Lies, damn lies and poor excuses!’
So ran my post looking at the ways poverty is variously defined to reveal (or disguise) the impact of austerity within local communities across the UK.
The deeper the effects of service cuts and reducing household income may bite, the more we need creative responses to embed support for local community groups and social enterprises. These are the organisations which provide the ‘social glue’ holding communities together. So:
… is it possible to tie public agencies, communities, individuals and businesses together in such a way that can consistently and progressively address the well-being of communities?
… can this be done by building social capital to the benefit of all involved including the most vulnerable within a community?
… can it be done in a way which restores dignity to those affected by poverty?
Kindly.com says ‘yes’ and aims to demonstrate how!
I’ll hand over to our guest blogger then – Mike Riddell, co-founder of the Kindly.com platform to explain more …
The Neighbourhood Economist
Development of community loyalty points, which aim to give a leg-up to people living on the poverty line, is progressing steadily.
The points aim to become the world’s first digital community currency specifically aimed at alleviating economic hardship and promoting social value.
A Bitcoin-style ‘crypto-currency’, will allow people to earn digital credits in return for voluntary work or contributions to their local community. The tokens would then be redeemable against goods and services provided by participating companies and organisations.
Kindly.com and its social sector partners are expecting that councils will opt to support the idea so that people will be able to use points in part payment of core expenses like council tax, rent and business rates.
The idea for the digital currency came about as a result of anti-poverty work carried out by Hull City Council welfare rights and financial inclusion teams.
Community or complementary currencies are nothing new. They have been used throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to fill the void when national currencies or welfare systems fail. In recent years, initiatives such as the Brixton and Bristol Pound have achieved success retaining spending power within their own communities.
Money is generally loaned into existence as debt; community loyalty points will be earned into existence against the completion of defined socio-economic outcomes.
The objective is to stimulate grass roots activity that is measurable and which serves the public interest thus giving funders an opportunity to commission specific outcomes that the community get paid to deliver.
It also gives big business an opportunity to support such activity.
Individual users will carry their own password-protected wallets on smart phones or other devices so that transactions will automatically update their points balance.
For the scheme to take off, residents must be able to use the points to buy things they actually want.
Councils could agree to back the currency, for instance by accepting payments of points against written-off council tax, rent and business rate arrears.
Business could play a part, redeeming the currency for low-risk, low-value commodities, such as off-peak services or unsold tickets for one-off events.
This helps them unlock stored value in expensive and underutilised assets like football clubs, cinemas and theatres. The community loyalty points can help these businesses develop pricing that rewards social outcomes and increases the use of their facilities.
It also helps them to capitalise on the personal and community connections that are difficult for online companies to establish.
Harnessing the power of the markets to deliver social outcomes is all a part of the sharing economy. Advances in technology can now unlock the stored value in underused resources and match it with unmet needs.
Potentially it’s a win for business, a win for community and a win for individuals.
Mike Riddell, co-founder of Kindly.com