Higher Education Funding Council for England

Finance as a force for social good

Monday 22-09-2014 - 14:11
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Since the financial crash of 2008, it’s become increasingly obvious that our economic model isn’t fit for purpose. It has widened inequality, it has driven privatisation and it has left young people with a mess they didn’t create. In short, it’s not sustainable.

At Falmouth and Exeter Students’ Union, Students’ Green Fund is supporting economic alternatives for the 21st century, with the launch of a localised currency.

The benefits of a localised currency are truly exciting. When you spend money somewhere like a supermarket, not only does the money fail to effectively support the local economy, but there’s no guarantee that your money is supporting ethical ventures. With a localised currency, you can support the local community while adhering to your ethical and environmental values. Finance can become a force for social good.

“There is a separation between producer and consumer, often across continents and cultures”, says project coordinator Stephen Murphy. “Money flows in and out (although mostly out) of communities and into face-less, immoral corporations. A local currency is a mechanism to reconnect a community to the businesses, farmers, producers that provide for it”

The currency is guaranteed against the pound, and can be spent in one of fifteen local businesses who invoice the students’ union monthly. It's used as prizes and incentives for students’ union sustainability events, ensuring that the work’s impact radiates through shops which aren’t just local, but are built on an ethical sustainable business model. It could be the beginning of the first ever Cornwall-wide currency.

“It encourages community engagement, where local businesses can directly see the advantage of the funding in the local economy. This can help build bridges where possibly there is animosity between locals and students. It also guarantees that the funds invested are spent directly in the local economy and support rather than undermine our values”

Local businesses are already recognising the benefits of accepting the new currency. “It’s a good way to encourage people to consider the positive impact of spending money in local independent shops as opposed to supermarkets” explained Rob Kneebone, manager of the local essentials outlet Natural Store. “And for us personally, we love to get new people into the shop, who might not have known about us”

With the links between a globalised free market and negative environmental impacts becoming clearer and clearer, local currencies are an interesting way of rethinking economics. From the big picture ambition of reversing the excesses of neoliberal finance, to the smaller details of just getting to know the names of the people behind local counters, the positive social, economic and environmental impacts of the FXUNC are incredibly valuable.

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