Launching the Exeter Pound
The Exeter Pound, which we launched in autumn 2015, is a sterling backed local paper currency which can be spent only in local businesses. A local currency can bring custom to local independent businesses, shorten supply chains, and promote a more integrated and sustainable local economy.
We used the Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) grant to promote the currency in order to increase the number of individuals and traders signing up to use it in the run-up to the launch and afterwards. The success of a local currency depends on participation by a wide range of traders, and on individuals being willing to receive part of their salary in electronic local pounds.
The grant supported two skilled unemployed graduates to make a film about the Exeter Pound and to use it in engagement with local traders, community groups and other members of the public. They also trained some of our student volunteers to make and use videographic material and social media in campaigning for this and other projects.
What led you to start this project?
I am very concerned about climate change. It's not really because of my faith - I can't see why you wouldn't be. Faith has more to do with the way I see things changing, the sources of hope in the way that we are all connected in some marvellous and terrible way. You could describe it as that of God in each person, and the sense of Spirit in the natural world.
I became involved in Transition Exeter in 2007 as a positive way to help Exeter meet the challenge of climate change and become a low carbon community.
Promoting the Pound
Promotional films were made by Adam and Hannah of Enfable videographic company, who also trained student volunteers to make their own films. You can watch some of these videos at www.exeterpound.org.uk/shorts.
They also assisted with community engagement – running stalls and talking to members of the public and traders. I am so glad that we were able to draw on their skills.
The videos made our website lively and engaging. The films were also circulated on social media and were an important element of the publicity programme leading up to the launch in September 2015.
Launching the Pound
The launch went extremely well, with speakers including a local athlete – who figures on one of the notes – Molly Scott Cato (our Green MEP), and the councillor who had the vision to introduce the project to the City Council and our MP Ben Bradshaw.The Mayor Olwen Foggin spent the first Exeter Pound for a loaf of bread baked by the Real Food Bakery.
Many challenges faced us at launch, including raising public awareness in a city of 100,000, and raising enough funds to have the notes printed in time to launch.
However, with extremely hard work by staff and volunteers, we did it.
There were 100 traders at the launch. That number is now 130. There has been the inevitable dip in spending after the first flush of enthusiasm and publicity at launch, but some traders have a steady income in Exeter Pounds and others had increased custom in December as people did their Christmas shopping with Exeter Pounds.
Our challenges now are to keep up the momentum, to keep the Exeter Pound in the public eye, and to find continued funding for our staff until the currency circulation grows sufficiently to enable the Pound to become a viable business in its own right. Our immediate goal is to introduce an electronic version of the Exeter Pound to expedite large transactions and allow payment by text.