All Wales Roll Out of Wales Community Currency planned for the Summer:

The Celyn, Wales’s Community Currency project, has announced that it is looking at full Wales rollout this summer, having secured partners and moved discussions significantly forward with funders. Last summer the Celyn project concluded its pilot, having built, trialed and tested all of its apps.

Thomas Greco, considered the World’s leading author on alternative currency, says that “The future of money is Mutual Credit and not Bitcoin" , with the Belgian Economist, Bernard Lietear, suggesting that the little known Mutual Credit system is “Switzerland’s best-kept secret”.

Can Wales now do the same?

Eifion Williams, author of Circular Wealth Wales and CEO of Circular Communities Cymru, consulting communities across Wales on their specific needs. He then lived and worked with Europe’s place-based Complementary Currency systems in 2019, actively looking for a model that could meet Wales’s community concerns:

“I never had the option to work in my own home village. The thirty or so shops, institutions and services that had once prospered in Bwlchgwyn, North Wales, gradually disappeared as I was growing up. I witnessed pressures on finding work, pressures on community stability, and pressures on the Welsh language too. For me, this is deeply personal. When I found Mutual Credit, I just couldn’t sit back.”

But what exactly is Mutual Credit, and if Wales is now getting ready to have such an economic system, how does it work and what impact can it have?

Let’s imagine two businesses in a Welsh town exchanging goods that each need to be able to operate – a transaction that perhaps happens informally every day. If there was an imbalance, one receiving goods worth £50 less than those given, then cash could be given to make up the shortfall or, alternatively, an ‘I owe you’ could be issued. That’s just barter, nothing radical or new there. However, if the IOU could be used within a membership of other community businesses, stretching to the next town and across Wales, then something wholly different has been created i.e. a currency.

Swiss businesses use the WIR and are old hands at using Mutual Credit to their advantage. Using Mutual Credit saves money and keeps local businesses open. In Sardinia, during the 2008/10 downturn, hundreds of local businesses and many more jobs, were saved from going to the wall .

But the story doesn’t end with small businesses and that’s where things get even more exciting with employee offers and a public card. According to Eifion Williams:

“With Sardex Pay, now Italy-wide, local businesses offer surplus credits to employees for overtime and Christmas bonuses, credits that are spent right across Italy’s local business faction, strengthening the very communities those businesses serve. I saw this work in a town called Serremana, its High Street once again bustling after a period of decline. I didn’t see any other currency type come anywhere near to this. It means more than thriving centres, Mutual Credit could be the lifeline the Welsh, and consequently the Welsh language, now need.”

Sandwich Board2

Beyond the core mechanism of Mutual Credit having the capacity to rejuvenate community, with the obvious positive knock on effect on the Welsh language, the Celyn team have disclosed that part of the membership structure will include incentivisation for small business to embrace bilingualism, recycling and renewable energy. It’s getting those kind of partnerships in place to ensure delivery, that has shaped the preparatory work the Celyn team have been engaged in over recent months.

Mutual Credit doesn’t use the cryptography of the speculative models, models whose huge consumption of energy, equivalent to the usage of a country the size of Denmark, came under increasing criticism at COP 26 in the autumn. So, is the time therefore right for Celyn and the world in which we find ourselves right at this moment? Circular Communities Cymru, who have led the charge and built the Celyn from the ground up, intends to cut the umbilical cord in the run-up to the summer. Their website states:

“Community Benefit Society is now being established, consisting of Wales’s sector leads and other partners. The Celyn will be rooted and owned by Wales. The structure will be one of non-profit – distributing and ploughing income into its own growth for the good of Wales’s communities, SMEs and the environment.”

Commenting on the preparation period over the autumn months since the pilot, Rob Little, Director of MSS Group who employ over 200 people in Wales, said:

“This is no standard business start-up, it’s a new institution for the whole of Wales. The Swiss Mutual Credit model accounts for 17% of all businesses in the country with annual trade being equivalent to nearly 2% of the economy. If you want to scale those heights, you don’t rush at it. We brought the founder CEO of UK Charity Bank out of retirement to help us position the Celyn as a viable model for start-up investment.”

A country the size of Wales, according to the Celyn team, provides just the right level of critical mass needed in terms of community-facing SMEs, employees and customers. Wales can replicate the success seen in other countries and Welsh communities can come to the table and benefit from Mutual Credit.

Through this form of exchange of surplus goods and services, participating SMEs are able to preserve their current account, weathering economic storms and maintaining local jobs, as well as promoting a circular economy by making full use of scarce materials and resources - thus providing a major contribution to Wales’s Circular Economy ambitions

Jackie Milton, supporter of the Celyn Project from the Robert Owen Community Bank, said:

“Mutual Credit benefitted the Sardinian SME economy to the tune of 50 million Euros last year alone. Wales is similar to Sardinia with SMEs making up 99 percent of our businesses in Wales, so this has the potential to significantly boost the economy in rural Wales.”

 

The Celyn Window Sign