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Cities explore feasibility of a city-wide currency

Following a workshop on the use of Colu’s digital city-wide currency, two cities are expected to launch and implement such a currency in the near future.

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Representatives from a number of cities took part in the workshop
Representatives from a number of cities took part in the workshop

Israel and UK-based payment technology company Colu has introduced City Currency as a “city-wide digital currency”, intended to motivate residents towards impactful positive behaviours that help build city resilience.

 

Following a workshop for senior policy makers from six cities across the world, the company also announced “at least two” will be selected to launch and implement City Currency within the coming months.

 

The workshop, which took place last month, examined how a city-wide digital currency can help their cities become more resilient. Previously, Colu had issued a challenge to members of the 100 Resilient Cities Network (100RC) giving them the chance to use City Currency.

 

City-wide reward scheme

 

City Currency operates within Colu’s payment app as a city-wide reward scheme, which follows a similar economic logic to frequent-flier miles programmes.

 

However, unlike these programmes, it promotes a city’s specific interests and is added to Colu’s wallet in return for actions which help meet community priorities. City Currency can be distributed by city authorities and partners, to be spent across the city.

 

According to Colu, it allows cities to engage residents, local businesses and city institutions through their everyday transactions. Impactful positive behaviours include increased local spending, healthy living, recycling, civic activity and beyond.

 

“I think a city currency could really help us solve some of the city’s problems,” said Grainia Long, commissioner for resilience, Belfast City Council, who was one of the participants in the workshop. “It could reward good behaviour, it could reward and encourage young people to spend locally in the city. It could encourage more cycling by more students and young people. And it could encourage happier behaviours.

 

"So I think there is a real opportunity for the city council, universities and anyone interested in young people and health and education to use a city currency to build a really strong ecosystem for the city of Belfast.”

“By providing a tangible reward for positive actions, not only does City Currency help achieve city goals. It also brings the different elements of the city closer to each other by working towards common goals”

Representatives from the cities participating in the workshop – Belfast, Porto Alegre, Milan, Addis Ababa, Cape Town and Tel Aviv-Yafo – underwent a thorough application process which reviewed the long-term challenges and the potential shocks and stresses faced by each city.

 

The workshop then focused on how City Currency could help tackle these issues, by bringing together stakeholders from across the city to work towards shared goals.

 

“We are thrilled to have hosted this workshop with member cities from across the global 100RC network. It gave city officials a glimpse into the future. They can now see exactly what City Currency would look like in their city, including the very real benefits for their residents, for local businesses and other stakeholders,” said Amos Meiri, CEO and co- founder, Colu.

 

“By providing a tangible reward for positive actions, not only does City Currency help achieve city goals. It also brings the different elements of the city closer to each other by working towards common goals.”

 

City challenges

 

The first day of the workshop saw each city outline its characteristics and specific challenges. These included anything from social inclusion, to green issues, mobility, economic regeneration and beyond.

 

Assessing the city’s composition, demographics, geography and existing services for residents and businesses, representatives were able to build a “city map”, to highlight where City Currency might have the greatest impact. From this, potential use-cases were discussed.

 

Participants visited Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood, where they experienced how City Currency might look in practice, visiting a variety of cafes, restaurants and independent businesses which already accept payment through Colu’s app.

 

Tel Aviv is one of four cities in Israel and the UK in which Colu currently operates a mobile app for local transactions. The app currently empowers more than 200,000 people to make transactions at some 2,000 local businesses, accounting for over 300,000 monthly transactions.

 

During day two of the workshop, city representatives worked intensively alongside Colu to pinpoint exactly how City Currency might operate in their city. Issues discussed included potential partners, user- and merchant acquisition and the regulatory landscape.

 

The workshop represented a significant step towards deploying City Currency. Colu will now work alongside the participating cities, to determine whether and how it might be implemented.

 

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