Four months ago tomorrow, I wrote a blog post talking about how I had been playing with the idea of a local currency for a while, and how I wanted to take steps to get one set up here in Cardiff, to benefit local traders, local people, and in the longer term help us maintain/build our local economy. I was absolutely amazed by the interest the post generated, and excited to hear that so many people seemed supportive of the idea.
What’s happened since then? Well, not as much as I would have liked to be honest – the last few months have been horribly busy from a work point of view, and of course now I have a couple of weeks break between contracts, we are well into Summer Holiday mode – which in case anyone is reading this who doesn’t have kids, does NOT equate to ‘Summer Resting Period’.
But the Cardiff Pound idea has still been ticking over in the background, so I thought it would be useful to do a roundup of what HAS happened.
Firstly, I went and spent an afternoon with Stephen Clarke, one of the founders of the Bristol Pound. This was absolutely the best thing I could have done – Stephen talked me through the setup in Bristol, answered all the questions I had thought of plus a few more, and generally confirmed my opinion that a Cardiff Pound would bring a much needed boost to our city. He explained how the Bristol Pound works in partnership with the local Credit Union & the Council, whilst retaining its independence as an organisation, and this seems to me to be a sensible model to follow. There’s also an opportunity to work with the Bristol Pound team on certain areas of the setup, though this is an area which we haven’t explored in detail yet.
I also went to see Lorraine, the Chief Exec of Cardiff and Vale Credit Union. It’s a busy time for the credit union – they have just completed an office move into Marland House, right in the centre of town, and they have ambitious plans to bring their (excellent) savings and loan products to many more people over the next year. Lorraine was very positive about the possibilities for partnership with a Cardiff Pound and we have agreed to continue exploring how we can work together.
There has also been a very warm response from our local Councillors – thanks in part to the press coverage of the Cardiff Pound idea, and also as a result of a Small Business drop in session in Castle Arcade, where I had the opportunity to
bend people’s ears talk about the project. It seems that there is a real political will to take forward a currency for Cardiff, and Cllr Ashley Govier is organising a meeting to discuss the initiative in more detail in the near future – I’ll feed back on that after the event. I am very much hoping that discussions with the Council will result in us bringing the New Economics Foundation to Cardiff to share their considerable knowledge about local currencies and the different benefits they can bring, as well as the pitfalls to be aware of when setting one up.
Looking further ahead, I have also been trying to work out how we can make sure the Cardiff Pound becomes a currency that is present in all aspects of our local economy, and is not seen simply as a retail project. Mark Hooper, director of Indycube Ventures (which is a half million pound funding stream set up specifically to invest in local startups) came up with a fantastic solution – which is to offer a percentage of startup investment funding in Cardiff Pounds! This idea is in its early stages, but feels to me like an amazing opportunity to encourage business startups in all sectors to base themselves in Cardiff. And of course if other local funding providers were to follow suit, this could provide a massive boost for our startup scene.
What else? Well, as you’ll have seen at the top of the piece, we have a logo for the Cardiff Pound project! This is with MASSIVE thanks to Marc Thomas, Editor of Plastik Magazine and a freelance journalist. Marc designed this logo for free, as part of his commitment to do good work for charities and non-profits – and I am really grateful to him for the time he put into this. The idea is that the logo will become the face of the project in its setup stages, before holding a city wide competition for the final design of the currency itself, once all the nuts and bolts are in place to launch. Thank you Marc!
I’ve also had help and advice from a whole bunch of people, especially Owen Derbyshire of 21 Communications, Christian of I Loves The Diff fame and Gwion Thorpe, a founding partner of the Siop y Bobl project – all of whom I hope will continue to bear with me and my somewhat scattergun approach over the next stage of the journey! And I’m really looking forward to meeting the group behind Cardiff Taffs in a couple of weeks to see how we can share knowledge and hopefully work together.
So – what’s next for the Cardiff Pound? Well, soon it’ll have a website all of its own instead of a corner of LearnerMother; and in the not too distant future, with help from Cardiff Council, an opportunity to work with the New Economics Foundation to refine our plans. The project needs to be set up as a Community Interest Company, and once that’s done then more formal partnerships can be worked out – and of course the small question of how to fund this project is still to be resolved. In the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge amount of money to find – £20K or so would probably break the back of the setup costs, however that’s assuming that everyone involved can work for free. I’m still chewing over how best to work out the money side of things, I’m sure a solution will appear somehow!
It’s fair to say that the Cardiff Pound is not moving as quickly as I would like at the moment. However, please do bear with me – everything has to be squeezed in around family and work which will necessarily mean that there are sometimes periods when things go quiet. Rest assured, the Cardiff Pound is very much alive and kicking, and in a shop near you, soon!
Thanks for reading – please do get in touch via comments or @cardiffpound – looking forward to hearing from you!