by Gwyneth Holland
People Power is manifesting itself around Europe, as post-recession consumers increasingly take a pragmatic approach to building the communities around them. Regeneration initiatives have sprung up everywhere, and hyper-local currencies are even helping to keep cash flowing among locals.
Many Britons now embrace the idea of reshaping and reinvigorating their own communities. In this regard, a little help from the Design Council, or beverage giant Britvic’s rejuvenation fund, is much appreciated. In Finland, new website Brickstarter offers a crowdsourcing platform for backyard projects, to enable citizens to act locally.
Some citizen-fueled communities are going even further, sidestepping sovereign currencies and introducing their own, like the Bristol pound. The UK city’s residents can convert sterling into Bristol pounds (£B) at exchange points around the city and get a 5% premium for every £B deposit in the government-backed Bristol Credit Union. Around 300 independent businesses are taking part in the scheme, but big chains aren’t permitted, to help protect local traders. Similar initiatives have popped up in Spain, like the axarco silver coin, which is being reintroduced in the southern region La Axarquía, in Málaga, and Ireland, where the town of Clones is again accepting the defunct Irish punt as payment.
What This Means to Business
Many Europeans feel that the economy has let them down, and they’re leveraging technology and their consumer savvy to create new systems that suit their own needs. Initiatives range from growing and sharing one’s own vegetables to creating currencies and banking practices. This could be a dangerous position for bigger brands, but consumers know they are just starting out with many ground-up community-building efforts, and they appreciate a helping hand, whether that comes in the form of practical advice or funding. Brands are only just starting to get involved, but building community relationships in a useful and fundamental way could win trust for generations.