Stroud Pound: A Local Currency to Map, Measure and Strengthen the Local Economy
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This paper details the first two years of the project to develop the Stroud Pound: one year of planning and preparation, the launch and a year’s operation of the scheme. Its authors were both closely involved in the scheme, one as a Director of the Stroud Pound Co-operative, the other during a six-month internship with Transition Stroud. The paper is therefore a view ‘from the inside’ rather than a disconnected academic account. The aim of the Stroud Pound, in keeping with the Transition focus on resilience, is to strengthen local economic links and the size of the local multiplier. However, as both authors noticed, it can also be used as a research tool to explore the dynamics of a local economic system and the motivations of the various participants. This paper uses this potential research function of a local currency to provide an in-depth profile of the local economy of Stroud, within the theoretical focus on Transition-related activity.
The paper falls into three main parts. First an account of the literature exploring the potential of local currencies will be provided, focusing especially on the work of Silvio Gesell (1929) and his emphasis on the relationship between monetary circulation and economic regeneration, including his concept of demurrage. This discussion will be linked to the role local currencies can play in both effecting community regeneration and strengthening and reducing the ecological impact of local economies. The second section will provide a brief account of the local economy of Stroud, before moving on to discuss in detail the design of the Stroud Pound and a history of its first year of life.
The third part of the paper will consider how a local currency enables environmentally focused community activists to learn more about how their local economy works. A priority for Transition Stroud is to use the local currency to encourage more local production by means of import substitution, displacing production as well as consumption from the global to the local economy, rather than just switching numeraire. The Stroud Pound has also provided a tool to measure the extent of local economic activity, a function which has been enhanced by the undertaking of a detailed local survey. Finally, the role of the new currency in strengthening the local economy of Stroud and the surrounding region will be undertaken. Here, the iconic nature of a currency, as opposed to, for example, a Buy Local campaign, will be explored, with particular emphasis on the physical design of the notes and local people’s responses to images representative of Stroud as a local economy of the past, and the future.