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Why the Bristol Pound has to change.

It’s decision time for the future of the Bristol Pound.

 

Bristol Pound has developed an international reputation as a leading local currency over the last 7 years and we thank all of the currency’s members and supporters for being part of this important movement towards a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

 

A great deal has changed since the Bristol Pound (£B) was set up: contactless and smartphone payments are the norm, the use of cash has declined, crypto currencies and new technologies have been created. In this new context, it is time for Bristol Pound to adapt and we are designing a new payment platform fit for the new decade.

 

The aims at the heart of the new platform will be unchanged: to create a greener, fairer and stronger local economy.

 

The need for this work has never been greater. The climate emergency has now been widely recognised.  We are at last fully aware of the need to control the rapidly increasing greenhouse gas emissions that are fuelled by our current economic system. Meanwhile the economic exclusion of the poorest in society is increasing, while the global giants in the digital sector have ever greater control of our personal and economic data.

 

The new system seeks to address these and other environmental and societal issues on a completely different scale to the existing Bristol Pound. We’ve already put in our first bid to fund a feasibility study for the new platform, and we’re meeting with the Mayor and other city leaders later this month to discuss and develop our ideas. We need a strong evidence base and alignment with the One City Plan if we are to make the new platform truly transformative for Bristol.

 

We are hoping that we can get sufficient funding to enable us both to develop this new platform and to continue to maintain our existing digital currency and services. But the fact is that we are still a couple of years off being self-sufficient financially, and we need funding to cover this gap. We have been largely reliant on grants up to this point, but over the last three years, we have found it increasingly difficult to raise grant funding for our work.  As a result, we now find ourselves facing difficult decisions. Unless we are able to secure significant funding for the existing digital currency operation by the end of February, we will have to start the process of winding it down in early March.

 

All money currently held in the currency is safe. In the worst case scenario, the digital £B accounts at BCU will simply be converted to sterling accounts. The paper vouchers are fully backed by sterling and valid until their expiry date of 30 September 2021. We will consult with our business members and the BCU to decide whether to continue to issue paper £B if the digital scheme closes. Our January business member breakfast will focus on this topic, so we encourage all business members to come along. Details and registration here.

 

We will continue to be in touch as the plans take shape and, at the latest, we will update you in early March. Everything will continue to function as normal at least until April. We will give plenty of notice of any major changes to the scheme to enable people to adapt, for example setting up alternative payment methods for recurring payments.

 

If Bristol’s current local currency is to continue, we need further funding, and fast.  If you are interested in engaging with us at a strategic level as a major funder, please do contact Diana Finch at [email protected]. If you want to support £B and its future development, we welcome donations. You can donate here.

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