Local Currencies: the Rebellious Act as it happened

An Annual Meeting with a differenceThis week the People’s Republic of Stoke’s Croft hosted ‘Local Currencies: the Rebellious Act’, a space to come together and reimagine our local currency in a wider context – as one of many local currencies acting together in open rebellion against a failing global money system.

We kicked off the evening with a report from Chief Exec Ciaran painting a grim picture of a Bristol struggling under an imposed austerity regime. A picture of homelessness, unaffordable housing and a widening gap between those with, and those without.

“We are not in a mess… We are in meltdown.” Richard Murphy TJN Nov 2017

In contrast, though, Bristol is a place of fresh, local produce, of friendly helpful people and of creativity. So why doesn’t our economy reflect this?

The Bristol Pound does – it is the combined actions of Bristol citizens self-organising where both the market and the state has failed. The Bristol Pound is far more than just a method of payment. It is a group of responsible and ethically minded people acting together to create a new kind of money which stays in the real economy.

Bobbie, the finance director, gave us a thorough summary of the financial cogs, reminding us of the other projects Bristol Pound CIC runs alongside the local currency and highlighting that the Bristol Pound is not yet self-sustaining. It is instead grant-funded from partner organisations who share our vision of a new economy. After some number crunching we can see that one simple way for the Bristol Pound to become self-sustaining, and not rely on grant funding, is to get more Bristol Pounds flowing.

Bristol Pound usage data for the last 2 years and targets to be self-sustaining by 2022

The combined message was that we have, together, created a tool to directly confront a failing economic system, and that we all as members of the Bristol Pound have an open invitation to take ownership of our money, join a community of financial activists and help the currency to grow.

Following Ciaran and Bobbie, the membership elected two member representatives. Conan Wills will stay on for a further two years as the personal member representative, and Sharon Woma is to take on the task of business representative.

Sharon Woma’s election speech was on how she wants to wake up in the morning and know she is contributing to something great

The membership voting

All this reporting and electing was thirsty work, so we had a short break to grab some drinks from the Bristol Pound Only bar. We quickly added hot drinks to the menu as it was pretty chilly!

Then, we invited Charlie Waterhouse up to give the main speech of the evening. Charlie is from the Brixton Pound and the Independent Money Alliance (IMA). The IMA is a nationwide alliance of community and alternative currencies, including block chains, timebanks and more. Charlie talked of the global effort to find exchange systems which work for the community which uses it, rather than the mega corporations as fiat currencies do. He pointed to the title of the event and agreed that every time you use a Bristol Pound you are rebelling. Bristol has a long history of rebelling, so the creation of our own alternative currency was the next obvious step. Charlie stressed that the diversity of local currencies around the works is really important; each is trying something different – and that’s how evolution works. 

He also compared the current global economy to the dinosaurs, with the HSBC-Rex and the Teresa-dactyl. Meanwhile, local currencies are the little dinosaurs in the foreground who grew feathers, or fur and evolved into the now dominant species.

His closing remarks were poignant; Bristol, the world is watching you, so don’t $&#* up.

With energies in the room high, we came to the main point of the evening: a collection of workshops on how the Bristol Pound membership can help take our community currency forward. We tackled 6 topics with strict instructions to report back: with 1 clear decision and 1 action.

The room buzzed for the next half hour as everyone took the task to hand and workshopped their topic with the due ferocity and compassion of the financial activist.

The event came to a close with each group feeding back their decisions and actions. We ended with Ruby announcing the forming of a new members’ group. The exact details of the group are to be decided by the group, in the typical fashion of self-organisation. The only details confirmed at this stage are a date (17th January) and a topic. The topic voted for was around inclusivity, with suggested actions being a review of the current membership and comparison to the wider Bristol community. It was suggested we carry out a gap analysis to understand how to engage new communities with the Bristol Pound.

And so, I invite you to join us on 17th January, put it in your diary now, to take our world-revered local currency to the next level. Driven by the membership. Grassroots in action. We’re just booking a venue now, so we’ll let you know the location.

See you on 17th January

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