Once a booming industrial leviathan, the city of Stoke-on-Trent has seen its crown as the epicentre of European ceramics production slip over the years.
A lack of investment, and waning attention from the government, have created one of the UK’s worst poverty paradigms, with the shocking statistic that deprived communities in Stoke face child poverty rates of 67%.
With two in three children facing life below the poverty line in the deteriorating city, a report released in June by Staffordshire University called for urgent and comprehensive action to tackle the destitution in Stoke.
#BeKind – a community currency
In 2007, when Bitcoin was still an idea in Satoshi’s head, Mike Riddell was working in commercial retail development in the North-West of England, and came across a loyalty point scheme offered by leading British retailer Tesco.
Riddell was struck by the utility of tokens to quantify and store unconventional forms of value.
By 2008, the financial crisis hit the commercial real estate sector hard, and for Mike – much like Satoshi – this was a turning point forcing a reassessment of the way we needed to engage with the world; and how he needed to engage with his community.
“I was once worth £76m on paper as a commercial property developer, within two years I was worth -£59m and went bankrupt – the banks will give you an umbrella when it’s sunny and ask for it back when it rains,” he explained.
“I’ve been in the back-end of their system and its not just individuals that it wrecks, look at the rivers, look at the pollution, look at the planet. We’ve got a problem on our hands and for me it’s not about charity – charity is not what people need – it’s about enterprise and we need to see it in the grassroots.
“We need to change and see that we do have value, it can liberate people, and that is what Satoshi has done for us, he revealed the art of the possible”.
Can tokens store social value?
Mike teamed up with community activists in Stoke-on-Trent to build a token system that can reward people for undertaking voluntary community work.
“The secret is to understand what’s in it for people that have been marginalised – that have very little,” he explained.
“When I ran a pilot for retailer loyalty tokens in Wigan – our whole idea was ‘putting the US in plus’.
“But people just said ‘we don’t care, where’s our discount?’ – you have to talk to people and you have to understand how they’re getting crushed, then you can help them find a way out”.
The #BeKind team established a community space, and began engaging. It quickly became apparent there was value to be unlocked through tokenisation of locked up community resources.
“The token is about eliminating waste, the biggest waste of all is the loss of a young person’s future – there is a cost for society and the economy,” he added.
“In poor economies like Stoke it’s not a lack of resources, it’s a lack of liquidity, resources are trapped up in the money system.
“Resources meant to be used are not set free, in Stoke the football club stands, the theatres, the venues, the buses – they’re sitting empty – you have to free up these resources in a way that celebrates the corporate decision to be an organisation that cares about local people.”
Stoke City FC gives back social value
Having acquired facilities for a new community centre (soon to be home to the UK’s first School of Crypto Art), Mike and the activists have laid the foundations to kick-off the #BeKind token in 2022. Soon it will be earnable by disadvantaged youths in Stoke, and redeemable in an ever-growing marketplace of organisations including seats at Stoke City FC.
Buy pressure on the token is expected to come from both for redeemable utility and token purchases as a means of donation by supportive investors.
Back in December, the #BeKind collective launched a partnership with CryptoBates which to assist with the technical components of the network.
“We want to minimise volatility in the token, and ensure it’s compliant with emerging British regulations,” added Mike.
“We’re not going the anonymous route, and we’re exploring proof-of-stake technology to reduce environmental concerns.
“With cryptobates on board, it’s clear there is an appetite for a token model that makes change not money, and we want to see community conceptualised as another dimension of investment in our lives – as it offers a new measure of success that reveals disadvantaged communities are often the wealthiest.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.