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Is Bristol the UK’s capital of social financial innovation?

Written by Francesca Wakefield

At a recent event in Oxford publically launching the idea of a new local currency for the renowned university-city, Tony Greenham from the New Economics Foundation described Bristol as the “capital for social financial innovation”.

Success for the Bristol Pound – at home and abroad

Just 9 months after the launch of the Bristol Pound, over £200,000 has now been converted from sterling into the new local currency. With over 1,000 user accounts it’s fair to say the Bristol Pound has been something of a success.

But it’s not just at home in Bristol that the local currency is proving popular. Over the last few months the Bristol Pound office has been inundated with queries from other cities across the UK not to mention international delegations of policy makers interested to find out how the Bristol Pound team did what they did – and did it so well.

An exciting shift towards local currencies

They’ve had so many enquires they’ve even got a spread sheet to keep track of all the people who’ve been in touch. Aside from being impressively organised, this also marks an exciting trend – across the UK and indeed around the world. After 5 long years of trying to fix our broken economies by tinkering around the edges, people are starting to get interested in changing the very basis of economic exchange. Its official – local currencies are in, and Bristol is way ahead of the curve.

Although not the first local currency in the UK, the Bristol Pound has definitely been one of the most successful, as well as being the first city-wide complimentary currency since the introduction of Sterling. There are rarely straightforward explanations to complex questions, and the reasons behind the quick success of the Bristol Pound are no exception. The factor of Bristol’s thriving and fiercely independent local culture can’t be ignored, but neither can the good planning, design and campaigning behind the Bristol Pound’s launch.

TXT2PAY makes the Bristol Pound a rare example of a local currency with an electronic payment system, giving it much better usability (and potential for expansion) for both customers and traders. In addition, the backing of the FSA regulated (and ever expanding) Bristol Credit Union has given the B£ a sound base of financial expertise and deposit security.

All eyes on Bristol…

Whatever the reason, it does indeed seem that “everybody is watching Bristol to see what happens”, as Bristol Pound director Ciaran Mundy remarked recently in a local radio interview.

What do you think, is Bristol the UK’s capital of social financial innovation? –and if so, why stop at the UK? Could Bristol become the global capital of financial innovation? There’s only one way to find out… get spending those Bristol Pounds!

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