The Big Short Film – abstract economy, real economy.

on-the-night

It was great to see the Cube Cinema packed out with around one hundred people on Sunday 6th November, all wanting to learn about and discuss the causes of the 2008 financial crisis and whether anything has changed in the finance industry since. We watched The Big Short Film, which I was pleasantly surprised to find, offered a fairly accurate portrayal of what happened leading up to the 2008 crisis, well-acted by a cast of highly regarded celebrities. The incredibly dramatic and testosterone fuelled financial industry was well suited to a fast-paced drama. In amongst the drama, the film used models and actresses to explain the key economic terms in a casual way, while taking a bubble bath or drinking a glass of champagne. This was an attempt to make things like Collateral Debt Obligation and subprime mortgages understandable to the everyday audience – however, despite the attempt, the film left with more questions than they had answered.

My main question was articulated well by Kit Beazley, the UK Head of Finance and Risk at Triodos Bank, in the passionate and informative panel discussion between himself and Molly Scott Cato, (the Green Party MEP for the South West) chaired by the Director of Bristol Pound CIC, Ciaran Mundy. He asked, “Why didn’t anyone notice? Or was everyone too tied up in it to do anything about it, and therefore they hid it instead.” Molly also explained that it is very easy to get sucked into the excitement of money creation and gambling on debt, so that many people in the industry lose sight of morality and the reality of what they are doing. She is very keen to keep her moral compass when working in politics.

This theme was demonstrated in the film when Ben Rickert, played by Brad Pitt, said “‘Have you any idea what we just did? We just bet against the American economy which means that people will lose their jobs, people will lose their retirement savings and lose their pensions. Do you know what I hate about f***ing banking? It reduced people to numbers. A 1% increase in unemployment equals 44 thousand people dead.”

Kit explained that banking had lost its purpose – “Banking is supposed to be the life blood of the economy – the mechanism whereby the people who have got some money and want to do something worthwhile with it can lend it to some people who have got a good idea. When you get into CDO’s and synthetic credit swaps and synthetic CDOs that is just about making money out of money, it is not about the real economy.”

So, although the film had left me feeling confused – after the panel discussion I knew that my confusion had been caused by a certain disbelief that so many people were part of the creation of the financial crisis without being aware of what they were doing. I think the problem lies in the fact that things like CDOs and synthetic credit swaps are so far away from the real economy, and what banking and money are meant to be about, that many people working in the industry are ignorant of what the things they are dealing in represent in real terms. Their work becomes something totally abstract, and it is easy to be flippant about the abstract, as it doesn’t seem to mean anything. But in the real economy, money is worth what you pay for food, for fuel, for clothes. Savings and pension funds are a result of real people’s time. They are not to be played with.

This shift in mindset from the abstract to the real, all three panellists agreed, is the most crucial thing for the financial industry in creating a more fair and sustainable economy. It is difficult for the majority of us to tell whether that has changed at all since 2008 – so it is our role to make the change and shift money back to what it is meant to be, to bring our economy back to the real economy.

Laurie King is the Community Liaison Manager at the Bristol Pound. You can find her profile on our team page

New for avid Bristol Pound users – the Bristol Pound User Group

User Group

Where: The Hub room, Roll for the Soul, Bristol, BS1 2JL
When: Wednesday 10 August 2016
Time: 19:30 – 20:30

The Bristol Pound is run by the people of Bristol, for the people of Bristol. Having our own currency offers us all the unique opportunity to take control of our money for the benefit of our city. In June, Bristol Pound users came together for the first Bristol Pound User Group: members attended a round table discussion about the successes and the challenges of using the local currency.

The group will now meet every two months, with members of the Bristol Pound team, to feed back on on-the-ground use of the currency, and offer ideas and support, giving the people of Bristol a firm grip on how our money works.

We would like to invite you to the second meeting of the Bristol Pound User Group.

Our User Group is open to everyone and is a way for us to gain better influence from our members. Join us on 10 August from 7:30 – 8:30 to discuss exciting service and software updates and talk about how we can subscribe more of our favourite independent businesses to the scheme.

The Users Group will be a space for collective leverage over our local currency, making the Bristol Pound more responsive to our users. It will also be a great place to network and meet other Bristol Pound users who share an interest in improving our local economy.
Light refreshments will be available and space is limited to 15 attendees. Priority will be given to group members who are already registered but newcomers are encouraged and welcomed.

If you’re an active Bristol Pound user and want to get more involved in the running of our money, please RSVP by email to Ruby at ruby@bristolpound.org. You could also send us agenda suggestions for the group to discuss!

Missed out on a ticket for #BrisFuturesMayor debate? Listen live on Ujima radio

Candidates for Bristol’s top job will be answering questions from city residents at a sustainability-themed debate tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Arnolfini gallery.

Bristol Mayoral Election 2016 ballot box

Over 200 people have got a ticket for the *sold out* event but you can listen to the whole thing live on Ujima radio from 7pm.

You can also join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #BrisFuturesMayor. Questions from twitter will be taken on the night, so you can grill the candidates from wherever you are.

The ‘hustings’ event has been organised by Bristol Pound, Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC, Bristol Cycling Campaign, Friends of the Earth and Sustrans.

Ciaran Mundy, CEO of Bristol Pound, said

“It’s important the Mayor of Bristol takes the city’s environment and local economy seriously. This event is the perfect opportunity for the candidates to tell us their ideas for how Bristol will become a sustainable city for the future.”

The event will give the people of Bristol a chance to hear the candidates’ plans for creating a low carbon and sustainable future for the city. Questions will be taken from the audience, in advance and on the night, on the four key themes of sustainable transport & active travel, energy & climate change, local economy and the Bristol Green Capital Partnership vision of a low carbon city with a high quality of life for all.

BBC Radio Bristol presenter Laura Rawlings will chair the debate with candidates George Ferguson (Bristol 1st), Kay Barnard (Liberal Democrat), Tony Dyer (Green) and Marvin Rees (Labour).

Want a stall at Bristol Harbour Festival?

Bristol’s largest free festival, Bristol Harbour Festival, returns to the waterside on 15-17 July and this year they’re working with the Bristol Pound to keep it local.

Over one mile of vessels, food markets, circus acts, live music and performers will be on Bristol’s waterways for the festival which attracted a quarter of million people in 2015.

Applications for traders at the event are currently open – but only until the 22 April.

Click here to download the application forms:
http://bristolharbourfestival.co.uk/contact-us/ 

Chloe Hood, Event Manager, said:

“Bristol Harbour Festival is excited to have Bristol Pound involved this year and we would love to keep things local. If you are interested in having a stand at the show, whether you’re a market trader, caterer or business wanting to showcase your company, we’d love to hear from you.”

Bristol Harbour Festival will be encouraging the use of the Bristol Pound with all Bristol traders this year and cashpoint locations will be easy to spot in the official programme.

 

Going to the Bristol Business Exhibition? So are we

 

The Bristol Pound team are gearing up to help small and medium sized businesses at the Bristol Business Exhibiton at Ashton Gate on Tuesday 8th March. We’ll be there showcasing our new business to business interest free credit service, Prospects Network, and signing people up for the Bristol Pound.

Free business advice sessions

We’re also offering Bristol’s SMEs free advice and guidance on a range of hot topics. Slots are available between 11-2pm where you will be able to get a free 15-minute one-to-one session with one of the experienced leadership team at the Bristol Pound. Session include:

1. Building strong strategic partnerships
2. Strategic legal advice
3. Building local supply chains
4. Developing your social media

We expect to be very busy on the day so make sure you book in advance. Just email info@prospectsnetwork.org with your name and number. Or, just pop by and chat to the team on the day.

The Prospects Network

We’ll be giving delegates a sneek peek of the new service, called the Prospects Network, which will help Bristol’s small and medium sized businesses do more business. If you can’t wait until the 8th March, find out more here: www.prospectsnetwork.org

See you there

Doors open at 10am and over 500 delegates are expected to meet the the 80 plus businesses exhibiting at the conference centre at Ashton Gate. Tickets for delegates are free.

Survey results: what you think about the Bristol Pound

 

We asked Bristol Pound members to share their views on Bristol’s local currency and we – the staff team –  really enjoyed hearing what you had to say about your experiences of using it, what you love about it and what could be improved.

Here’s what individual members said:

Benefits of £B

75% of you spend with Bristol Pound because you love supporting Bristol’s local independent businesses.

“One of the many sustainable and beautiful aspects which make me proud of this great city.”

We agree it’s an important part of using Bristol Pounds and, although it’s not like Bristol is short of independent businesses, it’s a great way of making sure they’re all here to stay.

 

Changed purchasing experience Qu

“Paying by text meant I could buy lunch in town (at the Folkhouse) when I left my wallet at home.”

It’s great to see that so many of you are finding it a really positive experience using Bristol Pound but it’s also important for us to hear about how we could improve your experiences.

From what you’ve told us, we’ve identified that the areas we need to focus on are:

1. Making payments easier
2. Continuing to support businesses
3. Getting more people involved across Bristol

We’re going to work on these things to try to make using the Bristol Pound as easy, enjoyable and worthwhile as possible!

46% of you are spending most of your Bristol Pounds on everyday and essential items.

Compared to only 10% who spend most on non-essential and occasional items. This goes to show that many of you are incorporating Bristol Pounds into your everyday spending which is fantastic and a sure way of having a big impact.

Over one in ten Bristol Pound members use Bristol Pounds to pay for council tax and bills. Using Bristol Pounds for these large, regular payments is such an easy way of spending Bristol Pounds, without even really having to think about it. If you’re not already, it’s definitely something to consider.

Here’s what business members had to say:

Spend with

76% of businesses spend their Bristol Pounds with other local businesses. Also over half of them said using the Bristol Pound has positively changed their relationship with other local businesses and for the majority of them has created more local business to business trading. This means more local supply chains created by Bristol Pounds!

“It’s my first port of call when seeking local suppliers”

Offer £B as change

When it came to asking the businesses what they do with their Bristol Pounds, the majority admitted they don’t offer them in change to customers. Although sometimes this might be because they don’t have any to offer at the time, don’t be afraid to ask!

75% of businesses never transfer the Bristol Pounds they receive into sterling and 16% only do so occasionally.

As much as we’d hope to see all businesses re-spending all their Bristol Pounds, in practise this isn’t always possible. We will continue to support those businesses struggling to re-spend but having 91% of businesses who never or very occasionally transfer their Bristol Pounds into sterling is great.

Thanks to everyone who filled out the survey and to you all for your continued support of the Bristol Pound. There were lots of really useful comments, suggestions and ideas for improvements which we’re going to take on-board and use to help us plan.

Big congratulations go to Niall who was the winner of the prize draw.

Want to add something? Comment below and let us know…

Why I love paying by text

Bristol Pound member and guest blogger Richard Hancock was sceptical of paying by text at first but now he’s really enjoying it… despite his ten year old Nokia.

_MG_0846When I first heard about the Bristol Pound I thought it sounded a great idea. Keep money circulating in the local economy, support local independent businesses­ what’s not to like?

I thought I would just use the notes. I’m not a particular fan of mobile phones. In fact at that time I didn’t usually carry one. Carry my phone with me do my shopping? Get out of here!

As it turns out, I love paying by text. Why?

1. It’s more convenient ­ I don’t have to get organised and remember to change currency. My NHS employers now pay some of my salary into my Bristol Pound account. Getting them to do this turned out to be surprisingly easy.

2. There’s a definite feel-good aspect to doing the texting. Knowing the transaction is going through a local system rather than being skimmed by Visa or whoever.

3. To my astonishment, it enriches the purchasing relationship. The people who I deal with know me better – ‘Hello Richard’ etc. I didn’t think I would notice or care, but I do.

As a result of my enthusiasm I now carry my phone with me (a 10 year old PAYG Nokia dumb phone since you ask). The system isn’t perfect, what is, but definitely a positive experience.

Paying by text. ­You know it makes sense.

To find out more about paying by text, visit: http://bristolpound.org/howtxt2pay

Bristol Pound Christmas Social

Another successful year has passed for the Bristol Pound; full of great socials, new friends and community spirit. In the past our socials have always been a brilliant opportunity to get to know fellow members, businesses, the Bristol Pound team, as well as make new friends in the city.

Christmas_Social_homepage_slideshow_-_updated

We would love you to join us again on Wednesday 16 December at the Arnolfini Café Bar for a seasonal celebration of Bristol’s currency. There will be a festive Bristol quiz, the chance to mingle with other like-minded individuals and raise a toast to 2016. The Bristol Pound team will also be on hand for any queries, or for those wishing to set up a new account and swap some sterling into Bristol Pounds.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1637682579845377/

£B.2nd.Bday_086U ©MarkSimmons

We look forward to seeing old friends and new faces for this fun and informal event to round off a great year for the Bristol Pound. Put the date in the diary and see you at the Arnolfini Café Bar.

£B leaflets - low res

Divine Intervention in a Greek drama: Local currency

Volos-bartering

 

The benefits of a local currency for the local community are doubtless. Let alone when the social and economic welfare are in a deep downfall.When a place is stricken with economic crisis, local currencies, like the Bristol Pound canve the economy a chance to reflate by providing an alternative way of trading so that people will be able to spend it locally, on homegrown products.

In communities like Volos in Greece , where there is a struggling effort to afford items and services in euros due to the deep financial crisis, people got creative and discovered the benefits of establishing a local currency.

The local currency of Volos

Volos, has created an organized exchange and solidarity network that’s been operating since 2011. It was an initiative from citizens with the aim of supporting one another with extended benefits for the local economy. It actually is a system of mutual demand and supply to satisfy needs that cannot be covered by paying in euros. The local currency is called TEM, which stands for “Local Alternative Unit “.

The team behind it call it a  “positive action initiated by the citizens of Volos. A decision to take life in their hands , create employability and give value on the local products.”

Yiannis Grigoriou, coordinator of the network, claims that this project is not something different from what was always happening in the Greek society, where the citizens had those unofficial agreements of helping each other without money intervention. In a smaller level, as that of a village, this is still very effective.

“We support the initiative because it’s a very good way out of the deep economic and social crisis,” he says.

How big it is

Τhe network had 50 members in its first year of operation. By April 2012, it had more than 800 individuals supporting it. Ιt seems like it becomes more and more popular while it makes people think about the real value of money. After years of being brainwashed about the significance of our debt crisis and how catastrophic this is, a local currency like TEM make people reconsider the real value of euros, and gives them back the hope and joy it was taken from them.

How it works

 Volos’ local currency functions in a slightly different way than Bristol Pound. All the transactions are digitally recorded and valued in TEMs. It works as an exchange system. If you have goods or services to offer, you gain credit, with one euro equivalent to one TEM.

A simple example: A member of TEM’s network undertakes the job of teaching English to the children of another member. After this work is done, the teacher’s account is credited with the agreed value in TEMs. The father’s account is accordingly decreased. For the people that doesn’t have access in the digital form of payment, there are vouchers (payment mandates) that show the value in TEMs.

Maria McArthy, a British woman that has been living in Volos for many years now, has been trading in TEM since it started,3 years ago, by offering English and guitar lessons, second-hand clothes and bric-a-brac .She claims to have earned and spent 9.500 TEM.

Volos is οne of the biggest Greek cities with a big percentage of young population and a significant port. Citizens that support the scheme claim to have a significant benefit, especially now that financial future is really uncertain.

 

 

If you would like more information about it, refer to the articles below:

1.How we survive a Greek tragedy. The everyday life and experience of a British woman (Maria McArthy) living in Volos for many years now, and why she supports TEM

http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/581196/Greek-tragedy

 

2.”Meet the Greeks who have already Ditched the Euro” by Bloomberg Business.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-13/meet-the-greeks-who-ve-already-ditched-the-euro-ic1pjb8c

 

Mingling & Wriggling: An Independents Evening

On June 22, Bristol Pound and Wriggle, a Bristol restaurants mobile-app, collaborated to host an ‘Independents Evening’, a gathering of our local, independent food and drink businesses at the Bristol 2015 Lab. Business owners had the chance to meet, mingle and catch up while enjoying drink samples from six different businesses: Moor Beers, Psychopomp, Bristol Beer Factory, Little & Long Coffee, Lovely Drinks and Stewart Wines.

Bristol Pound - independents evening - June 22, 2015 - 0866

There was a constant buzz of individuals from different businesses connected to the Bristol Pound and Wriggle– suppliers, retailers and marketers alike- chatting and getting to know one another, over clinks of wine glasses and pops of bottles of locally  produced gin, ale and juice.

Bristol Pound - independents evening - June 22, 2015 - 0798Bristol Pound - independents evening - June 22, 2015 - 0804Bristol Pound - independents evening - June 22, 2015 - 0832 Bristol Pound - independents evening - June 22, 2015 - 0860

When grabbing drink samples, it was natural to stop to have a conversation with each individual behind the table, more often the owner or founder of the business itself. I had a long chat with Victoria of Lovely Drinks, and we talked about how the family business all began with Elderflowers picked from fields right by her family’s home. The sentiment of the businesses and individuals present was captured through a conversation with Danny of Psychopomp, as he described how him making gin began (and still continues) as a hobby, and his passion for the product and what he does was evident as he described the process of producing gin.

Bristol Pound - independents evening - June 22, 2015 - 0954Bristol Pound - independents evening - June 22, 2015 - 0884

It was also easy to find yourself bumping into individuals who you had met behind the counter in a café or behind the table at a street food stall, both recognizing each other but having the opportunity now to get to know each other a little bit better and chat in a different environment.

Bristol Pound - independents evening - June 22, 2015 - 0990

All in all, the evening was a great way to get to know some of our local traders and businesses and for some mingling and community-building among the Independent community. With about 800 local businesses accepting the Bristol Pound and many of these a part of Wriggle too, it’s really neat to witness the social benefits that go hand-in-hand with a stronger, more localized economy. There’s something really special about knowing that when you choose to spend your £ (or £B, of course!) at a local, independent café, restaurant, supplier or other business, you’re directly supporting another Bristolian, and it’s even more special to get to know the faces and individuals behind the businesses you choose to support.

(All photos by Christy Nunns Photography)