The FairSpot: Another potential model for FairCoop local nodes

A FairSpot is a physical space for FairCoop-related activities. The first one opened in 2017, in a small rented shop in Exarcheia, a popular, central, and very free neighbourhood of Athens. This was the original idea, but any given FairSpot can differ very much from the others, and in this way adapt to specific local needs or cultures.

The ground floor is the "public space" where we receive people, sell products, etc. The top floor is for working more privately, holding assemblies, meetings, and so on. It has sofas, a tiny kitchen, and smoking is allowed. If we install a shower the space could also host people for a few nights- (for those who will understand, it's like a mini Aurea Social).

In addition, while much of the commercial activity can be managed and invoiced through FreedomCoop, one needs a local tax number for things like rental, bills, bank accounts, etc. and this is where having a physical address also comes in handy. For this reason, we have created a company, in this case a non-profit, run by two insolvent European citizens. Furthermore, we have a lawyer and an accountant. This is essential. You may think you don't need them, but you do. We also do our own internal accounting. We use Dolibarr, which we host on our own server. It's free software, very complete, and it combines many functions such as accounting, POS, stock management, etc.  This has turned out to be quite difficult, due to the different combinations of elements of least three different entities (Local Node (LN), Point of Exchange (PoE), shop), a dynamic-rate multicurrency (EUR, FAIR), and different money types (cash, virtual card, FairPay, bank transfer, Paypal).

At any rate, in around a year of operation, the FairSpot in Athens has been becoming progressively more and more known, and making further connections towards establishing a circular economy in a somewhat difficult metropolitan environment. It is also progressing as a concept for the larger Fair ecosystem, because of its unifying vision: FairSpot is the name both of a political space and the base of operations for the Local Node. It works as a Node Headquarters -for a node, it's very useful to have an open or semi-open physical space with a known schedule. It makes you findable, and generates trust: you become a neighbour.

These are some of the various things we use the local FairSpot for:

 

PoE. We exchange EUR to FAIR for free, and FAIR to EUR for 2%. We have phones with NFC for FairPay, an authentication-check machine for cash (very much needed in Greece), a capitalist bank account, a company credit card, and a Paypal account.

 

Fair shop. We sell products from local, sustainable production in exchange for FAIR. We pay the providers (in FAIR or mixed FAIR/EUR) AFTER, and ONLY IF the products are sold. We only sell organic, high quality products, but of course we don't pay any VAT, so prices are average. Since we absolutely refuse to sell anything in EUR (partly for legal reasons), we have very few buyers. For this reason, and also because we don't have a refrigerator, we don't sell fresh products.

 

Promotion of the circular economy in and around the city, and more broadly to represent FairCoop locally. We also make and give out Fairpay cards, as well as providing Self-employment for 5-6 people. We also provide fair financial services to victims of the State.

 

Extension. We organize presentations and events, make media pieces, print and spread merchandising material, connect FairCoop to other fair alternatives and networks, like the Integral Coop in Athens, and help fund local self-managed projects. At a more local level we are also a receiving address for letters and packages, a source of social life, space for political group meetings, assemblies, co-working, and we are preparing a FairCoin CVN, etc

 

So far, markers of progress include supporting, strengthening and promoting the functioning of local circular economic ventures, like the store Syn.Allois, which is an alternative grocery that accepts FairCoin in Athens. Members have also featured in discussions at various festivals or events around Athens (Insurrection Fest, Commons Fest, and Networks of Resistance). Recently, the Athens local node also gave a practical example of FairCoin’s potential in hosting a FairCafe event at a local coffee-shop in Exarcheia, with more events to follow. The entire procedure was the beginning of a longer-term thought-experiment about the future of the Local Node in Athens.

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In general, the idea of FairSpot as a practice is growing. Others elsewhere have discussed different ideas that perhaps would offer space for the self-employed or to host classes, and for another group in Serbia has the idea that they will make progress in implementing it locally: 

"At the FairSpot we are building, we will try to have a small garden. Within the garden we will implement some permaculture solutions. And further the plan is to have a place to organize various educational workshops for the people interested in agroecology, small scale farming, permaculture, and also to talk about solutions to preserve biodiversity, build healthy soil, etc... With all those activities, we can present the ideas of FairCoin and FairCoop, and start to cooperate."

Overall the idea of creating a FairSpot as a central point for a Local Node is becoming a part of the larger methodology for implanting Local Nodes in many different conditions. In offering an integrated environment, which can serve as a prefigurative demonstration of the various services and ideas present in our ecosystem, establishing a FairSpot is a useful option to consider.

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