Parity is developing a business to business mutual credit system that will launch in the West Midlands in 2019. Over the past six months we have been engaging with a wide range of stakeholders within the West Midlands. We have hoped to learn what the environment is like for small businesses, so we can ensure the service we are developing can best meet their needs. We were lucky enough to be invited to speak at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Social Economy Taskforce at the West Midlands Fire Service Headquarters. The aim of this taskforce is to the develop the wide social economy within the West Midlands, this includes social enterprises, the voluntary sector and other community groups. The WMCA Social Economy Taskforce brings together knowledgeable stakeholders from across the West Midlands to help shape the future of these important sectors.
Attendees to the meeting included; iSE, School of Social Entrepreneurs, Social Enterprise UK, Birmingham Voluntary Sector Council, Big Society Capital and BSSEC. They were joined by local councillors and other experts from a range of social and community organisations in Birmingham and the West Midlands. The Taskforce discussed a range of issues that affected small businesses within the region, including finance. Access to short term liquidity was highlighted as a major issue and there are plans being developed to create community bonds to help finance small business expansion.
When I was asked to present Parity, I began by outlining the research on which the project was founded. We initially attempted to develop a Birmingham Pound and found that model to be financially unsustainable. We considered other models and found Sardex, Italy and the WIR Bank, Switzerland to be very interesting. These models support small businesses by providing access to interest free credit that allows businesses to purchase goods and services from other businesses within their networks. These models are very cost competitive compared to traditional finance and provide liquidity specifically for small businesses. I felt that the approach really does offer a solution to the problems highlighted by the Taskforce around small business access to finance. Parity hopes to develop its network through engaging with social enterprises within the region and ensure its services can be tailored to meet their needs directly.
If you are interested in seeing the presentation, you can access it here.
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