As Bristol Pound transitions into Bristol Pay, and begins looking into the future, it is useful to look at others who have tried to use alternative currencies to create lasting social change.
One idea came from Hull, where residents used blockchain technology to create a platform that can reward positive social behaviour, support local businesses and, in theory, lift people out of poverty.
In this blog, we’ll be looking at the concept behind HullCoin, how the scheme works and what can be learned about how blockchain can be used for good.
How does it work?
Hull Coin uses blockchain technology to form a decentralised local currency that can be used to get discounts at businesses around the city. Although similar to Bristol Pound in some ways, the currency is not linked to Pound Sterling, and can only be earned by carrying out positive social actions, such as volunteering.
Charities, youth centres, schools, job centres and prisons are among the institutions that can issue the coins. The value of the coins are dependent on the positive impact they have on the community. Even personal choices, like giving up smoking, can earn coins because they reduce the burden on local health services.
The Hull Coin app keeps a record of an individual’s current and past coins, and this record can be shown to employers as a sort of social CV.
The management team explained the appeal of the scheme for businesses:
“Businesses love discounts because they create footfall. But this is discounting without devaluing the brand. Every discount they give for a HullCoin links them to something supporting the local community.”
What can we learn?
Hull City Hall, illuminated in celebration of winning the 2017City of Culture award.
Arguably HullCoin’s most powerful principle is its acknowledgement that not every contribution to society is valued by the mainstream economy. In a system where the price of every good and service is determined by its exchange value, rather than its social impact, many types of voluntary work are excluded because they aren’t deemed ‘valuable’.
The past few months have put into perspective just how invaluable a role the voluntary sector plays in our society, and the importance of community networks has never been clearer.
HullCoin’s strength comes from the way that it prioritises these sectors and networks that are neglected by our economic system, and values work on the basis of its social impact – something that rarely comes into consideration in the mainstream economy – and, perhaps more significantly, raises the question: “why not?”