When people think about the economy, one thing that springs to mind is banks and money. And any attempts to shift the economy to work better for people and places, is going to have to consider how the finance system could work better. Recently I attended two events which both taught me about work being done on alternative systems.

Firstly at the RSA’s Creating a Democratic Economy, I heard about the Community Savings Bank Association, aiming to bring back locally owned banks. They’ve designed a cooperative bank template, where local people can design their around their own regional requirements, without having to start from scratch. They pointed out that regional banks are the norm in other countries, and we just need the UK to re-embrace the way Birmingham Municipal Bank used to run, with a remit to invest in the city economy.

At the event, we also saw the launch of Parity (a rebirth of the Credex system), a new network based in the Jewellery Quarter. By focusing hyper-local, the trust which is required to make a system work is grown over time.

I also attended the Fair By Design Roadshow. Here venture capital seeks to support business solutions to the Poverty Premium. Credit Unions of various sizes and types were showcased, along with tech that can give those with less credit history a credit score, and tech that allows people to draw down their wages mid-month rather than rely on a payday loan. There were lots of interesting ideas, and lots of passion for improving things to make society more equitable.

Localise thinks that human sized institutions that make decisions based on individuals and local needs, are going to have more long term effectiveness than multinationals which have to rely on crude approximations of the type of consumer you are, and don’t have the time or capacity to hear individual stories. Credit Unions explained that they need those who would be eligible to use other banking facilities, to choose to use theirs, to allow them to loan out their savings to the local community. In part, as with all areas of our lives, we can choose to invest in our local communities and have a say in what’s important to us, or we can pass control to huge and disinterested corporates, who will treat us all as they wish. Of course, choices in how we manage our finance system can ripple much further, as this interesting article dives into how we might effect change in investment fossil fuels.

Mel Abraham

Resources

Want to invest in your local area? A full list of Credit Unions in the West Midlands – can be found here

Is your business based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter ? Then sign up to Parity, your own local business currency!

Want to learn more about Regional Community Banks? New Economic Foundation published a Local Banking Toolkit in 2018

Image –  Elliott Brown from Birmingham, United Kingdom [CC BY-SA 2.0]