Towards a local currency: interview with Encarna and Oriol of Santa Coloma

Encarna Díaz Herrera and Oriol Tuson Ganuza work for the City Council of Santa Coloma. Santa Coloma is a municipality of roughly 121,000 people on the fringe of Barcelona. Nice location, you would think? True, but it certainly also has its drawbacks: with the biggest shopping centre of Barcelona a mere 15 minute walk from the centre of Santa Coloma, the local businesses lose heaps of clients to not only the shopping centre, but also the city centre of Barcelona, its surrounding area, Internet…

The City Council of Santa Coloma is committed to help local businesses get more business and to increase local employment. They have joined the DigiPay4Growth project and have already started a buy local campaign. The City Council will start soon to channel social /cultural and sport subsidies through a local business and consumer circuit in order to give these subsidies “a larger effect” in the local economy. Or, in economic terms, they want to increase the monetary multiplier effect of their public spending.

Encarna and Oriol’s eyes sparkle while telling us (Graham Wooddruff and Suzanne Olivier) proudly about their project.

Why is the City Council participating in this project?

“The city council detected that a large part of public spending that the council regularly does not have an effective return on the local economy. The time has come for the City Council of Santa Coloma to support local retail and encourage responsible consumption. Increasing the multiplier effect of the cash flows of the public administration can improve incomes of businesses.

Besides this, all tourists, but also most locals, are going to Barcelona and other surrounding places to do their shopping. By participating in this project we want to create a different relationship between local people and local commerce. The DigiPay4Growth project gives us a tool to change and support a better relationship. This project is an innovation, a creative project and it is different from other projects.

What will this mean for local employment?

“Firstly, the goal is to keep local companies from going out of business, to stop and reverse this process that is happening. We want to give businesses a tool to survive, to stop the unemployment increasing, such is the case now. Then the goal is to help local businesses grow, receive more turn-over and then to stimulate the employment processes as a result of that.”

What is the difference between me spending Euro’s in the local shops of Santa Coloma and me spending in your new “digital claims” in the local shops of Santa Coloma. Is it not the same?

“If you spend the Santa Coloma “claims”, then you pass on the obligation to spend local. The local shop then also needs to spend this “claim” locally whilst engaging with other local enterprises. You pass on the values of buying local. “

This is a bit of a tongue twister, speaking about digital claims, why is there no name yet?

“We want to ask the people to choose a name that they can relate to. Participation of local businesses and people is fundamental to this project. We will have a citizen participation plan soon for local people to suggest a name that represent the Santa Coloma local identity and businesses.”

And so it is that I leave Bristol wondering what the name of the “currency” will be that I will be spending when I visit the Costa Brava next year when I buy local. Not in Barcelona, but in Santa Coloma.

This interview was done by Suzanne Olivier of the Social Trade Organisation and Graham Wooddruff of Bristol Pound) at the Bristol New Economy Summit, October 2015.

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