Keep your coins, I want change

How do we know what the impact is of our everyday spending actions? Whether we buy food at our local supermarket, grab a beer at the pub or swipe our cards on the bus?

As I discovered at the Community Currencies in Action Conference, Brixton Pound boldly states its objectives on its notes. Although you might think that a note is just about getting people to spend locally, it’s also about creating ways for assets to flow through the neighbourhood, rather than trickling them down.

  1. Helps money flow through the local economy: The Cabinet Member for Jobs & Growth for the council uses @brixtonpound in his local cafe using his councillor’s salary and the cafe owner pays part of his business rates using…the Brixton Pound
  2. Creates a sense of collective ownership: People can select which local personalities they would like on the notes, which through their personal story, gives a flavour of the local civic spirit
  3. Provides infrastructure which you can influence: Whether it’s community currencies like Brixton Pound, time-based credits like Spice or digital recycling tokens like Portemonnaie, you can shape the infrastructure you want to use

If you know which businesses allow people to pay with a complementary currency, if you can track online or text spending, how could you map the spending of community currencies within a neighbourhood? How could you map the flows, like Kiva have done with their peer to peer loans?

How can you scale across the principles of community currencies to other neighbourhoods?

Brixton Pound was developed by people within the neighbourhood for that local area. If people in other areas want to develop complementary currencies, better to learn how to develop a currency in a way that works for that community, which might not be the same as the currency already develope, or might use selected elements of the infrastructure that the currency has already developed and invested in?

How you can use the energy of systems innovations like Brixton Pound and the practices they create to understand how to invest in infrastructure that not only help them, but future systems innovations and how you can understand how you can support the ecosystem of people involved in the currency to connect people who want to grow civic activities and how you can use its energy to challenge organisations like the local council and important employers to use the complementary currency as a way of growing its resource, but also shift its thinking and practices with its own supply chains?

What could be the tipping points where businesses in a particular sector need to trade in that complementary currency to sell and buy from other businesses as part of their supply chain?

Where you have contracts which are Brixton-specific, could you influence suppliers to use the currency, be it through their supply chain or payment of their staff?

How do you negotiate the tension between wanting to get corporates where many people spend to use the complementary currency and encouraging people to use independent shops rather than corporates?

If you’ve got a process which enables people to spend locally, how could you introduce new forms of financing, like crowdfunding, peer to peer loans or even bulk-buying?

Finally, what the Brixton Pound puts in the spotlight are the people that make and have made the neighbourhood what it is. Brixton itself has created a culture that people recognise and welcome the civic identity of the place, whether they live or work there, or whether they’re passing through. How can you move from people being attracted to the culture to wanting to contribute to it’s economic and social wealth?