Blockchain & Social Innovation
For most of the 20th century, the world of business followed the principle of ‘greed is good;’ so long as profits kept going up, it would ultimately mean the betterment of society at-large.
This excess manifested itself in the 2008 global financial crisis, and since then people have been questioning whether greed is a good mentality to have.
In response to this event, a growing movement known as social entrepreneurship & innovation began to surface. This movement championed the ‘triple bottom-line’ principle – the idea that businesses can and should maximize profit – but not at the expense of the people and our planet.
Two signals collide in line
As a concept, social innovation has been around for quite some time, but only recently has blockchain become part of the equation.
In the earliest days of social innovation, blockchain and cryptocurrency was simply a bunch of noise in the tech world that is only now surfacing itself as more of a signal.
This noise, called decentralization, began as a small part of an ideology that aligned itself with the political thought of anarchism, which is why Bitcoin was generally perceived as a tool mostly good for covert and/or criminal activity.
The philosophy of decentralization, however, has evolved with the times just as “hacking” has as well and is now embraced by the mainstream as a good thing (re: hackathons, etc.). Issues include such things as land rights, financial aid, climate change, human trafficking, and global health, are just a few global challenges that blockchain has the power to impact through social innovation.
The philosophy of decentralization now applies to nearly everyone. From the average Canadian Facebook user to the average African small business owner to the average Chinese manufacturer, the world is now more of a global village than ever before.
Two signals grow in tandem
As technological signals and societal trends become more noticed in today’s world, they find synergies with one another that further builds the connection between blockchain and social innovation.
The reason for this connection stems from the fact that blockchain protocol requires consensus to occur, is traceable, immutable, transparent, secure, tamperproof, private, as well as ultimately ‘trustless.’
The concept of ‘trustlessness’ isn’t about lacking trust between two parties – it’s about not needing the trust of a central authority to ensure a transaction between two parties can and will occur. Due to this quality, such things as cross-border payments or remittances can occur without friction, the tracking of supply chain materials can occur seamlessly, and the banking of the close to 2 billion unbanked in this world can occur without corruption getting in the way.
Given innovations in trustlessness, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as decreed by the United Nations are now becoming more of a model for companies to follow as companies begin to adopt the belief that ‘doing good is good for business’ and that the ‘triple bottom-line’ is the only bottom-line.
Those in the blockchain and cryptocurrency spheres have begun to use their voice to spearhead the fight towards those SDGs and are some of the loudest in doing so.
Further, global organizations such as Blockchain for Good, Blockchain for Social Impact, as well as the Ixo Foundation have popped up in response to these SDGs such as climate change.
What about the Canadian signals?
Canadians represent some of the loudest in the social innovation movement:
“There has always been a theme in the blockchain community around the technology’s potential to help the world’s most disadvantaged people. Even the sector’s most basic implementations are poised to have a significant impact on populations that have been chronically underserved by their governments and the private sector.”
Anne Connelly, Founding Member: Ixo Foundation
Connelly, a Canadian, is steering the Ixo Foundation to focus on social innovation ‘proof impact’ using blockchain technology.
The plan is to capture impact reports created by service providers on a global blockchain known as the Global Impact Ledger. These reports will be validated via the consensus model upon which blockchain is based, and funding can then be exchanged for a tokenized version of this impact claim. With this process, impact work can be optimized to match the SDGs.
On top of Ixo, the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) in Toronto, a hub for startups with an explicit socially conscious mission, is the first of its kind in North America. The organization recently expanded to New York City, where Blockchain for Good and Blockchain for Social Impact are originally based.
In the blockchain-for-social-innovation space specifically, a recent ICO (partnered with the CSI) became the first OSC-regulated centred on the concept of impact investment was born in Montreal, called Impak Finance.
As blockchain technologists begin to see how the very thing they’re creating is being used, they’ve slowly come to realize the power they possess in their fingertips to make the world better and make a profit, instead of only focusing on money over everything else.
Using blockchain in social innovation is a relatively new phenomenon, but the drive is there from creators and the opportunity is huge.
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