The Skills Exchange, as a corporation, was designed by M2A. Skilled
workers in the Movement got together during the 1979 Planning
Convention and set up study groups for the design of the Skills
Exchange. In this work they were members of the economic subsystem.
The Skills Exchange was one of the first major investments by M2A.
The Skills Exchange did not start small. The first involvement was in
development. When they went into operation, they were fully equipped
with computer and competency tests for a large number of skills. The
number of skills continued to increase.
The many local Skills Exchanges were organized into an association.
the National Skills Exchange Association. The Association facilitated
the communication, cooperation and coordination between the many local
Initially, there was insufficient monies for M2A to back Skills
Exchanges in all communities. They started in a few communities, and
quickly expanded as the concept proved itself and study groups in
other areas could benefit from their experience.
The skills ranged from manual labor to high level research and
consulting. All repair skills were included, as well as office
skills. Dog training, photography, landscaping, bicycle repair,
tutoring, home construction skills, baby sitting, machinist, welder,
etc. Almost all skills were potential skills for the Skills Exchange.
A fine-grained categorization of skills was constructed in terms of
sub-skills involved. Competency tests for each skill were developed
and tested. There were four grades of performance for each skill:
Master, Artisan, Skilled and Apprentice.
The wages for each member and the rate charged each customer depended
on the grade of work desired by the customer. The master worker
received more than the apprentice. Thus, for each job, there were
potentially four estimates, depending on the grade of work desired.
Each working member of the Skills Exchange had the option of receiving
work requested at his/er tested grade or any grade lower. Thus, the
more highly skilled workers would not be competing with the lesser
skilled whose services would be at less cost. The worker would be
paid the wage at the grade requested by the customer, even if the
worker tested at a higher grade. The customer was not informed of the
grade level of the worker.
By further education and training, often provided through the Skills
Exchange, a member could improve his/er grade. A member could take an
evaluation of competency any time. Each members file contained his/er
grade level for all skills tested.
Every qualified member of the Skills Exchange specified the number of
hours per month they wished to work. As requests for work came to the
Exchange, the work was distributed among all members qualified to
perform the work so as to maintain the same percent of requested work-
time for all these members. This selection was done by computer.
In many areas, particularly after the Skills Exchange became known to
the public, members were able to work their requested work-time and
there was often a waiting time. In a few areas, the actual work-time
was less than the requested time.
If a member was listed with more than one skill, s/he requested work-
time for each skill, and they were treated independently.
Through the Skills Exchange, a member could have a secure half-time
or quarter-time job, which was very hard to find in the normal
economy. This system permitted many Mission 2000 Movement members to
devote more time to other Movement activities, if they desired. The
Skills Exchange was used by many full-time workers in the existing
economy to supplement their income.
Many Exchange members used their own tools and equipment. Others
pooled their tools to reduce cost, and to serve members who wished to
work part-time, where an investment for tools would be too costly.
Tool maintenance, repair and even design and construction of tools
were internal skills used by the Exchange. All workers in the
Exchange respected tools.
A standardized rate for each job was established, which could differ
between geographical areas. Estimates were given to customers, with
plus or minus 10 percent variation to be acceptable. The Exchange
made the estimate for the job and selected a member qualified to
perform the job. A member could refuse any job without penalty.
Fair and reasonable rates for each job were set after a careful
analysis of the economic situation of the community. The rates were
periodically adjusted, but there was no fear that the members would
act as an old-time union and once they were organized, raise the rates
for their services. This was because Exchange members were also
Exchange customers. However, a small discount was given to Movement
Work done through the Skills Exchange was guaranteed. All completed
work was evaluated by the Exchange. If the work was not up to
specified quality, the worker would be asked to improve upon it, or
another worker would improve it. (at no extra charge to the customer).
All work performed by a member, and the report of the evaluation of
each job was recorded in the member’s file.
This system was not objected to by the competent worker. They were
proud of their skills. They were confident they could do quality
work, and they wanted to know when they made a mistake. They wanted
to improve their skills, and they could only do this if they were
aware of where they needed improvement. They wanted a record of their
accomplished work. the workers were themselves in control of the
standards set for work and of the evaluation system.
The competency tests were considered very fair by most of the Exchange
members, because workers participated in the design of the tests.
Master workers, as selected by their colleagues assisted psychologists
in designing the competency tests, which were then evaluated with
other workers and revised.
Every member of the Skills Exchange was free to take work outside the
Exchange and charge what s/he wished. In these cases there were no
estimates or guarantees provided by the Exchange. This provision made
it possible for workers who were in a small business for themselves
before the Skills Exchange was established to continue to serve their
regular customers. However, no worker could advertise their grade of
competency as determined by the Exchange and remain a member of the
The Exchange employed skilled counselors and computers. The counselor
was a member of the Exchange, trained to use the computer and trained
in the art of skills counseling.
For simple jobs, customers could phone in their request. They could
then simply request the grade of work desired and, if the job was for
less than $10.00 — the worker would come without a prior estimation.
For all work “estimated” at over $10.00, an estimate was required.
All work was evaluated.
For more complex jobs, a skills counselor would meet with the
customer, often at the site of the job, make an estimate and then
select a member to do the work through the computer. The computer
made the actual selection, given the specification of the skills
needed for the job and the grade of worker requested. From all those
qualified members selected by this process, the computer selected from
those with minimum percent of requested work-time used by random
selection. The name and relevant data on the worker selected was
received by the skills counselor, who contacted the worker and made
arrangements for the job to be performed.
At first the Skills Exchange was used by Movement members only. As
the quality of work at a fair price became known, people other than
Movement members began to use the Skills Exchange. A member of the
Exchange did not have to be a member of the Movement, but they had to
agree to the procedures of the Exchange. Not only individuals, but
many businesses were customers of the Skills Eschange. Business from
businesses increased rapidly as businesses discovered the quality
and savings they could make using the Skills Exchange. However, a
business was not permitted to fire employees and replace them by labor
from the Exchange. The Exchange refused to serve the businesses in
One very significant skill offered by the Exchange was training in the
various skills. Through this, members could up-grade their skills.
Some customers wished to learn a skill and would be assisted by
members who would, for example, help them learn to repair a home
The Skills Exchange became an employment agency for the existing
economy. As the reputation of the Exchange grew, businesses went to
the Skills Exchange when they needed full-time competent workers. All
members of the Exchange, qualified — as by the computer — for the
position were notified. They were free to seek this position if they
desired. They could continue to work with the Exchange, as well.
Skills Exchanges were organized in most communities. They shared in
the task of developing the detailed category of skills and in the
development of competency tests. Different Skills Exchanges would
assume different tasks, and then shared their work. However, each
Skills Exchange could modify the competency tests if they desired.
Few did, and there was an easy translation of competencies between
Skills Exchanges for members who would move. The different Skills
Exchanges used the same computer program, and many time-shared the
If there was a shortage of a specific type of skilled worker in an
area, other Skills Exchanges would be contacted, and some workers
would transfer for a period. At times, a shortage of a particular
skill was remedied by the Exchange training people in these skills.
As a profit-making corporation, the Skills Exchange received payment
for all of its services. The competency tests were the property of
the National Skills Exchange Association (those who developed them
were paid for their work) and were also sold to businesses. (In 1983,
the Association won a large court suit against a few large
corporations who were using the competency tests without
authorization). As an employment agency, the Skills Exchange charged
the employer a fee. The exchange received a small percent of all work
performed by members through the Exchange.
The Exchange had its costs. It employed people. Computer operators
and programmers, skills counselors, the people who administered and
scored the competency tests, the job evaluators, etc. All these
employees were also members of the Skills Exchange. The Skills
Exchange used its own system to find its own employees. The Skills
Exchange provided excellent employment benefits for its members,
including part-time workers.
As a profit-making corporation, the Skills Exchange offered shares of
its stock to its members. As a rapidly growing corporation, the
Skills Exchange provided excellent dividends. No one got wealthy as a
member of a Skills Exchange, but they did find a secure working
position during the social transition, and they were contributing to
The Skills Exchange would have been possible in the 1970s. Indeed,
except for the efficiency of the computer and the state of the art of
competency testing, the Skills Exchange would have been possible
hundreds of years ago.
Earlier forms of a Skills Exchange could be found where skills were
bartered. You do something for me and I will do something for you.
The Skills Exchange just systematized this process.
A problem with earlier forms of skills exchanges was that there was no
assurance of the quality of work. The competence of the independent
skilled worker was always questioned, and most people purchased their
skilled work from “established” or “name” businesses which they
“trusted”. However, in the 1970s, with most workers in the existing
economy frustrated, the quality of work from “trusted businesses” was
also suspect. The economic system was ready for the emergence of the
Organized Skills Exchanges did not emerge earlier because the skilled
worker was kept divided both by their unions and by their places of
employment. They did not have the organizational skills required to
establish a Skills Exchange, and were made to believe that they were
unable to develop these skills.
Also, it would have been difficult for a Skills Exchange to start very
slow (offering only one or two specialized skills) on a shoe-string
budget. The financing by M2A of the development of a fairly
comprehensive Skills Exchange brought it beyond the threshold for
public awareness and acceptance. The developmental work did not have
to be repeated for each local Exchange. Thus, spread across all the
Exchanges in the nation, the net cost of development was minimal.
People are employed within an economy because of their skills. The
Skills Exchange was an experimental model for a segment of the
economic system of the future. The functioning of the Skills Exchange
was carefully studied by the long-range planning program through
research contracts with the planning, evaluation and research
The National Relations program worked with the Skills Exchange, and
other components of the micro-economy, to minimize any negative impact
on the existing economic system. According to the longer-range goals
for societal metamorphosis, it was important that the growing
imaginal buds (e.g., the Skills Exchange) would not disrupt the
stability of the societal caterpillar.