Forget the Bristol (and Lewes) Pound, it’s Kind Currency that pays off

Earlier this week, and with accompanying fanfare, the mayor of Bristol bought a loaf of bread with a box-fresh Bristol Pound, the city’s new currency.

The city follows other UK towns and areas such as Lewes, Totnes and certain Sarf Lahndan (that’s cockney, don’t you know) boroughs in setting up a local currency to drive people to High Streets and away from out-of-town parking nightmares.

My local town is Lewes and I know that the Lewes Pound didn’t work; people don’t use it, but Bristol may be different. Lewes is similar to Bristol in many loony leftfield ways but it is 99.9% white, unlike the ex-slave city that has a rich, multicultural heritage.

But the reason the Bristol Pound might work is because of the times we live in. When the Lewes Pound was launched in August 2008 the world was different. Even though the 15-year recession was only a month away it all seemed like a tourist ruse. It was easy to get money and this sounded like a bunch of hippies being clever.

But of course the hippies (damn them!) were right and four years on, any form of monetary innovation will get our very divided attention. Capitalism, as usual, totters but remains, but other forms of bottom-up capitalism are happening everywhere.

It was interesting to note that the Bristol Pound is going to be all about mobile and online payments, which is as it should be, but perhaps we are seeing the birth of something called Kind Currency, a form of labour and value exchange formerly known as bartering.

I don’t know about you lot, but I use it all the time. It started off when my network, through the use of the lunches, nights out, the web, conferences, recommendations and latterly social media, started to mature.

If I wanted a developer’s skills then Kind Currency meant I could use him/her for free if I promised to do some marketing for him/her. If somebody wanted an introduction I’d do it for a beer, not as insurance for when things went badly for me, but because it was a good (and Kind) thing to do.

Now that type of transaction is omnipresent in my life, it extends to my family. If I help my wife out with a document, she lets me have a big night out at the Century Club, if my son does the business at school he gets his pocket money, although the latter might be pure bribery.

I’m not saying we’ll be paying Easy Jet airfares with potatoes from the allotment, but you get my point. Kind Currency, like love, is all around us and it’s not difficult to see a New World where Kind Currency in the form of tokens or ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ mixed with mobile becomes widespread.

I’m just about to get a train to Ye Olde Londone Towne, but we might be on to something here. Kind Currency and mobile, you heard it hear first. Anybody got a business plan? I can raise the money, if you know what I mean.

Monty (615 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.