On heading to the Guild Of Independent Currencies’ 2016 Conference in Liverpool, our thoughts were constrained with the enormity of creating a new complementary currency for the countries second biggest city; as wikipedia puts it ” the 9th most populous metropolitan area in Europe”. That is big – and that is scary!
The conference had two days of intriguing, inspirational speakers and breakout discussions. Our scary challenge was remodeled by new ideas and new connections with people who have made it happen in their area and made all the mistakes so we will hopefully not repeat them.
There were three key ideas and examples that grew out of the talks and demonstrations. One: the need to get on with it and start. Two: The power of design and involving your community. Three: The possibilities are very exciting.
Firstly, to start, to start anywhere, to just get on with it and make it happen. Although the conference was a hive of buzzing excitement, there was also an underbelly of anxiety and trepidation. Of which, the Brum Pound team definitely began on day one in the latter group. Anxious as to how to start? Where should be the starting point? Where would we find the time and money to begin?
Inaction is often more debilitating than ‘bad’ action. At least with ‘bad’ action you can learn and correct, inaction just leads to a whole lot more of inaction. There were many leading the charge of the light brigade “Forward, the Local Currencies. Charge for a start.” Two had a particular impact on me, the Lewes Pound and the Kingston Pound. They both came with a simple but empowering message; find 10 businesses and 100 people and sign them up. It may some small and insignificant but just think about what you can say once you have these participants and they are trading amongst each other; you will have your very own local currency.
Secondary comes design. If starting is the prerequisite to getting your currency going, design is the key to unlocking your community. The Brixton Pound embodies what can be achieved when design is a core value of your currency. ‘The Ziggy’ has stolen the headlines recently, the Brixton B£10 note with the iconic David Bowie image on it. However, the whole series of notes are swimming with images and icons that capture the imagination of Brixton. The currency has become a tool to solidify the community and better its image to the wider world – and all of this was achieved through its design.
The idea of design was a constant conversation throughout the breaks as the success of ‘The Ziggy’ was evident to all. “What if?” was the cry as we all looked to our hosts and willed them to get there local heroes immortalised on the Liverpool Pound. What if those four faces from Liverpool that conquered the world were the new faces of the local currency movement and we were able to call ‘The Beatles’ our own?
Finally, as often happens, we went full circle. We were back looking at the enormity of the initiative that we are contemplating. The difference now is that we were in the presence of those living the enormity. The conference brought together alternative currencies from all over Europe who were charting new territory. I will simply finish with some figures that will hopefully make you as excited and encouraged as I am:
– Bristol in 2015 had transaction of B£1,000,000 up from zero in 2012
– Sardex had over 51,000,000 in transactions in 2015
– the Wir Bank had transactions of 1,400,000,000 at its peak