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A moment to reflect on the effects of Covid-19 on the Bristol Pay project

In March 2020, the Bristol Pound began work on it’s next project for our city’s local economy. In partnership with fintech business Payji, the Bristol Pay idea was put into motion. Bristol Pound was set to provide the concepts, framework and route to market, and Payji was to deliver the financial and technical expertise. Having successfully launched the Bristol Pay pilot and learnt a lot from the partnership over the last 12 months, we have now mutually agreed to part ways. So, what next for Bristol Pay?

It’s worth saying that the underlying issues we are concerned about in the economy remain. The loss of money to local economies through transaction charges has almost certainly risen over the last year as so much business has moved online. The environmental damage caused by our consumption patterns continues apace. The concentration of money and power in the hands of a few continues to create inequity and undermine social justice. The need to engage people and businesses in changing their attitudes and activities to start to improve on our current performance is more urgent than ever. The need for our work therefore continues. Cities throughout the UK and abroad need the kinds of data we can create with token schemes to help plot a course and measure their performance towards an SDG (UN Sustainable Development Goal) compliant future.

That said, we do recognise that much has changed with Covid-19. More and more commerce has been happening online and through apps. It can be hard to buy a round of drinks without a smartphone these days. As such, this pause in development is timely to do some additional research with independent businesses. We need to make sure that our original Bristol Pay ideas develop in ways that respond to the very real changes across retail and hospitality. 

Beyond that, we’ll be teaming up with new partners to bring Bristol Pay to life. In many ways we are considerably further ahead than this time last year. We now have a strong brand identity for Bristol Pay, and we’ve been developing use cases for the token schemes that we see as the essential toolkit for changing how people think about the economy and the impact of their day to day choices. We want to make the tokens fun to engage with – like a game or social media platform – but with a serious purpose: to count at a city scale the actions we collectively take to support the environment and our social capital. We need to move away from growth and GDP as the only way to see economic success – and we remain committed to being part of that push.


So we are continuing to work on the cutting edge of systems change, leading the way on developing measures for the things that money is blind to. The true value in the economic system is not the money itself, but the people and environments it is meant to serve – it’s about time we put those front and centre.



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