Santa Coloma launches local currency Grama

“I already have Wi-Fi in my shop, everything is ready to start receiving payments in the Grama currency,” says Cristina Meya, owner of the fruit store Horta Meya in Santa Coloma de Gramenet. On January 13th, the first 6.000 Gramas, the name of social currency, began to circulate throughout the city.

The City Hall intends that part of the public money invested in subsidies and salaries of public officials have an impact on local commerce. Cristina will now be able to receive her payments in cash, with a bankcard or through a mobile application that she rushes to show: “The client will make a transfer of Gramas to my account and I will also charge in this local currency.”

The Grama is not the first social currency of Catalonia, but it is the first currency to be established in a city with more than 117,000 inhabitants. In addition, Santa Coloma is the first town hall that channels public spending through a social currency. The Grama, which is equivalent to the euro, is not a physical currency. It is managed with an application that allows transfers from one user’s account to another user’s account using Internet and the mobile phone.

The reference for all these alternative currencies is the Bristol Pound, which was conceived in the English city of Bristol in 2012. Nowadays, many are giving more attention to the initiative of Santa Coloma as for instance, Ada Colau, the current major of Barcelona, who wants to implement a similar currency system in this city.

Santa Coloma Mayor, Núria Parlon, and her government team bet on the initiative three years ago. “The University Pompeu Fabra designed the project and thanks to the work of a consulting firm and an European financial aid of 132,000 euros, we have given form to the idea”, Parlon expresses proudly.

Oriol Tuson, from the Department of Commerce, Trade Fairs and Market, has been working on the Grama for some time and explains, “Of the public money that the Council allocates to subsidize local entities and to pay officials, only 30% is invested in stores of Santa Coloma. 70% is spent outside the city, mainly in Barcelona. ”

The president of the Trade and Industry Association, Laia Muñoz, expresses that “We need an instrument to get public money to stay in the city and help grow our businesses or prevent them from closing their doors, like so many has done in recent times. ” Despite being in an embryonic stage, the Grama is already giving results, Muñoz explains, because “we are rapidly digitizing the short circuit trade.”

The Mayor also maintains that, “Jobs will be created and it will also serve the businesses to create loyalty campaigns”. Another objective is to increase the circulation of money among businesses.

The social currency is already a reality. Cristina Meya in her fruit store and the owners of 124 additional shops, already have their mobiles ready to make the first transactions in Gramas.

This article was published in newspaper El País on the 30th of January 2017. Click here for the original article in Spanish.

The Santa Coloma project is part of the Digipay4Growth programme, coordinated by STRO: innovative digital currency projects in Bristol, Sardinia, Catalonia and the Netherlands.