as a local currency. The history of local currencies is very long. They are a good solution for times of crisis and money shortage. They also tend to unite local communities. The most interesting examples of local currencies date back to around 100 years ago, that is to the period of the Great Depression when they were in use in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the USA.
Nowadays, exchange clubs exist in South America, Canada and Western Europe. They aren’t well known in Poland due to the growth of the economy, which has been supported by EU funds for the past 20 years. In Spain, Italy or France, where unemployment among graduates is a serious issue, systems of mutual support are far more common.
However, exchange systems are worth trying for more than economic reasons. They can unite residents of neighborhoods and towns. They provide an opportunity to meet people from the same community and learn how to spend less money so that we can save it for goods that cannot be obtained through the exchange system.
Exchanging also means caring for the environment. Instead of throwing away things we don’t need anymore, we can give them a second life by exchanging or, in other words, selling them for points which can later be used to buy something else from another club member. Of course, we can always just give these things away on other social media platforms (for example, on Facebook, we can find a lot of local groups usually called “śmieciarka jedzie”, meaning “the dumpster truck is coming”).
Wzajemniak is a halfway solution between a noble giveaway and selling something through a commercial portal, usually way below its real price range. On our website, we have an opportunity to sell things for their real value, but by using a “currency” with a slimmer range known only to other members.
Wzajemniak is first and foremost meant for exchanging services, such as language lessons, tutoring, repair services or even carpooling (and that will be a subject of our next startup: www.DojadzyRazem.pl – coming this autumn). Maybe now you won’t have to pay for maths lessons in cash? Instead, you can teach someone French and gain points to pay for maths tutoring for your child. Economists call this kind of exchange a multi-barter, but in reality, it is just a regular transaction using a money substitute – it's a bit like playing Monopoly. However, the money substitute (that is points) that we are given at the beginning of our Wzajemniak adventure is not really a donation, it’s more of a loan. And that is the main point of Wzajemniak – in the real world, the lack of money can make it harder to function in society, but in Wzajemniak’s world, if we have anything to exchange, even if it’s just our time, money stops being a problem, it stops being a limitation.
Wzajemniak was created for times of crisis and widespread unemployment, issues hardly present in Poland for decades. It can be, however, a safeguard for the future – who knows what kind of turmoil will be caused by the pandemic if it lasts any longer. It is worth noting that Wzajemniak’s communities might be immune to economic crises and other economic turbulences on a national level. This great advantage arises from Wzajemniak’s points currency and from the fact that it’s meant for exchanging basic goods and services between acquaintances and neighbors. This creates a safe, local “bubble”, which should be mostly independent of any currency rates, such as the PLN to a dollar, pound or euro.
Wzajemniak copies from relations in „primitive” societies, where everyone knows each other and everything is based on mutual trust. One of Wzajemniak’s rules is that our point balance is visible to the users marked as our friends, which helps to avoid “free rides” and creates a motivation for everyone to maintain the right social attitude, that being our point balance. Moreover, the account’s balance informs about the relation between how much we received from other users and how much we gave to the community. It does not say anything about our wealth, but the status of our transactions with the rest of the user base.
If this balance is negative for a long time, meaning we do not sell anything nor provide any services, our friends will see we are a bit of a “parasite”. It’s like a family or a village – everyone knows each other's business and it helps in motivating us to give to our community as much as we take from it, which helps to make sure our balance doesn’t stay negative for too long. These are the basic, natural rules of the social economy.
Wzajemniak consists of three independent parts: one with our profile, posts and friends; one with advertisements of offered goods and services, priced in points, PLN, or both; one with a transaction register for point deals. The third part is the most important – thanks to the point balance we know what our economic relations with other Wzajemniak community members look like.
Our balance and the number of transactions are visible to our friends without particular details (that is without what and for how many points we have bought/sold). It allows everyone to see how active we are in the community.
It’s worth joining Wzajemniak together with a group of friends or neighbors, as it will create more opportunities for swift exchanges. If you would like to become a moderator for your local Wzajemniak group, do not hesitate to contact us.
Wzajemniak was founded by a small team from Fundacja Demokracji Bezpośredniej – Direct Democracy Foundation (KRS 400498, www.demok.pl/fundacja – we create, among other things, online systems for local democracy, for example www.Podkowa.Demok.pl – we can launch one in your town too, just contact us).
The project was consulted with economists from the University of Warsaw and the Polish Academy of Sciences.
We invite you to join us, below you can find a short guide to help you start your adventure with Wzajemniak.pl
1. Create your account and carefully fill in your profile, here you cannot be anonymous as Wzajemniak is based on small community social rules. Create advertisements for things you have for sale (or are willing to borrow) and services you can provide.
2. Goods’ and services’ prices can be set in points or PLN (or both), given that 1 point has the same value as 1 PLN. The ability to price things in both points and PLN is useful when you do not want to sell certain goods or services only for points because you also need PLN. For example, a second-hand bike may be priced at 200 PLN and 300 points, which means that its value amounts to 500 PLN.
3. Find your friends and connect with them. If you trust them, give them a recommendation and ask them to do the same for you. It will allow the administrator to give you a certain amount of points in the form of a right to have a negative balance. Your profile must be more or less filled in beforehand. Please invite your friends to join Wzajemniak, as only with a lot of members can we have access to all the goods and services that will be useful for everyone.
4. Make sure that your balance does not stay negative for too long, this will mean that you take from the community more than you are willing to give and it is crucial to maintain an equilibrium between the two. It is important to remember that your balance does not define how much you own but whether you give back to the community as much as you take from it.
1. PROFILE and personal data
Because the portal is meant to settle mutual transactions of work, services and other goods, your PROFILE must contain real data and a recognizable, at least to your friends, profile picture. A cat picture instead of your face will also be acceptable, but it gives a low chance of receiving a right to debit from moderators. We only give our address as a means for orientation (postal code, city, maybe street, but no home number). Your phone number or email is also necessary, but they will only be visible to friends, who you personally choose.
Wzajemniak is not Facebook. We only assign the friend status to people, who we personally know, and whose profiles we are sure of. Thanks to this, we can minimize the risk of anonymous people showing up in our portal, who will gladly take, but not give back.
3.POINTS and PLN
By using points (or PLN) we buy and sell objects and services. We do this outside of the system, inside it, we only note the transaction. We try to set up the prices as if they were in PLN (1 point = 1 PLN). Points just substitute money. If we cannot offer certain things (or services) for just points, then we can evaluate them simultaneously in points and PLN. Then, while selling an old bike, we write in the form that we are, for example, selling it for 100 PLN and 200 points, meaning its real price is 300 PLN.
4.DEBIT and points balance
If the point balance in our account is zero, then we probably have to start by selling something, so that later we can buy. We can also ask the moderator to grant us a debit (a kind of credit in points), who will do so if our account looks trustworthy. Debits are necessary because without them, we could not start the transaction chain in our system. The accounts balance tells what the relationship between given and taken goods inside the community is. If our balance is negative for a long time, we should try selling something and not decline requests for our services from other users. What is important, the user’s balance is visible to all other members of the system, kind of like a small village where everyone knows everything about everyone else. This openness of the current balance is one of the key rules of participation in Wzajemniak.
5.DATA about transactions
The data about transactions is stored in the system for 3 months (we don’t want to keep your, potentially sensitive, information about sales/work/shopping). The balance always stays up to date, it does not “forget”, as time passes, about previous changes to it. You can download this history of transactions as a PDF from your account.
6.TRANSACTIONS and points
The administrator of the Wzajemniak portal doesn’t trade points for money, the same goes the other way round. Before you decide to sell something for points using Wzajemniak, make sure that there are things or services you might want to buy or accept the fact that you will have to wait for something that interests you to be listed for sale. This is even more important because we are just getting this social economy project going.
Your email and phone number are only visible to those users, who you choose as your friends.