The Currency of Collaboration

With a packed house for the evening we recently hosted our London Union Network Event at The Escalator, Barclays’ brilliant new innovation space and home to a vibrant community of start-ups, corporates, innovators, and investors.

Union’s format is 5 minutes and 5 slides, ending with an innovation ask, need or opportunity, and the quick fire nature allows for a fantastic range of views within an hour. One of the things we tell people about Union is that when you’re there, you’re one conversation away from pretty much anything and everything. This Union was no exception and was described by one guest as the ‘perfect innovative cocktail of curiosity and eclecticism’, which we rather like of course!


The theme of this Union was The Currency of Collaboration and our speakers explored how companies large and small are creating new ways to exchange meaningful value in financial services and beyond.  Here’s a pit stop tour through some highlights from the evening:

  • Mutaz Qubbaj from Squirrel introduced their new financial wellbeing platform aimed at enabling people on low incomes to regain control of their finances. As well as supporting the individual, benefits for employers include increasing productivity, reducing absenteeism and attracting talent. Squirrel are now rolling out and their innovation ask was to spread the word amongst employers to help in this next phase of piloting and user testing.
  • Nuno Olivera told the audience about the Method Money project, set up to ask the questionIf money was smart, would it have a personality? Their social experiment took five people and shared control of their finances with a set of autonomous digital agents, with a distinct personality such as mindful, jealous, hedonistic and adventurous and each one yielded fascinating and unexpected results.
  • Catch22’s Sarah Sinnott introduced their new programme, the Youth Venture Fund, to inspire youth led enterprises in less advantaged communities and offer tailored and practical support. Catch22’s innovation opportunity is for partners to help support the pilots of new initiative launching across the country in 2015. Sarah also announced that Catch22 are recruiting for a Programme Manager to support the new Fund.
  • Matthew McStravick described the Economy of Hours, a market place without money where businesses trade resources using the collaborative currency Echoes. Everybody’s time is valued equally irrespective of their trade, and well as delivering core business and trading dormant resources, members are now finding that an unexpected advantage is winning new commercial work through the trust building effect of the network.
  • An invitation to create new partnerships was offered by Kat Crisp, Head of Strategy and Innovation at Unicef. Their Innovation Lab already demonstrates impressive impact worldwide, but due to traditional aid, social and corporate landscapes being redefined, a new approach is needed. Collaboration is one of the keys and its vital to bring academia, business and non-profits together to continue to change the world for children.
  • Tom Shakhli talked to us about ‘old’ money and ‘new’ money, a brilliant example of which is the Brixton Pound, launched in 2009 with an aim to support independent businesses by keeping currency local. With Over £150,000 spent annually, 300 businesses involved and 2,000 registered e-currency users they are creating a big impact to build a more conencted community locally. The Brixton Pound already has an extremely sophisticated and connected user network and Tom’s innovation ask was for anyone with future-of-money idea that they would like to pilot with the Brixton Pound to get in touch.

Good collaboration always requires a mutual exchange of value, which could be money or something else entirely and all of our contributors at Union were a brilliant example. When these collaboration ‘currencies’ help cement the reciprocal relationships and community in which the exchange happens, then they become more powerful, more effective, and more useful. It’s certainly an exciting time for innovation in money, financial services and beyond, and we look forward to exploring this field more deeply over the months and years to come.

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