The Bristol Pound, our city’s eponymous and iconic local currency, is leaving circulation by the end of this year after nearly a decade of passing through local shops and pockets. The Bristol Pound was the most successful local currency scheme in Europe, and at peak circulation, over £B1 million was circulated in our city every year. With over 650 business members at its height, the Bristol Pound was a great tool at the time for helping to localise our city’s economy.
But now that it is ending, what next? The team behind the Bristol Pound is still keen to be at the forefront of new-economy thinking in Bristol. Things have been moving very fast; the ideas we were working on for Bristol Pay before the start of the pandemic already feel dated. Instead of leading with a payments platform for the city, we’re now looking to lead with non-financial tokens, to encourage a change in our collective values around our communities and our environment.
The Bristol Pay platform remains key to Bristol’s future as a smart city, and we are buzzing with ideas. These include: ‘Thanks’ tokens to recognise the numerous favours and acts of kindness across the city each day; collectable points for pro-environmental choices like low-carbon travel; or special token schemes designed to encourage the production and consumption of locally and sustainably grown food. Ideas like these are already being experimented with in cities across the globe who are looking to build resilient local economies fit for an uncertain future, but Bristol has the potential to be ground-breaking in its approach; bringing a holistic range of solutions through an app to engage people with a range of social and environmental activities.
The Bristol Pay team is now embarking on the design phase of the Bristol Pay app, so that we are ready to start the development work in the autumn. We are focused on building a tool for the long term – able to scale up for city wide use, and flexible enough to respond to the challenges that emerge in coming years.