It feels like a long time ago now since I invited the team who created the Bristol Pound, together with the new economics foundation who advised them, to come and talk with people in Brighton & Hove about whether a proposal for a similar local currency, a Brighton Pound, would be appropriate and relevant here.
It was the start of an incredibly useful process that, over several years, explored in depth how best to support and promote the local economy, tackle inequality and to build social inclusion.
Although the time might not yet be right for a Brighton Pound, there’s been a crystallising of thinking around key questions: how do we make the most of social capital in the city? How do we build a strong, resilient local economy that can weather all manner of crises while consistently delivering benefits to the local community?
At a time of record Government debt, reduced access to credit for small and medium-sized businesses, and unprecedented cuts to public spending, action to protect and strengthen our local economy is more urgent than ever.
From meeting with business leaders across the city I know there’s wide support for keeping money circulating in - and multiplying the strength of - the local economy. Because when money stays local, wealth generated in Brighton & Hove truly benefits Brighton & Hove, rather than leaking out via national and international chain stores.
So this understanding from the city’s business leaders, together with the status conferred by an HSBC report as “an alternative economy super-city”, no less, mean that Brighton is absolutely the right place to introduce local currency initiatives.
Local businesses shape the character of our community. And it’s a community that includes a significant body of local residents who are open to expressing their values through their spending.
So it’s no surprise that the gift voucher we launched last week has been so well received by the local business community.
150 businesses are already part of the scheme, so it’s full steam ahead to drive £100,000 into the local economy by Christmas 2015, and £1m by 2020!
What I find inspiring about the Goodmoney gift voucher is that it really shows how smaller businesses can prosper much more effectively simply by working together.
Meanwhile, in Parliament, and through my work as a parliamentary champion for the Federation of Small Businesses, I’ll continue to campaign for measures that benefit local businesses, especially the micro, small and medium-sized that form the backbone of the Brighton economy.
For more see www.goodmoney.co.uk.
PHOTO (Ashley Laurence - Time for Heroes Photography): Caroline with Dan and Mick of Goodmoney, and with winners in the children's art competition for designs for the Goodmoney greetings cards.