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Update . . or,  Up up & away date!        (by        Mike Riddell)

Update . . or, Up up & away date! (by Mike Riddell)

12 Oct 2018
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This is a Blog Post / General Update / Notes from the CounterCoin Core Team Meeting on 11th October 2018 . . . .

So why this format?


Adam from Crypto Bates Group and Mel from Keele Uni have been asking me to produce notes from the meetings they can’t attend.

Given the amount that’s going on and the number of people involved, this is a good idea.

I’ve decided to post the notes as a biggish blog, to inform the wider CounterCoin community about what’s going on here in the Potteries and Newcastle.


Attending today’s meeting


Were Nickala from UnLtd; Narina from Cultural Squatters; Steve Terry from VAST; Sonya from Bababaoon; Gary and Mike from Hometown Plus.


The graph


Gary has reported that the graph is plateauing out. (Gary, please can you post the graph in a separate blog as I want to get this note out today?). This is probably because, in the absence of funding and of a system, we’ve reached the maximum number of people we can reasonably communicate with, so member engagement and member growth, is levelling out.

We simply don’t have the capacity to service any more people. In fact, we’re doing not such a great job of keeping the existing community aware of the progress we’re making. So this blog post will hopefully go some way towards updating those people who are a bit more remote from the front-line action here in Newcastle and Stoke.

***A shout out to the crews in Salford, Hereford and Leeds – please stay tuned and get in touch with suggestions on practical ways to involve you guys more) ***


Update on “The CounterCoin Challenge”


This very important event is taking place on the 21st November….Read more about it here soon.


It’s important because it will demonstrate that we can organise and coordinate collective action activities and mobilise human resources with very little money (£400.00), and without any kind of system to help.

We are not guaranteeing success, just to do the best we can with what we’ve got to do it with. The amount of goodwill being poured into the project is just amazing and a big thanks if you are involved in any way whatsoever. It’s already a success as far as I’m concerned so let’s keep pushing to see how far we can go on the back of the momentum already generated.

**goodwill rocks! **

There is a load of stuff that still needs to be pulled together in time for the 21st to happen.

Nicky Twemlow’s (of the YMCA) mum for example is finishing off the Captain CounterCoin outfit. It’s kind of modelled on this…

(although obviously we’re not having a dollar sign on our cap’n!) and this

Of course it’s only for a laugh, and we’re hoping that the YMCA will do their own mascot which will get together with the Keele Uni mascot so that we end up with a 3-way mascot photo opp! (Anything to spread the word dear reader – which reminds me – if you have any mad ideas, please send ‘em my way – the madder the better).

One of Narina’s volunteers – Ash – has volunteered to become Captain CounterCoin. We love that. He was Spiderman on the opening day of the Cultural Squatters:

Congrats on your promotion, Ash! (photo credit: The Sentinel)

So The CounterCoin Challenge press release is essentially asking for corporate sponsors to ‘reveal themselves’. We’ve already heard that Valentine Clays are going to fund all the clay for us and we’re just awaiting confirmation before we run some sort of story to promote their involvement and generate some positive PR for them and their team.

A big thanks to Margaret Michell – chair of the amazing Social Value Forum at the Staffs Chamber of Commerce – who really is a well-connected and fantastic tour-de-force for business-done-better in Stoke & North Staffs. (By the way, if you haven’t heard about the work that the chamber are doing in and around Social Value – then where have you been? This is ground-breaking stuff that will change the face of business – no kidding!).

The very next thing we need to produce – comms wise – for the Challenge is a physical leaflet and digital flyer. Here’s a copy of the working version so you get a feel for what we’re trying to say. As of today’s date it does need tying back to the messages in the press release, and it does need designing properly (a big thanks to Shona – we love the fact that you’re a Staffs Uni undergraduate in graphic design that’s helping us to help you develop our unique look and feel! Fab, just fab! As we grow, you grow)


(Crikey, this is turning into a newsletter but hey-ho – better out than in!)


Next week, Sonya (our ace comms gal from Babababoon.co.uk) and I are going to be running round the venues to say hi to our hosts – who we also want to thank. They are Roger from Fenton Manor; Anne from Art Stop Stoke; Narina from Cultural Squatters; Monica who is representing the Co-Operative Academy of Stoke on Trent and Roger from Tunstall Market.

We still haven’t found a place in Longton yet but if you know anyone or anywhere that might be willing to host, then do give us a shout.

We need to update the hosts on what to expect on the day. Nothing serious – we just need a table and chairs for about six people to ‘mint their own money’ (from clay!), and somewhere to put up some posters. Basically, a space like this:

Narina’s fab vols: Nicky, Chris and Tom (Photo: Fiona Woods)


The format for the day is drop-in-style. If you live local and want to bob along to make some money, then be our guest – between 10.30am and 2.30pm, apart from the Co-Operative Academy which will be between 4.00 and 6.30pm.

I suppose the challenge in the first instance is this: can we get the six towns of Stoke on Trent, and Newcastle, working together to promote a way of working across North Staffordshire that is more resourceful, more inclusive and more rewarding? We think we can so we’re running this experiment to find out for sure.

First up is to make some noise. That’s the whole idea behind Part 1 of The CounterCoin Challenge. Once we’ve ticked that box then the next big push is all around persuading the business community to get involved and redeem (“Pay with Clay”?)

Of course the beauty is that it doesn’t really cost the business community anything to get involved. Empty seats on buses, unsold tickets to the cinema or the footie game are simply a resource going to waste. Let’s help those businesses repackage that waste into rewards for community action and volunteering, and promote good corporate citizenship alongside good citizen citizenship!


IN this day and age, everything must be recycled.


The real challenge is engaging with the business community. Can we persuade the business community to get involved? We shall see. The bigger the business, the harder it is for them to connect with community.

This is a cultural disease that we call “Big-Company-itus”.

“Sorry, we’re too big to care”, just isn’t good enough. You need a culture shock.

Right, that’s enough about The CounterCoin Challenge! (As you can tell, it’s occupying my mind).


Update on Governance (by Brian)


Process for registration of CounterCoin Community Club Limited as a charity has begun BUT we need to appoint independent directors to take it forward – we’re waiting for some personal details to get that under way. Andy Arnott, Narina and Nicky Twem – we’re thinking of you! Steve Terry – full marks, 10/10!


Update on Delivery


Narina (gaffer at Cultural Squatters) is going to begin issuing CounterCoin to her vols as of Monday 15th. The Squat is a fab place to test things out in a relatively controlled environment. What we need to see for real, is how her vols react (what do they experience?); what questions do they ask when they are given the coin, and so on.

Narina and I think we know how it will be received but we don’t really know for sure, so this is the sure way to find out.

Then we need to get them spending the coin which means a visit to see Mick at the Lymelight Boulevard (ten pin bowling). Mick has been very supportive of CounterCoin and we are keen to support him back. That’s the purpose of the visit – how can we help each other to do more business.

We also want to pick up on Keele Uni’s suggestion that their leisure facilities could be included. Mel, I’ll be in touch.

If you haven’t seen our volunteers’ first trip to the bowl, here you go. (short video)

The Lymelight Boulevard in Newcastle (photo: Chris Parr)


What we need to finalise is the practicalities around a business like the bowl redeeming the coin. Will the cashier ‘get it’? How much discount do they offer? What happens to the coins I accept – do i return them, get to spend them…? Then there’s the till (the ‘point of sale’)…Etc.

There’s a million and one questions many of which we know the answers to and some that we don’t (but that doesn’t faze us)!

Now all of the above is part of the prototyping process that we use to develop the CounterCoin “Product” so that it’s fit for purpose (this is sometimes called getting the right product to market fit), before we start going digital.

Last week, our friend Stuart from Attain Digital in Wigan came to meet the team in Newcastle. He listened to our needs and jobs that need doing, and took his thoughts away to reflect. He’s beginning to scope out what he thinks the functionality will be necessary to launch what’s called an MVP (or minimum viable product). We will test the MVP in the Squat and probably up at Keele Uni where Mel and the team are itching to get cracking (we’re doing our best for you guys!). We might also do something with Gill and her team at Stoke CC (Gill do me that note please!)

Basically, there are two sides to the platform that we see in our minds eye. On the one side is the software that will be used by the likes of Narina and Mel to manage and coordinate and communicate with their volunteers (and reward them with digital CounterCoin that automatically credits their wallets when their work has been validated) and on the other side is the marketplace where we aim to give leisure venue operators like Mick a place for them to clear their unsold bowling sessions before the value evaporates completely. In this sense, CounterCoin is a tool for Mick to promote special offers that can only be redeemed by our members using CounterCoin. In that way it links earners and redeemers through the mechanism of a marketplace, but one that’s more inclusive and more sustainable.

Attain and Babababoon are working together to develop the ideas around the marketplace and we are looking forward to see what emerges. (Of course we still have to find the money to pay for the build, but hey, on the back of some +ve PR on the CounterCoin Challenge and a decent business and revenue plan that Brian is knocking together (thanks Brian) we think that raising £150k isn’t beyond our capabilities – but again, we need to test ourselves out).


Too much text…so here’s a photo of Nicky’s hand! (Fee Woods is our fab photographer – thx Fee)


And one of Chris, who’s just made a coin!

(What fab vols we have at the Squat – if only we had money eh Narina????!!!)


So, other things to cover in this update note….




Steve Terry (VAST – 3rd sector infrastructure providers) and Andy Arnott of NuL Borough Council have put forward some suggested outcomes that cover the financial and the social. The trick in what we do is to balance the outcomes for business and community. Must be win-win at all times.

Theirs are detailed outcomes that need further development in terms of how we capture and report them – all work in progress. Of course, funders will need to see them as well. Since our outcomes are half social-related and half business-related, we can court a wider group of funders/investors.

However, more immediate outcomes for The CounterCoin Challenge are a bit easier to define so let me have a go:

  1. To raise awareness that CounterCoin might be a potential solution to a variety of business and social problems (and that it needs everyone’s help to find out for sure)
  2. To get the coin-making activity under the noses of Gill O’Hare’s huge team of social workers at Stoke City Council
  3. Recruit more issuers (community groups, charities and social enterprises)
  4. Recruit more redeemers
  5. To make some noise so it makes it easier for Brian and I to raise some money to fund the next giant step for mankind! (Brian – I like that…can we use it in the pitch? 😉
  6. To have fun: “if we don’t have fun, they won’t take us seriously!”


Promotions & Brand Development


(I’m using the headings that Andy A suggested)


I think I’ve covered that above. The 21st November is Part 1 of The CounterCoin Challenge, a sort of collective warm-up exercise in prep for what’s to follow. Part 2 – before Christmas – will see us promoting the CounterCoin redeemers that offer their support so they feel the benefit of getting involved. And then we’ll be promoting the business plan to investors etc etc…

As far as brand development is concerned, well the brand is the brand and everyone involved in it needs to help shape it. So CounterCoin is CounterCoin – it’s growing roots in Newcastle and Stoke and I think it likes the soil there. If CounterCoin can help Stoke get itself back on the map for all the right reasons, then job done. (It’s all about developing a USP and a sustained legacy that positions the city in a more positive way!).

In terms of the look & feel of the brand, well I’ve already mentioned Shona’s involvement so let’s see where she takes it and how it emerges in terms of identity and tone of voice.


Funding, & the Revenue Model


I’ve covered the funding strategy above, but in terms of the revenue model, well the plan is quite simple. If we’re able to shift a load of tickets for say Port Vale FC – tickets that cost £25 and that wouldn’t have sold – then I think we’re entitled to split any £cash that our members can afford for a ticket, 50/50 with the venue. Sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander.

I also believe that we will end up with a membership model that makes it easier for corporates to invest in community action & volunteering, and in return, for our members to back them and their efforts. This might be a monthly fee.




  1. Vintage Volunteers. Steve thinks that the process of making clay CounterCoins will be very therapeutic for elderly people suffering isolation. Great for residential care homes he thinks. So, he’s going on the road to find out. Good on ya Steve!
  2. Community Transport. My hunch is that funding for community transport is about to be axed across many councils being squeezed by cut upon cut. This is a crucial support service that keeps isolated people connected. We resolved at the meeting to rise to this challenge and work on a solution. This is a logistical biggie that is fast becoming a priority. Watch this space.
  3. Safer Spaces. This is a Stoke CC backed kitemark programme that offers vulnerable people a safe space to head for if they’re having a mini meltdown. The Cultural Squatters is accredited for example. Other large venues such as theatres and cinemas are a part of the scheme also, so Steve wants to speak to Gill at the Council to figure out how collectively we might give these venues more of our business and tempt them in to the CounterCoin network.
  4. UnLtd’s Learning Journey. Nickala is organising an event at the Squat for 20 or so social entrepreneurs from around the UK to come visit Newcastle on the 23rd January. This will help put our collective work on the national map. How does this event tie back to the 21st November? How can we better promote UnLtd and the support they provide to people like us? We are exploring how better to join dots, speaking of which…
  5. CTRL Shift 2019. I was involved in the the 2018 event in Wigan. About 300 people over 3 days attending “An Emergency Summit for Change”. This year the summit is coming to Stoke. So where does this fit into our collective narrative? We’re thinking that it’s something like this (but still to be agreed):  ““from brexit capital to social capital – the role of alternative economics in a city like Stoke’.




Since this is a general update that is going far and wide, I’d like to remind you about our cause – the why we’re all doing this without getting paid.

Might I refer you to the fantastic CounterCoin objects clause that the fabulous Captain Sensible (aka Brian) has put together? When I read this, my heart swells with pride that we’ve been able to commit into writing our aims and ambitions.

Terrific work Brian Leyland, thanks buddy for caring enough to help make our collective dream come to life.

Well that’s if from me for now. I guess subsequent update notes (weekly, on a Friday) will be shorter. This is a one-off long-un to bring as many people up to speed as possible, but also to thank the many, many people that have been supporting CounterCoin thus far. Really and truly, we’re showing London how to do good business without any money or help from them, whatsoever. If this is a story about anything, it’s the story of a city that was slagged off to the high heavens, and when it got its act together it decided to embark on a fantastic journey – from the UK’s Brexit Capital to the UK’s Social Capital.

Can it become the epicentre for the opening up and subsequent social impact investment market? We think so. Let’s face it, the London-based Social Impact Bonds idea has been a first-class flop. In any event, we’re making our play and staking our claim.

Who else rises to the challenge remains to be seen but one thing’s for sure, the goodwill of Stoke on Trent and Newcastle under Lyme is the best in the UK, and with CounterCoin, we’re going to prove that it pays to #BeKind.

Cheers, Mike.  

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