Looking to the future
Bristol Pound has been running for long enough for us to have learned a thing or two. Perhaps the most important realisation is that to really make a significant impact on our local economy, the original Bristol Pound model of encouraging localisation will not be enough. We need a far more ambitious approach for the future.
You can scroll down this page to read the whole vision, or use the icons below to navigate quickly to the bits you're most interested in.
Local digital payments
The world has moved on since we first developed the Bristol Pound. Paying by phone and card is far more common these days, as is online shopping. As a result, the amount of money leaving Bristol in transaction charges for these digital payments has increased to an estimated £60m each year.
Bristol Pound has always sought to keep money local. Bristol Pay will continue to do that, just in a different way.
We are creating a local payment platform that can operate at scale across the city. Because we're not for profit, we'll be able to raise money from transaction fees to fund social and environmental projects here in Bristol.
Every payment on Bristol Pay will help to divert some of that £60m away from the global giants, and towards local charities, community groups and social enterprises.
The move to a cashless society
We are moving to a cashless society - whether we like it or not. Cash is increasingly difficult and expensive for individuals to come by and for businesses to process.
But many people are unable to provide the kinds of documents that banks need to see to comply with anti-money laundering legislation. And so, large numbers of people are excluded from our digital economy.
The unintended consequence is that people who can't get bank accounts are increasingly at risk of financial abuse by people offering to act on their behalf. We urgently need to empower those who are excluded.
We need digital money for everyone.
One City solutions
Bristol's One City Plan is a really positive approach to addressing many of the environmental, social and economic challenges across the city. But to deliver it, we need everyone in the city to get involved.
So the question is, how can we communicate the challenges and targets identified in the plan, and get people and businesses across the city to change their day to day behaviours in ways that can deliver the future we're aiming for? We think the answer is Bristol Pay.
As well as carrying sterling transactions, the platform will carry a range of tokens that recognise the efforts that people and businesses are making. You could think of them like badges of honour. We want to make earning the tokens fun and accessible.
By counting how many badges of each type have been earned across the city, we can create a picture of the overall impact of all those individual commitments, so that we can see how well we're doing at bringing the One City Plan to life.
Another huge problem is the very nature of our current economic system. In an ideal world, we would have an economy that shared the world's resources to meet everyone's needs without damaging the planet for future generations. Our current economic model is a long way off that.
We are often told that economic growth is the answer - but we've had hundreds of years with that as our goal, and we can see that it is not working. We need to move away from the goal of constant growth in consumerism.
The time has come to rebuild a community economy at scale. By helping out in our neighbourhoods, we create connections between people, combat isolation and lessen demands on our public services. By lending, borrowing and swapping more, we can maximise the use of each product we buy, reducing the environmental impact caused by avoidable purchases.
Data for Good
There is another problem with big tech giants having access to so much of our transaction data.
These companies seek to exploit the data for economic purposes - gaining insights into our individual behaviour so that they can target advertising at us through social media and search engines.
This exacerbates the problem of constant consumer growth, which is so damaging to the planet and is causing such immense economic inequality, both locally and around the world.
By contrast, Bristol Pay will have an ethical approach to data use. Your data will only be used at a depersonalised level, to increase our understanding of economic and behavioural trends and help develop positive strategies for the environmental and social good of the city.
Today Bristol, tomorrow the world!
Creating a greener, fairer and stronger economy here in Bristol has always been our primary goal. But we've always had an ambition to create something that others can copy.
Lots of cities and regions have similar economic, social and environmental problems to Bristol, so this will be relevant to many places.
And in global economic terms, to have a real impact, we need to change not just Bristol's economy, but all local economies.
We will take care in the design to make our approach as easy to implement in different areas as possible, whilst ensuring that local token schemes can be designed to meet local needs.
Structure and Governance
For us, our social, economic and environmental purpose is the most important thing. Good governance is really important in ensuring that our purpose doesn't 'drift'. We see strong local oversight and co-design as being the way to keep things moving in the right direction.
In the longer term, we expect one legal entity, adhering to B Corp principles, to own and manage the platform, and be the regulated body for the financial transactions. All financial transactions would of course be fully backed in sterling.
Each local implementation of the platform will be managed by separate legal entities. The different sorts of members (citizens, community groups, businesses, anchor institutions etc) will have representation on the board. The board will be responsible for ensuring an inclusive, consent-based approach to token co-design, data use, and use of surplus funds.
You can see that we've got a clear plan, and we're already making progress in delivering it.
- In March 2020, 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.
- Through 2020 and 2021 we've been working with post graduate students and academics from University of Bristol, University of the West of England, University of Bath and University of Oxford to develop our understanding of how tokens could be used for both people and businesses, from saving waster and reducing landfill waste, to encourage businesses to pay the real living wage.
But there is still lots to do:
- Technical - we need to continue to develop solutions for point of sale purchases in shops and online, so that they are accessible and useful to a wide range of people and businesses. Our pioneer beta testers are helping us with that. The app and dedicated terminals for businesses are our next priority, along with APIs for online shopping. After that comes a payment card, to enable people that don't have smartphones to make payments too.
- Action Research - we need to start testing out some real life token schemes as soon as the app is live, so that we develop our understanding of how best to engage people with tokens, and see what scale of difference they make to people's behaviours.
- Outreach - we need to talk to a wide range of anchor institutions, businesses and community groups in Bristol and beyond, to identify the problems that we could help to solve, and start to co-create the solutions. If that sounds like you, do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.