Guest blog: Bristol’s own currency – what’s in it for our community?

2 August, 2017
Written by Anna McMullen, Team Manager, Bristol Pound.
 
Many of you will have come across Bristol’s brightly coloured cash in coffee shops and grocery stores on Gloucester Road, or seen it pass from hand to hand on the buses. It’s been around for almost 5 years now and has taken root in the city, with over 800 businesses and community groups accepting it. What may not be immediately obvious however is why it’s good for the voluntary and community sector and what it does for the city. Here’s why I feel strongly that all community groups should be considering taking part in the current climate. 
 
We are all witnessing that change is happening in Bristol, as money gets tighter in the public and charity sectors. With cuts on the rise, many of our charities and community organisations are having to hire out rooms, start social enterprises, charge for training services or consultancy (that once was free) to bring in extra cash. In doing this, we risk breaking down our collaboration with each other as we monetise our services. 
 
So how can we make sure that we build networks and support each other in tight financial times? The Bristol Pound offers one solution. 
 
Bristol Pounds are designed to keep money in the city. As they can’t be spent outside BS postcodes, money recirculates in Bristol, ensuring whoever receives it can only spend it on local services. In receiving and spending Bristol Pounds, we choose to support other local groups and businesses - they in turn do the same. If you spend £1 in a chain shop only 20p stays in Bristol. If you spend it in an independent business 60p stays local. But if you spend Bristol Pounds, all your £1 stays local, and then goes on to recirculate. This builds wealth and jobs in Bristol, and boosts our connected economy. 
 
Having a Bristol Pound account and being on the Bristol Pound directory (a map and list of all the community groups and businesses in the city who take Bristol Pounds) is also a great way to advertise any services you want to sell, not just to people who live here, but also to other businesses and charities. Easton Community Centre, Incredible Edible, Southmead Development Trust, Bristol Bike Project, Trinity Community Garden, BCFM, Sims Hill Shared Harvest and many more groups already take Bristol Pounds and use the directory to advertise their room hire, events, selling of produce and more. 
 
Bristol Pounds also work to make sure the council do their bit for the local economy. When BCC are paid in Bristol Pounds, they also have to spend back with local companies, charities and communities. This has meant that Bristol City Council’s local spend has gone up significantly in recent years. 
 
Being a strong, empowered city is about changing the root systems of our city, which includes our money. I love that Bristol is trying to do something to stem the tide of money leaving our city and using a local currency as a way to work more together and build local resilience. 
 
If you want to find out more about Bristol Pound and how to join, visit www.bristolpound.org
 
Article written by Anna McMullen, Team Manager, Bristol Pound
Anna is a passionate communicator and campaigner, and has worked for NGOs and not-for-profit organisations in the city for a number of years. Her interest in emerging economics comes from a passion to address the global inequality caused by money. She previously worked for a human rights campaign about fashion as a policy analyst, and co-authored a number of reports about wages in global fashion supply chains. Anna has also been a local councillor on Bristol City Council, and she sits on the board of Easton Community Centre.