The uproar about Bitcoin in the last couple weeks has obscured the much larger global trend toward local currency and new forms of economic integration. That’s reasonable enough – smaller communities creating their own monetary systems appears to be somewhere between a lark and a joke for the conventional mind. But while the financial media is busy mocking everything new coming down the pike, the local currency trend is picking up steam.
I can’t believe it took me this many months to hear the news about the mayor of Bristol taking his entire salary in the new Bristol pound.
Of his salary – currently £51,000, though the figure could change – Ferguson said he would take it in Bristol pounds, a currency introduced this year and proving a success.
What is the Bristol pound? The local currency is similar to the ones used in other UK “Transition Towns” such as the Totnes, Lewes, and Brixton pounds. And like its German counterpart, the Chiemgauer, its initial value is tied to the national currency (in this case the pound sterling) but then begins to decline in value over time to discourage hoarding. There is also a penalty for trading it back into national currencies as a way to encourage people to spend locally once they make the commitment.
More details from their website:
It is a complementary local currency designed to support Bristol’s independent businesses, strengthen the local economy, keep our high streets diverse and distinct, and help build stronger communities.
The Bristol Pound is the UK’s first city wide local currency, the first to have electronic accounts managed by a regulated financial institution, and the first that can be used to pay some local taxes.
The Bristol Pound is run as a partnership between the Bristol Pound Community Interest Company and Bristol Credit Union. It is a not-for-profit social enterprise.
You can spend Bristol Pounds using:
You can spend Bristol Pounds at every participating business using either paper Bristol Pounds, or from a Bristol Pound account with any mobile phone by using our simple TXT2PAY sms payment system, or over the internet.
Having electronic accounts makes Bristol Pounds easy and convenient to use for the public and opens up the opportunities for business to business payments.
Currently, Bristol’s local currency is reporting around 100,000 pounds of total deposits and a rising number of merchants accepting it as payment for services. There perhaps couldn’t be a stronger sign than the leader of the city committing his entire purchasing power to the scheme.
Be on the lookout for this and many other communities building resilience and economic vitality through these innovations. It’s looking less and less like a lark every day.