Does Birmingham Love the Brum Pound?

News from the Birmingham Pound, thanks to a little group of dedicated people – and you can perhaps help us… We’ve been joined by two brilliant new members with real live time to commit to the project: Ridhi Kalaria and Matthew Rowe. Ridhi, founder of Ort Cafe, ran our event for Small Business Saturday which saw 90-odd percent of attendees support the idea, and has gone on to star in this excellent short video explaining the Birmingham Pound idea for our Love Brum application.

Love Brum is a membership-based funder: members put money into the pot, and then vote for their favourite projects. They like to fund things that make Birmingham a better place (an EVEN better place!) and like the Birmingham Pound, they are keen to reach all corners of the city. If you are a member, please have a look and consider voting for this! Consider joining anyway – it’s a great fundraising idea.

Matthew, previously of the Envirolution Network in Manchester, has now relocated to our much more exciting city. IbuprofenHe has produced a comprehensive and slightly mind-boggling spreadsheet of Birmingham Pound costings under different funding scenarios, which other members are now  scrutinising carefully…

Matthew and Ridhi have also produced us a Brum Pound website, Twitter profile and Facebook page, so please sign up, follow or like as is your preference!

And keep watching this space – plenty more progress to follow shortly.

Karen Leach

Joint coordinator

Event: Guild of Independent Currencies: June Meetup

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Date: 15th June 2015
Time: 9:30am to 5pm
Where: Exeter Quaker Meeting House. Wynards Lane EX2 4HU
Cost: £5 includes lunch and refreshments

The Guild of Independent Currencies has been created by the Bristol Pound (covered on sister site in 2013) to help others to launch their own independent currencies, supporting them through shared technology, best practice and with anything else they may need. Read more here: http://guildofindependentcurrencies.org/

bristol pound

(Covered on sister site in 2013) Bristol Pound director Chris Sunderland explains that “Most of the money spent in a city, leaves almost as soon as it’s spent. It goes up to the financial institutions and gets lost. What people can be sure of with Bristol Pounds is that they’re circulating in the city and that’s where they’ll stay.”

Around 650,000 Bristol Pounds are in circulation and more than 750 local businesses use the scheme. Inspired by Bristol Pound’s success, locations including Cardiff, Bath and Kingston are considering starting their own scheme. Local currencies also exist in Totnes, Stroud, Lewes and Brixton.

If you are interested in local currencies, thinking of setting one up in your local area or currently engaged in trying to make one work, then Exeter is the place to be at the moment. This September they will launch their own currency and preparations are in full swing, come and meet the team at our June Meet Up and find out how they are getting on.

Agenda (Draft)

We’re packing it in for a fun and informative day! All the information and help you need for your local scheme plus swap tips and stories about how you are making it happen.

9:30 Arrive, Coffee, Mingle
10:00 Welcome to conference from Exeter Pound, practical info
10:10 Keynote Chris Sunderland, Founder Director Bristol Pound CIC
10:30 Introductions and updates from currency schemes attending
11:00 Workshop: Community and trader engagement
11:30 Tea Break
12:00 Workshop: Institutional Engagement and Procurement
12:30 Workshop: Legal and Regulatory Issues, including Credit Union involvement
13:00 Lunch provided by Real Food Cooperative
14:00 Printed Currencies Presentation Brian Kenworthy, Orion Security Print
14:30 Workshop: Technical Developments
15:00 Open Space Discussions – topics to be decided throughout the day
16:30 Guild of Independent Currencies – Next steps
17:00 Close

Limited places available so don’t miss out by booking now!

Booking: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/meetup-june-2015-tickets-16875566273

 

The Birmingham Pound: not just a piece of cake…

It’s been fantastic to see all the interest in the potential of a Birmingham Pound over the last few days. Just one tweet following a very first-stage meeting of a few potentially interested people, and the Birmingham Mail were covering the story. I don’t want to belittle my abilities to attract conventional media to the Localising Prosperity agenda, but we’re hardly used to being sought out like that! Thanks Tom Davis – your professional interest is much appreciated.

For those who don’t know: the current new rash of local currencies are worth a look. In our meeting we heard from Steve Clarke of the Bristol Pound. They are taking off in Bristol, Brixton and Totnes particularly – though lots of other places are following, like Birmingham. The local pounds are exchangeable with sterling: for every Bristol Pound in circulation there’s a sterling one in the credit union’s account. Local currencies can be used with locally-owned businesses. Businesses can trade with other local businesses. Bristol council accepts council tax and business rates in Bristol Pounds, and council employees can accept part of their wages in them. There are BPFRONT (2)locally-designed paper notes, which are great for spreading awareness of the scheme, but most transactions are electronic with a handy mobile-to-mobile payment system. This means for example that market traders are enabled to take electronic payments.

You can buy bathrooms, bike repair, plumbing, as well as all the expected local produce. Yes, it needs funds to run the scheme, but the returns look healthy if hard to measure: Bristol Council thinks it’s worth around £100,000 per year in tourism benefits alone. It also raises the profile of local money circulation as an idea: far more people are becoming aware that they can choose to spend their money in a way that supports livelihoods.

One thing I’m going to bang on about constantly as we progress these plans is that we must make this an inclusive local currency: Birmingham is good at ‘superdiversity’ and if this local currency happens we want it to be something everyone in the city feels is theirs to use, in whatever shopping culture they tend to find themselves. I live just off Ladypool Road and would love to see all those great indie grocers taking Birmingham Pounds, and paying their suppliers at the Birmingham Wholesale Markets with them… The credit union also plays a role: electronic transactions happen via accounts with the local credit union, which gives them new members, new capital and higher public profile.

Not that I think any of the new currencies are as ‘exclusive’ as some critics think they are. It’s not the disposable income brigade shopping in trendy independents that have brought about the massive global rise in inequality and environmental injustice, is it? – it’s the corporate shareholder model, sucking out the value from the real economy that gives us our livelihoods.

And to despise that ‘trendy independents’ aspect of local currencies as exclusive does miss how local money flows can work. Surely when some have more disposable income than others, we want that income to be going to the “livelihoods economy” not the parasitic economy? Spending money at Glynn Purnell’s restaurant sends it into the Bigreat_offers_Sainsrmingham Wholesale Markets, whose vital role in providing jobs and affordable fresh food is well documented: better  than some big chain providing a fraction of the local livelihood value. Trickle down is a myth – until you decentralise money flows.

No scale of economy automatically generates equality & inclusion, but tackling the concentration of wealth in so few hands has to be pretty crucial.

So we’re meeting again in a couple of weeks to start to make some plans – for fundraising, promotion, getting signup, organisational models, banknote design competitions, partners to involve. People involved so far are from a credit union, the new Impact Hub, the council, Birmingham Friends of the Earth, Kings Heath Transition, Equality West Midlands, academics and business organisations. There’s a good buzz about it. Watch this space.

Karen Leach

PS – some of us are interested in Black Country local currencies too – get in touch if that’s of interest.

Transition town focus

A transition town is a grassroots community project that seeks to build resilience in the face of peak oil, climate destruction and economic instability. Local projects are usually based on the model’s 12 ‘ingredients’. The first initiative to use the name was Transition Town Totnes, founded in 2006.

totnes

Between late 2006 and early 2007 the Transition Network was founded as a UK charity by permaculture educator Rob Hopkins. It trains and supports people involved with Transition initiatives, disseminates the concepts of the transition model and assists the grassroots initiatives to network with one another.

local money coverSome Transition Towns engage with ‘fiscal localism’ – see Dr Peter North’s book, ’Local Money’, which ends by setting out how money that stays in the community can be created – building loyalty between consumers and local traders rather than losing wealth to the corporate chain stores. It charts the development of the first Transition currencies, the Totnes, Lewes, Stroud and Brixton Pounds. Note a sister post about the more recent Bristol pound. It also describes how alternative currencies could work with local banks and credit unions to strengthen the local economy, supporting the local production of necessities such as food and energy while helping to reduce the community’s carbon emissions.

The book draws on the long history of local currencies, from Local Exchange Trading Schemes and ‘time banks’ to paper currencies such as BerkShares, Ithaca ‘Hours’ and German regional currencies, which circulate between local businesses as an alternative to their losing trade to the ‘big box’ retailers.

In 2012 on this site we read about Herefordshire Transition Network’s intention is to develop ‘a thriving, resilient Herefordshire economy’ capable of meeting ‘the challenges of climate change, energy security and economic uncertainty’. The network includes a range of people and organisations across the country, many of whom were represented at a meeting attended by LWM’s Jon Stevens.

State of play now?

transition stourbridge header

Nearer, see news from Stourbridge: http://transitionstourbridge.co.uk/about/  

For news of transition projects around the country, go to http://www.transitionnetwork.org/ and for a list of transition initiatives worldwide, go to https://www.transitionnetwork.org/initiatives

‘Local Liquidity: From Ineffective Demand to Community Currencies’

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molly scott cato 3Dr Molly Scott Cato opens her Green House paper, which may be downloaded here, by asking how our ongoing financial and economic crisis is to be understood and resolved.

The mainstream view is that we need economic growth – and austerity – because of the vast government deficit and stagnant economy.

Others say that we must invest and borrow more now in order to resume growth. Both sides are assuming ‘growthism’ as an unquestioned dogma.

She continues:

“The aim of the Green House Post-Growth project is to challenge the common-sense that assumes that it is ‘bad news’ when the economy doesn’t grow and to analyse what it is about the structure of our economic system that means growth must always be prioritised. We need to set out an attractive, attainable vision of what one country would look like, once we deliberately gave up growth-mania – and of how to get there. And we need to find ways of communicating this to people that make sense, and that motivate change”.

Attempts to restart economic growth have been unsuccessful; local economies are suffering from the large-scale withdrawal of liquidity that the public spending cuts represent. Local currencies across the world offer a different type of liquidity, “but one that has suffered from lack of credibility and from an absence of political support”.

Scott Cato recommends local authorities to generate truly ‘effective demand’ in their communities

This can be done by introducing local currencies into their fiscal administration on a staged basis, beginning with local services, as partial payment of local tax, and eventually for the payment of staff – note the voluntary example of the mayor of Bristol.

Her verdict on ‘queasing’:

“The government’s creation of money through its quantitative easing programme has only created ‘ineffective demand’ because it has been sucked into banking debts; by contrast money spent into the local economy as a local currency could help to revive local economies and build resilient communities and thus constitute genuinely effective demand”.

Community currencies exist in Brazil, USA, Argentina, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands and the UK

Across the world, community currencies exist in countries with widely contrasting economies and levels of wealth ‘as conventionally measured’. Citizens are taking control of the medium of exchange and issuing their own money in Brazil, USA, Argentina, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK. Scott Cato notes:

“Local currencies have provided a way for people to work and make a contribution to their local community even when conventional jobs paid in the national currency are not available. In this way many social needs have been met that would otherwise have been left unresolved”.

She looks at community currencies used in the past and those currently used in other countries. Two examples are summarised here:

“The Chiemgauer was launched in the Salzburg town of Chiemgau in 2003 and is accepted by around 150 shops and service providers including the optician and pizzeria. Chiemgauers to the value of €60,000 were spent in the first year of the scheme, which was started by a local economics teacher. To add credibility the currency is effectively backed one-for-one by euros, since the money is bought directly in exchange for the European currency, which is deposited in a local bank before Chiemgauers are issued. They can be exchanged back but for a 5% fee”.

The Chimegauer has an initial validity of three months, after which its value can only be extended by purchasing a stamp costing 2% of its value. Since it earns no interest there is no incentive to hoard or invest, meaning that the currency will instead be spent, increasing economic activity.

“The Chiemgauer is now very widely used. It has 600 shops participating in the scheme, 1800 consumer members and 200 charitable associations who receive donations every time the local currency is purchased. Around 430,000 Chiemgauers are in circulation, generating a transaction volume value of more than €4m”.

She notes that Japanese local currencies are also time limited:

“(They) tend to be designed as coupons which are received in return for voluntary work and can then be spent in local shops. They have a long history and are widespread. The first Japanese currencies were organised as ‘voluntary labour banks’ similar to time dollars. In 2001 these were joined by ‘eco-money’ designed by former MITI employee Toshiharu Kato.

A few points from Dr Scott Cato’s conclusion

“From a green perspective, the building of a sustainable society requires a transition towards a system of self-reliant local economies, where the majority of our needs are met from genuinely local production.

“Green economists see the lengthy supply chains of the global economy as wasteful of energy, as well as leaving us vulnerable in the face of rising fuel prices and more unpredictable weather resulting from climate change.

“Rather than increasing growth for the sake of it, local currencies can shift economic activity out of the globalised economy and into the local economies on which we will all come to rely.

“In a globalised economy local authorities often feel powerless to act to support the economies which support their citizenry, but they are not. Local authorities across the world have the power to support local currencies and enable them to underpin struggling local economies of both production and distribution”.

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A resource centre of papers on complementary currencies from around the world is available here: http://complementarycurrency.org/materials.php