As local, alternative and crypto-currencies crop up across the UK, an alliance has formed to chronicle and steer the radical economic movement, with the Bristol Pound at its helm.
The Independent Money Alliance has formed in partnership with the London School of Economics, and the Bristol, Brixton and Exeter Pounds, to bring counter-currencies, activists and academics under one roof to share ideas.
The IMA will see researchers who have studied how local currencies benefit communities meet the practitioners who are putting their research into practice.
It hopes to be a forum for established currencies to help new ones grow, and for all parts of the ecosystem to explore how counter-currencies can create a monetary system that works for the 99% per cent.
Even cryptocurrencies, which are commonly associated with dodgy dealings on the dark web, are invited.
“Some local currencies use blockchain technology, like Hullcoin,” says Adam Rich at the Bristol Pound.
“The IMA wants to celebrate this diversity, by inviting people that represent all different kinds of currency. The Bristol Pound model is not necessarily a model that can be mirrored elsewhere.”
That said, the Bristol Pound recently inspired the creation of the Barcelona Pound, and people from France have been known to call the Bristol Pound’s offices for advice on creating their own local currency.
What we have in Bristol is by no means a rarity: Totnes launched its local currency in 2006, Lewes in 2008, Brixton in 2009, Hull in 2014, and most recently Exeter in 2015. The next one to launch will likely be the Brum Pound in Birmingham.
Further afield, there’s the Chiemgauer in Germany, while Catalonia boasts one of the highest density of local currencies anywhere. Switzerland’s was established 60 years ago, making it one of the oldest around.
But even though the idea is widespread, each initiative is slightly different: Brixton Pound has its own cash machine, lottery, and café, while people can receive their benefits in Hullcoin, which importantly means that the currency is helping the deprived areas that it exists to support.
Reaching more disadvantaged communities is an important next step for Bristol Pound, as well as expanding from just consumer-business transactions to trading between businesses, and establishing the Independent Monetary Alliance.
Steve Clarke, a city councillor and director of the Bristol pound, says it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bristol is one of the places spearheading the IMA – a city world-renowned for its fiercely independent spirit.
“We lead the way on a lot of social innovation, and now we want to share that,” he says. “The IMA will be a space for us to talk to other alternative money projects, show them how Bristol does it and ask them how they do it. This alliance of mutual support and shared values will be another big step for the growing local currency movement across the UK and the world.”