(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.
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
Limited places available so don’t miss out by booking now!
They are planning to follow the model of the existing Bristol Pound, which is currently used by 782 firms and generates £1 million of business each year.
Karen Leach, coordinator at Localise West Midlands, said: “What normally happens is money leaves the area all the time because you spend money in an organisation that isn’t locally based and locally owned. Money is constantly sucked out like water down a big plughole from the local economy. That’s what we’re trying to stop.”
Since its creation more than two years ago, the Bristol Pound has become the UK’s largest rival to Sterling and the first city-wide currency. Brixton, Stroud, Totnes and Exeter have also introduced the scheme – and it is hoped the Birmingham Pound will repeat their success with independent businesses.
The Bristol Pound, a non-profit organisation, is regulated by the Bristol Credit Union and has received backing from Bristol City Council which has discussed plans to pay staff in the currency. Around a quarter of current Bristol Pound transactions are made using paper notes in £1, £5, £10 and £20 denominations while the rest are made electronically by mobile phone text messages or online. Read more here: Bristol Mayor chooses to be paid in Bristol Pounds.
Consultations on developing the idea will be made by a campaign group of local credit unions, trade organisations and businesses following an initial meeting last week.
Gerb Gerbrands, who founded the flourishing farmers’ market with Clare Honeyfield (Made In Stroud shop) in 1999, wrote in theStroud News and Journalabout the difference between farmers’ market stallholders and those at ‘ordinary’ markets.
He receives applications from potential stall-holders a who are asked to fill in a form which states: “If products are made with bought-in ingredients, those ingredients must be from a local producer ‘wherever possible’ “. Gerbrands explains: This is to:
reduce food miles
and bolster the local economy
An application to sell meat pies was preceded by an email stating that their meat was bought as locally as possible and with full traceability – from Towers Thompson.
He searched on this name and saw that TT is an international meat and dairy group based in Avonmouth; all their other ingredients came from BAKO – whose lorries, Gerbrands points out, hurtle up and down the motorway supplying catering businesses around the country.
He ends: “Needless to say this application was turned down.
“To sell a product like pies at the market a business has to use butter produced locally, flour milled locally, vegetables grown locally and meat reared locally”.
Jeremy Williamswrites that with the financial system in disarray and the economic downturn, local currencies come into their own: “They are counter-cyclical: when the mainstream economy falters, the alternative economy soars . . . In times of recession, it is hard to generate new cash for investment, especially for local businesses or small initiatives. Alternative currencies can create new opportunities in the same way that banks do, but much more organically”.
Shopkeepers in Bhopal, India, have floated their own currency. Faced with the shortage of Rs. 5 coins and undamaged notes, shopkeepers have introduced a plastic coin as a parallel currency – which they are willing to trade with.
A liquor shop proprietor in the market initiated the scheme which is supported by other shopkeepers selling snacks, stationery, eggs and other ‘edibles’. They accept the coin ‘issued’ by the liqour shop and after having collected five or 10 such coins, return them to the liquor shop and take Rs. 100 or Rs. 50 in lieu of these.
As the boy at the liquor shop counter hands over the coin to a customer, he would say “you can use it anywhere in five no market stop” before you could ask him any question. A person at the counter sits with a bag full of these plastic coins.
On Radio 4 recently there was a report about Orania, a town in the northern Cape populated by white Afrikaners. They are working towards building a self-sufficient community.
Since 2004 they have used notes designed by a local artist, known as the ora, which can only be spent within the town. As in many other schemes the Afrikaners want to keep money in the local economy.
David Boyle – in his book Funny Money – mentions a deli that wanted to move to a new premises. When the bank refused to lend the money they needed to do this, the deli owner invented his own currency – the ‘deli dollar’. A deli dollar was simply a voucher that could be redeemed later in the year. The owners sold $5000 worth of deli dollars to regulars, and created a loan for themselves from their customer base. As customers brought the vouchers in over the next year, the loan was re-paid in food.
His conclusion: though these currencies cannot do everything mainstream currencies do, they can be effective in many areas where dollars and pounds are simply not effective:
“They do not build communities, they do not respond to needs, they do not build families, they do not tackle poverty. Local money does, and for that reason, I believe it will work.”
Community Supported Agriculture (flourishing in Stroud) started in the USA in 1986 at Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, Massaschusetts, just a couple of miles down Jug End Road from the Library and offices of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, a partner of the British New Economics Foundation.
Their projects have included the BerkShares Local Currency Program and a SHARE Micro-Credit Program – The Self-Help Association for a Regional Economy (SHARE), a model community-based nonprofit that offers a simple way for citizens to create a sustainable local economy by supporting businesses that provide products or services needed in the region.
Community Supported Industry would be built on a strategy of import replacement, with more labour intensive, smaller batch production, transported over shorter distances. The goal would be to create more jobs, but not more “stuff,” with a smaller carbon footprint overall. The Schumacher Center asks:
“Can the Berkshires also model an ethos that would support a Berkshire furniture factory, a wool products industry, an applesauce cannery, a humane slaughterhouse, a water-powered electric generation plant, or that small-scale business that a resident of the Berkshires has already imagined?
“Can the Berkshires embrace “Community Supported Industry”? Can it build the “import-replacement” businesses that provide well-paid jobs for its youth and keep the Berkshires vibrant with a diversity of production, skills, and people while maintaining a commitment to a healthy ecology?”
Build a culture of citizen support
Meetings of business owners, retired persons, youth, investors, organizational leaders, public officials, and concerned citizens would be needed, to consider:
1. What products might be produced in the Berkshires that are not here yet?
2. How can citizens help create conditions to ensure the success of new enterprises?
3. What skills can be offered to help in the process? Development or review of business plans; market research; site selection; equipment identification; mentoring; financing; permitting; skill development?
4. How can the Berkshires leverage the wealth of community resources to support the budding entrepreneurs who will in turn run the new, appropriately scaled and environmentally sound businesses that are the foundation stones of a socially and environmentally responsible economy?
It will not be enough to only imagine the new green, fair, sustainable, slow, resilient businesses; not enough to build a library of good business plans; not enough to whet the appetite for regionally made goods and locally grown food.
To implement the new industries identified and fostered under the umbrella of Community Supported Industry will take securing affordable access to land, identifying (or training) skilled workers, and accessing appropriate capital.
It will mean maintaining an ongoing national dialogue about imaginative land tenure options, distributed ownership, and the democratized issuing of currency.
Some Localise West Midlands members who have a particular interest in economic and political devolution, will welcome the call of a district councillor (also green economist and professor at Roehampton University), for more decision-making powers to be devolved to regional level.
Cllr Scott Cato, who represents Stroud’s Valley ward and has been selected as the lead candidate for the Greens in the 2014 European elections, believes the south-west should have more freedom to shape its food, energy and economic policies. At the south-west Green Party AGM in Exeter she said:
“If the debate is about competencies and levels of government then it is time to add a green tint to that debate by calling for the end of the centralisation of power in the UK as well as in Europe as a whole.” She added:
“On a whole range of issues from agriculture and taxation to transport and economic development we need to have more power at the local level.”