Blockchain — New Economy Infrastructure for Philanthropy and Social Good
Author: Renee Yang
I have worked in the blockchain space for 7+ months by now and have always felt fortunate that Melbourne has such an active blockchain community always willing to answer my countless questions. Still, I don’t always feel prepared for certain types of blockchain conversations and can find myself feeling lost when we venture too far into the technology.
That is not to say that I’m not passionate about the technology. In fact, I realized just how much I wanted to support the blockchain community within a few days of starting my first role in the industry, somewhat fueled by my personal experience of having parts of my life too exposed and too deeply entwined with my social media accounts. I found myself eagerly participating in conversations about how important the ownership of data is and the need to decentralize the collection of our personal information — the idea of using blockchain technology to take back some power from tech giants and return it to the people has always been powerful for me.
So when this theme was further explored by a panel of philanthropists and blockchain experts at a recent event from the perspective of doing social good, I was captivated. This event, called Blockchain — New Economy Infrastructure for Philanthropy and Social Good was hosted by the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub and the Blockchain Philanthropy Foundation to present and discuss their research into how blockchain technology can reshape the social impact space. The speakers talked about the currently existent gap in the way we measure impact and how we can use Blockchain to restructure the way we collect and share data. By creating a shift in the relationship between data collectors and data sharers, Blockchain can reorient the roles of benefactors and philanthropists, empowering the benefactors to be active participants in shaping how help is given to them. This is especially important for the social impact space because even small improvements in philanthropic processes can change the lives of communities.
This urge to rethink data markets stems from a need to objectively measure impact in philanthropic efforts.
Measuring impact in philanthropy is, needless to say, extremely important. Unfortunately, nonprofit organizations often don’t have the budget, time or resources to invest in systems that can collect good, quality data.
Current data collection systems are centralized, so even for organizations that own more developed data collection systems, their data likely only comes from their representatives, since people outside of these organizations are not properly incentivized to volunteer information. Plus, this knowledge is not often freely shared amongst philanthropic organizations and are kept on private databases. For an industry dedicated to providing public services, decentralizing data collection is vital so that the global sharing of valuable learnings becomes a priority, rather than a luxury.
Blockchain enables us to create systems where individuals are automatically compensated for their contributions and for every time their information helps someone else (through smart contract technology). People are incentivized through tokens to candidly share their accounts of philanthropic efforts that they have been involved in or influenced by. In my mind, I pictured it as a decentralized social media platform for crowd-sourced information on current NGO initiatives, a platform where sharing data is universally encouraged.
When knowledge sharing becomes democratized, we will be able to measure impact from the perspective of those receiving help in addition to the ones providing it.
If you think about how social media has been able to close the gap between consumers and businesses, blockchain technology can bring that same change to the to the social impact space. In this new and improved ecosystem where the voices of everyone is equally important and heard, we will be able to see a more genuine representation of how philanthropists are affecting change, giving us insight into how we can move forward in a more transparent and productive way.
This is just one manner (of many discussed on the day) in which Blockchain can have a positive impact on our society and our social impact initiatives. While this technology is still in its infancy and has a long way to go before maturing into something like the Internet, it’s important to have a long term view of where we see it going. It’s definitely encouraging to see some large players in every field actively participating in these discussions, offering honest perspectives that ask important questions before moving forward to yet another blockchain. I hope that we will see more and more careful discussions of the value of Blockchain and how it can be integrated to improve, rather than replace systems we already have in place.