Social Value has been gaining focus since the Social Value Act 2012 came out in January 2013, requiring public sector contracts to consider including Social Value, asking bidders to offer added value within the community, assisting with the gaps that reduced funding has created.
Making the decision regarding which Social Value offering is more valuable is a subjective matter. How is it possible to understand if a career talk in a school will have more impact than that of an employability workshop? The decision would likely come down to someone believing in one more than the other, but this doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for the community.
With funding cuts and bottom lines to protect, companies want to be as effective and efficient with their investments as possible. Asking people to fill in feedback surveys will assist improvements to an extent, but company directors want to understand what it means in a language they understand – money.
At Seratio we use the Social Earnings Ratio (SER), we often use a combination of big data, social media and sentiment analysis, although only positive sentiment is measured, with company financial value to calculate the total value. The metric uses a citizenship framework and the same algorithm, no matter what size the organisation is, the Social Earnings Ratio metric provides a financial value making results easy to articulate and understand.
SER results show $ for $ how effective a social investment has been, encouraging positive change where required. At Seratio we work with public and private companies through the tender process, analysing offerings made by bidders and providing a financial figure, to enable procurement teams to make an objective decision regarding the Social Value offerings.
Below is a table which displays an example of the Value of Social contributions from a tender process. This table content demonstrates the previous level of understanding of what is required. Public contracts only ask for 20% Social Value, 52% is unusually high and leaves a question as to whether the bidders here understood that they would be monitored throughout the contract should they be successful and win.
At Seratio, we support the procurement teams throughout the tender process, from the Selection Questionnaire (SQ, also known as the PQQ) right through to the assessment of the applications, providing a detailed report which include results like the table above, enabling procurement teams to make an objective decision. If insufficient data is provided we seek further information.
Social Value has been a challenge for bidders to understand, because they have had no way of knowing the true value of their offering, and some not providing required data, even with support.
To resolve this issue, we have built an online portal which enables bidders to enter data to calculate and understand the true Social Value of their offerings. Bidders can enter the details required, for each of their offerings and the portal calculates the financial value for them.
Details required for the calculation include the cost of the project and an approximation of people who will benefit and asks for an estimation of positive feedback. The bidder can experiment with the data they enter so they gain an understanding of the value they will create from the offering and provides them with a benchmark of the desired impact.
Having a target stimulates focus and drive to achieve it, Social Value is often full of promises, but not always fulfilled. This process encourages people to take ownership of their offerings and targets to assist with the successful achievement of them.
The vision for the Bidders Portal is to offer a free service to organisations which encourages them to include Social Value within their contracts, this will enable bidders to understand the true value of their promises and commit to achieving them. The results enable suppliers to offer their teams a KPI to achieve and communities benefit from more Social Value projects.
We have tools that can manage and monitor the process throughout the contract, although this is not a free service.
Another potential KPI is Modern Slavery. We have developed a metric which calculates the risk levels within an organisation www.modernslavery.uk
It is a very quick and easy process, asking for a few details, which must all come from the latest published financial accounts; financial year, total salary, total staff and the results of the staff survey for that financial year.
We provide a RAG result which enables organisations to review their results and proceed with the necessary changes to resolve the issues. It identifies where the Modern Slavery risk is in the supply chain. Protecting the brand and investing in the people and reputation of the organisation. The results are not shared with anyone. Below is an example of a RAG result.
In time there is hope that organisations will make Social Value and Modern Slavery a priority, a KPI, to be able to prove they understand what impact they are making on people’s lives and make improvements where required, to provide the best possible service, treating all their employees fairly, making the greatest positive impact that they can.
We also recognise that people may not feel comfortable whistle blowing, in fear that their anonymity is at risk. We have set up a sight for anyone who feels there are issues within their organisation, an anonymous whistle blowing site www.modernslavery.uk which enables us to pass on the information received to the named organisation, but with peace of mind to the person providing the information, feeling safe using an external independent organisation.
It is important for people to feel they can be honest without judgement or fear of consequences for doing what they feel is right, and for companies to understand if there are issues within their work place, so that they can be resolved.
For more information about Seratio Limited and our services, please visit www.seratio.com
The Online University where “The Best” get rewarded with a job opportunity
Blockchain Education Program
Everywhere I go at the minute, the world is talking about Blockchain, and its abilities to solve many problems, the ability to fix the world, the stories are fascinating, I have met people from all walks of life, people who work on the track for Jaguar Land Rover, CEO’s of corporations, the Head of HR for Global brands whilst zip wiring in Snowdonia, they all want to know about Blockchain and what does it actually mean for them.. Plus how much money can they make on the Crypto stuff? Confusion everywhere.
I haven’t seen this much excitement since the days of the internet and Social Media, the difference right now is that with the Internet and Social Media is available there is tons of information; but still not many places to go that you can learn and trust the information being given.
An opportunity exists right now for an online University / training programme, managed by Practitioners, the people who have worked with the technology for many years, the team who have completed practical real-life delivery of real projects, not just those who have been on a course and now claim to be experts, a team who fully understand Blockchain and its potential, a team who can create a career path once the learning is complete for the student.
So we are creating an online Blockchain Strategy Program, for students from all walks of life, professional individuals or just curious people can subscribe to the program and immerse themselves and learn about Blockchain, with our six-week full on program.
Content is being written, the platform is being prepared, and the marketing machine is already turning.
Students will be given a certificate of learning from a recognised practitioner organization, Rothbadi & Co.
Pathway to Success
The program is designed to provide a pathway for those students who want to learn, want to test and then want to implement using Blockchain.
Firstly students will subscribe to our six-week course; this will then provide them with a certificate for the ones who pass the course successfully, this will enable them to use this certificate in the real world as they have learnt from the elite providers (Rothbadi & Co), giving them credibility to any prospective employer or partner.
Secondly, for those students who wish to progress, Stage 2, an online learning centre with access to our many online live consultants, whereby students will have their own idea, and we will help them test their concepts and take them through to a final proof of concept. (We may decide that we wish to support them beyond this stage and help deliver or share the knowledge).
Lastly, unlike any other training provider, Rothbadi & Co are in a unique position whereby the students who pass through phase 2, the best of the best could be offered a consultancy contract with Rothbadi & Co, providing them with the capacity to earn back the fees paid upfront. (“Money Back”)
Content & Platform
Alongside the above, Rothbadi &Co are working with several universities who are helping to compile the content for the courses.
We will also be working with larger organisations to allow them test Blockchain, a light touch, several week consultancy service, whereby they will bring a problem, and we will show them the result using Blockchain; this will provide them with the information to decide to go or not go with this exciting technology.
Follow on consultancy will be offered beyond this stage should the corporate decide to progress.
Figure 1 World’s first quiet treehouse provides safe magical haven in a noisy world. Image source: Inhabitat
The main pillar of the decentralized society of the future is decentralized governance. In this paper the concept of blockchain organizations is developed to strengthen community participation on the decision-making process in a first move opening room for subsequent incremental improvements.
Power and Governance
For millenniums power has been strongly associated with governance roles. The roman army brought a great revolution for its time with a novel governance model, it was highly hierarchized and followed a 10 to one fashion. With this technological breakthrough romans could become the greatest ever empire on earth. Still today organizations concentrate power following a similar scheme.
Ten to one means:
A commander is a commando and has besides his, the power of its 10 underlying commandoes
A commando can also be a commander with another underlying set of 10 commandoes.
To better understand the roman power model, a two to one scheme is presented on Figure 2. In this example, the cohesiveness of the organization depends on the strength of the six instance-links. The main problem about this governance model is that it was conceived to make war, not peace. A “enter war” order from Cesar won’t ever be contested by its peaceful commandos just willing to live a happy life because no other commando has overall greater power.
The reduced autonomy each commando has leads to an increased unhappiness of the organization.
And with the concentration of power, abuses are more likely to happen. In this scenario there is strong evidence that decentralizing the power increases motivation and drives growth at a faster rate.
The more automated the processes are the less human interaction is needed and hence a higher productivity level is usually achieved. With automation productivity naturally rises consequently but there is still an important bottleneck. The decision-making process is traditionally heavily dependent on human interaction.
To increase organization’s overall productivity level, the automation of the decision-making process is also key. That is one of the main reasons why The DAO grabbed a lot of attention, see Quote 1.
The DAO technology stack
Merging the following two key technologies allowed the birth of the alleged first decentralized autonomous organization:
Ideas were submitted to be curated by the community. Once the idea was properly curated it became a proposal and moved to the technical analysis of required resources to be implemented. Once operational costs, resources, etc. were agreed upon by the community, the proposal was accepted and smart contracts started being implemented by technical team. It was an iterative process that pursued the maximization of positive outcome to the community.
Blockchain Organizations proposal
Power decentralization is the process in which individuals naturally gain power, happiness, freedom, health and productivity. With individuals feeling divine, collective productivity and well-being is maximized. At the core of power are there organizations.
With the advent of the blockchain, unprecedent levels of privacy and transparency when needed are possible within organizations. It allows the automatic enforcement of smart contract clauses to secure the correct behavior of operations.
The DAO was a social experiment considered to have failed. But it had great merit which can’t be just forgotten in the past. There is the need for a robust organizational framework that utilizes state of the art technology to organize people and projects around worthwhile causes.
In this paper we take the lessons from The DAO and develop the broader concept of Blockchain Organizations.
Modern institutions are transparently purposive and that we are in the midst an evolutionary progression towards more efficient forms
Quote 2 Modernization theorist Frank Dubbin
Organizations if they have a website are internet organizations (IO). But people just don’t call them “internet organizations” though because almost all organizations are IOs. The Internet represents decentralized communications and is a fundamental pillar of the decentralized society of the future.
The same analogy applies for decentralized governance. Almost all near future organizations will most likely be blockchain governed organizations. A whole country government can take advantage of this technology.
Are pillars of the decentralized society of the future:
These type of blockchain governed organizations are going to be called from now on as simply Blockchain Organizations.
Social Organizational theory – Less is more
A member attempts to join an organization when it feels it becomes stronger packing together with other members who ideally share common goals. And the organization accepts that member when it also feels that it will make the organization stronger. This means there is a virtual social contract celebrated by the organization and the member and if violated would potentially result in membership cancellation. This contract basically determines how the member and organization make each other stronger.
A member of an organization could be an individual or another organization. For example, nobody knows the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto if it was an individual or an organization, naturally or artificially intelligent, alien or terrestrian. It does not matter here; what matters is that this member strengthens the blockchain organization and vice versa. This is why, in the diagram, I will leave the idea as most generic possible to avoid limiting organizational possibilities.
As can be seen on Figure 3, this opens an interesting recursive possibility where an organization could be a member of itself. To better understand the social contract, it is necessary to understand what each member brings to the table, basically resources and goals as can be seen on Figure 4.
An organization can have members and child organizations too. In the other hand a child organization can have multiple parents. Members can also pack themselves to form a cluster with common goals. These associations can be seen on Figure 5.
Members up to this point are well organized and aligned behind common goals, plenty of resources. But the organization is not yet operational. To make it operational it needs to have active directives as can be seen on Figure 6.
The questions that arise are:
Which directive proposals should be activated?
From where directive proposals come from?
How directives are controlled?
These are important governance questions to be answered by the organization. Things change perspective when it is realized that the governance itself is also a directive. This means organizations need to have at least one Governance directive to be able to evolve themselves by selecting most fit directives.
A directive has goals and budgets. It can also have a controller to make sure variables are controlled within desired range. This structure can be seen on Figure 6.
Figure 7 Directive and shared aggregates
Because resources are limited, the main role of governance is to get the most fit directives from a given set of directives population. Ideally the directives population should comprise both active directives and directive proposals, so that active directives can be deactivated and directive proposals can be activated to maximize positive outcome.
Canonical organization class diagram
Combining all structures discussed up to this point the minimum organizational class diagram is completed as can be seen on Figure 8.
Consider the structure above to be implemented as a set of smart contracts on Ethereum chain. It then becomes possible to instantiate a plurality of organizations with radically different personalities. Because the Controller contract is responsible to keep important variables from the outer world within desirable range it needs to get external information through oracles. Here I added Oraclize.it framework as an example of this interface.
Because every organizational class could have issues, Issueable abstract class was created. Every major class inherits from Issueable class. So that they can be associated with open and closed issues as can be seen on Figure 9. UrledComponent abstract class which has a name and url properties was created so that every major component can be displayed by a given webpage with reactive and updated information in real-time based on blockchain retrieved information.
Instantiation of an organization on the blockchain
Assume a hypothetical revolutionary organization that wants to be the first totally managed on the blockchain. And it has already made an ICO in the past, it has its cryptocurrency value swinging relatively high due to unknown market forces. But it has a proven record of 12% sustainable organizational growth per month. Now this hypothetical company has millions of dollars in crypto currency in its accounts but wants to utilize a part of that budget as monetary cushion for dampening quotation swings and to reflect close to real 12% monthly increase to its underlying crypto currency.
This can be managed transparently on the blockchain with a monetary policy directive coupled with a controller that monitors the quotation of the crypto currency through Oracles. Depending on quotation the controller places buy and sell orders automatically keeping quotation within desired range.
The diagram of such blockchain organization is shown on Figure 10.
In this article, a canonical, flexible and simple organizational model was developed. It can be directly implemented as a set of smart contracts on selected capable blockchains. This technology can potentially allow organizations to transparently evolve by creating or sharing directives with each other in such a way they become more productive, transparent and confidential whenever needed.
It naturally provides a novel way to monitor organizational lifecycle in real-time making it easier to stablish cause and effect relationship due to organizational decisions and to fight against corruption.
Not only legacy governance schemes can be used such as democracy, plutocracy but this model can be used to support the development of new ones in the pursue of circular economy growth maximization.
This work is a fundamental part of the great vision of the Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance (CCEG) and is totally aligned with the Blockchain Alliance For Good in which key technologies like the internet, the blockchain, new decentralized governance systems among others, free people from a plurality of unhappy lives. CCEG has a clear understanding of the underlying revolution and invites you to be part of this new universe creation.
Regardless of old politics and countries supporting The United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are one of the purest initiatives humanity has come up with to date. We at CCEG recognize the beauty of the SDG goals not only protecting these values wholeheartedly. But catalyzing them by means of concrete technological shifts.
 The Ethereum blockchain is the pioneer on its space and currently the most widely adopted platform to build smart contracts with blockchain technology. It is possible to build an entire country constitution on the blockchain with a set of smart contracts.
 Consider.it was invented at the University of Washington as part of the National Science Foundation funded doctoral research of Consider.it founder Travis Kriplean. Its research objective was to create a method by which large groups of people could civily deliberate together online and find common ground, even on contentious topics. The research was conducted in collaboration with colleagues in Computer Science, Political Communication, Statistics, and Human-centered Design.
In a nice day, you come to the supermarket, hold in your hand a pack of tomatoes. The succulent tomatoes look tasty with green leaves promising a good meal for your dinner. But, have you ever tried to get the address of the farm grew up the fresh and tasty tomatoes in your basket? Does it adapt the requirements of food standards? Have ever you questioned about what it says in the food labels is true? Although we are in the Information Age when your mind is flooded with the news from all around the globe, sometimes you face a lot of challenges to answer the simple given questions. But what is the root cause?
Main challenges of tracking provenance.
Before reaching the end consumer, goods come across a long journey through a lot of factors. In each end-point of this journey, each retailer, each manufacturer has their own system with the different way of storing, tracking and circulating data. For example, the storage facility is running a system made by company A, the transporter is controlling the data management system by the product of company B. The compatibility in those centralized systems is not valued in its level of importance. Otherwise, the difference of specific progress makes the synchronization between two systems is impossible. If someone would dedicate their time to draw the picture of this product life-cycle from birth-to-death, they must dedicate an enormous amount of time with the huge workload to overcome a lot of obstacles in gathering, classifying and accumulating essential data. Consequently, surprisingly how little we know about the info of all goods we purchased. The unseen dimension of our possessions has still existed if the suppliers are insisted with the current information system meanwhile customers keep concentrating only the info in the wrap-page. Obviously, we need some changes.
Currently, some companies dedicated their resource to build their information repository that opens for customers to observe their vast network of sub-suppliers. However, all current systems are just focusing on the hard asset attributes with the boring scientific index or rough numbers about the industry standard what does not bring much significance to the understanding of normal customers. We have to acknowledge that with a little knowledge about the food industry, we are hard to differentiate the advantages of Global G.A.P certification against the organic certification from USDA. All the terminologies or even financial figures are not more useful than the brand of producers. More than that, the customers demand simple metrics that directly relate to their value preferences.
The last challenge I would like to share on this blog may be illustrated after this short story. Most customers may know about the top favourite product of Apple – iPhone which is normally seen in the bright, clean and modern iStore where is full of happiness and well-mannered people. But only a few ones have ever heard about the investigation conducted by The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/18/foxconn-life-death-forbidden-city-longhua-suicide-apple-iphone-brian-merchant-one-device-extract) that tells you about the sad story behind the lovely and cutting-edge products made from the assembly-line workers who have begun killing themselves since 2010. The given article reports that 18 reported suicide attempts with 14 confirmed deaths, depression and suicide have become normalised in the sprawling factory where more than 1.3 million workers are working daily. The life condition of these pitiable workers is controversial but the numbers never lie. Obviously, they are not happy or at least have the positive attitude with their work. Once the figure about the working hours or average salary gets the failure to reveal the secret of these poor workers, people are eager to find the alternative approach which incorporates not only the hard asset criteria but also soft asset information.
In CCEG, not only products, we believe that all organizations, processes, projects and peoples have their stories. In the world of transparency and good things, people have their own right to track things from the start to the finish. Moreover, in the rise of social responsibility and an increasing interest in the ethical practices, no one would like to purchase products from unhappy workers, the soft asses like the positive sentiment should not be un-regarded in the decision making progress.
Using the combination of revolution in Distributed Ledger Technology and big data filtering methods, we are developing the tool called by Provenance Engine. Not only the information repository, Provenance Engine is the base to empower users presenting their value preferences and get profit from it.
About the structure of Provenance Engine, developing by the enthusiastic and well-skilled blockchain and big data developers, the system consists of two main parts which are called by Data Format Engine and E-passport.
Provenance Engine Overview
In the Data Format Engine, input data from suppliers will be collated and formatted following the existing non-financial metrics standard to their industries. After short questionnaires designed to reflect the total value of given entities, users have their own S/E labels and data about their value preferences. S/E labels is a single-number non-financial attribute monitoring product provenance, modern slavery conditions checks, Proofof-[…] metrics. Users could opt to have the digital presence through E-passport hosted by blockchain where store their corresponding non-financial attributes.
By this way, users could permanently determine their non-financial attributes. Generally, users are not only consumers but also all kinds of organizations, products, processes, projects and people. In case of e-authentication, Provenance Engine could support to provide the social attributes to identify social inclination of any citizens. The use of S/E labels implies wide-range application in many sectors, especially in e-commerce industry where the information of suppliers is limited.
In cooperation with other add-on services of Seratio Platform, consumers could precisely connect with the suppliers who share the same values preferences upon the information supported by provenance engine. Through the purchasing power in the hand of all people, we could positively impact the community and enhance our life experience.
Blockchain seems to be ubiquitous nowadays. The space is burgeoning with DIY blockchain (or more generally DLT) development platforms, while there are times as many of the blockchain based applications. However, having a closer look, these blockchain development platforms and eco-systems are focused mainly on the financial digital assets and starting your own ledgers (permissioned or not… up to you!) Majority of the current blockchain platforms do not offer anything more complex than e-wallet, new cryptocurrency development tools and sometimes an exchange. How does Seratio Blockchain offering stand out and why we call it an all-in-one blockchain environment?
Before delving into the technical overview, Seratio Blockchain Environment goes beyond an ordinary blockchain platform by introducing additional social non-financial values based services and including AI into the system. With one of the largest blockchain research and development teams in the world CCEG & Seratio are trailblazers who work towards creating not merely technically unique but most importantly community beneficial solutions.
It started from just a blockchain platform in 2017… Since then, Seratio development team has introduced a few new components into the system. Although our plans have grown, the goal is the same: we are looking to enable beneficiaries to keep track of the value and impact they make and let them profit from it.
Bird’s-eye View Seratio Blockchain Environment consists from the following main parts:
– Seratio Platform (incl. platform embedded services)
– Add-on Services
– Decentralised Exchange
– Decentralised Autonomous Foundation (DAF)
Seratio Wallet is an interface multicurrency wallet. As of May 2018, platform users can store and transfer platform native tokens such as SER, SER Altcoins and Microshares, as well as other ERC20 tokens (ETH, ETC). The work is going on introducing BTC and other Altcoins (Q4 2018).
Another unique feature that Seratio development team is pioneering is a new token standard – ERC995. The standard will allow tracking token origin – so called Association Flags. It is introduced to give token holders the opportunity to check which financial tokens (whether SER & Altcoins) gave ‘birth’ to their Microshares (non-financial tokens), and therefore check what values are stored & carried. From technical point of view, the standard is ERC20 and ERC827 token standards based, and ushers improved token transfer functionality. ERC995 Token Standard has been already introduced to the community and is scheduled to go live in summer 2018.
Soft Value Tracker
One of the most important and unique features of the Seratio Platform are the S/E certificates. Certificates allow transaction of the non-financial attributes (labels), more precisely they show how much social non-financial value an entity creates against its financial value. Although S/E certificates are optional they are essential to benefit from all the services (embedded & add-on) provided by the Seratio platform. S/E Certificates are currently available for the platform users in the alpha mode.
There is a number of add-on services that are connected to the Seratio Platform and its APIs. The services include:
– Provenance Engine – software to track financial and non-financial origins;
– Seratio AI Wallet – AI bot injected ‘hot’ cryptocurrency wallet;
– Retailer’s Portal – blockchain-based service that allows crypto transition without interfering with the existing Retail Management Software;
– Rewarding Body Portal – blockchain-based service that provides entities with ready-to-use token development and management (S/E based) tools.
The services can be accessed through the Seratio Platform account as well as independently. All 4 services are currently under development and each have a dedicated development sub-team. Retailer’s Portal & Rewarding Body Portal are close to completion and will go live simultaneously with the mobile version of the Seratio Platform (summer 2018).
More details on the platform & add-on services can be found in Seratio Whitepapers.
ClassicDelta is a decentralised crypto-to-crypto converter and trade homeplace for the Microshares (non-financial tokens). The exchange is aimed to support functionality of Seratio Platform services, particularly SER & SER Altcoins token holders. ClassicDelta brings together both Ethereum and Ethereum Classic blockchains whilst other crypto exchanges operate mainly and exclusively on only one blockchain. ClassicDelta is now under active development and is scheduled to start operating in Q3 2018.
Decentralised Autonomous Foundation (DAF) DAF is a hybrid concept introduced by the CCEG. DAF is an extension of DAO and represents a decentralised wisdom-of-crowds community engaging tool. DAF is currently at its early stages of design and development.
There is only one thing that the world has in common outside the essentials of food, water, air and heat. We do not agree on values, what is love, or music. Even our attitude towards spirituality, religion, has historically been both unifying and divisive. It is our intangible values that sometimes escalate to wars and killing our fellow man. Sadly, however, tangible assets including money is the only things that is used universally, accepted, and agreed whether in New York or Shanghai, in the middle of the Gobi desert or dealing with your neighbour. We all understand the value of assets, benchmark ourselves and other things with it, and have a sophisticated ways to trade on items based on financial value whether through bartering or using tokens of currency.
When remodelling our interactions and visioning the new world order, why not start with something we can all agree on, and build up from there?
I can see the rolling of eyes and shaking of heads; a new vision of the world built on the worst possible instrument of materiality and lowest common denominator of mankind? The very thing that is blamed daily for the ruin of the world. Money. Representing greed, hedonism, selfish and self-centric behaviours that are universally considered vile and demonised in the press. Hardly in line with what society needs to promote — love, happiness, kindness and transparency. The idea of money to unify the world seems ridiculous and out of step with the positive direction we are heading. But what if money, the universally accepted mediator across mankind, can be injected with values that can be exchanged just as easily as currency? A world where hard tangible financial value and soft non-financial value are interchanged seamlessly and a world build capturing all values inherent within society wherever it may lie or extreme it may be. A circular economy trading value built on our values.
So how can money be injected with values? It already does. Would you accept US$ 5,000 for your shirt if it’s paid in KKK Coins? It may offend your values, or you simply think that since you do not associate with the Klu Klux Klan, where could you spend the currency? Currency carries both a financial value and represents values attributed towards a community, a set of beliefs, or alignment of values. Perhaps you can spend it with those who share similar values, who possess Trump Coins. What it does is to create a circular economy based on total value, both financial and non-financial value, and the exchange rate or desirability will be dependent on the demand that a vibrant, transactional and cohesive community creates. Fair or not, abhorrent or not, giving voice to those whose values are repulsive to the rest, a new system of currency that encapsulated all our values is equitable and transparent. We will fight in the exchanges, not in the streets, and we give value to all mankind not artificially censor those who we prefer to supress however unpalatable this may seem. It is democracy built on a common fiscal platform following thousands of years of maturation.
The solution is at the centre of the burgeoning 4th Industrial Revolution where Fintech meets Socialtech. The technology is called ‘Blockchain’ and touted as a panacea for all world problems, it nevertheless has some features that truly “smell of teen spirit” — decentralization, democratization, distributed governance and anti-authority. More importantly, the movement of these ‘blocks’ of digital value can carry a vote, a governance layer giving currency the power of consensus. They can integrate smart contracts that determine a transaction of value dependent on third party values. Finally, they can move any kind of value — both financial and nonfinancial — digitally, at a fraction of the cost of existing legacy systems with instantaneous efficiency. Blockchain is promising truly ground breaking evolutions in Humtech, Faithtech, Gendertech, Edutech and many transformative solutions. These articulate through cryptocurrencies which are values based — Women’s Coin, City Coin, EduCoins, Islamic Coin, Leadership Coin, Water Coins, Care Givers Coins, Fashion Coins, Enviro Coins … contributing to a family of United Nation’s 17 SDG Coins (Sustainable Development Goals) representing us all.
Let’s imagine a world where we all hold multiple coins representing the rainbow of our values and the degree with which we align with different communities.
The importance is reflected on how ready we are to exchange our coins for products and services. Whilst the financial value within the SDG family of coins are the same, the non-financial tokens of value are different. The latter is a microshare of provenance of ourselves, products, organisations, projects and processes — which can be earned, exchanged and spent dependent on the degree to which we fulfil the values we ascribe to. In future, the exchange rate between families of coins determines the veracity, passion and demand for those beliefs benchmarked against each other. After all, what is the use of holding an ISIS Coin if it’s unaccepted in most retail outlets, but equally minority rights are safeguarded as they can champion their own values and spend it within their own communities irrespective of adoption by others. Evolutionary market forces determine what values survive, what grows, and which values becomes extinct over time.
The reliance is not on fickle regulations, untrusted judiciary, size of our armies, interpretations, aggression or force, votes, politics, economic strength, or subterfuge. The dependence is entirely on our values, and the belief that positive attributes will rise naturally to the fore and less mainstreamed values will find their natural equilibrium in the grander schema.
Bad people can do good, good people can do bad, nevertheless all our values need to be recognised, transacted and tested.
We all know the currency of financial value, but what is the currency of non-financial value? At last, we have a means to capture that, and to articulate intangible values as robustly as we have learnt to do with hard assets, in order to build a better world but based on reliable and time served systems.
2. Historical Antecedents
Back in 2008 either one person or a group of people operating under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto released a financial token called the Bitcoin. It was a repartee to the invading territorial gathering of power by governments who increasingly want to introduce intrusive regulatory frameworks as part of check and balances to protect citizens, but equally offer a stealth growth of privacy hacks. Banks rode on the back of this wave to create a strangle hold on financial transactions that demanded higher fees as Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and other regulatory frameworks were introduced by SEC (USA) and FCA (UK) amongst others. Bitcoin thus represented an anti-authority, anti ‘The Man’, movement using decentralized and distributed models of information control with a strong democratisation agenda.
The anonymous feature of transactions also led to widespread use for illegal uses along the Silk Road including drugs, arms and now ransomware. Naturally the sex industry picked it up and we already have a variety of entertaining titles like Tit Coin, TittieCoin and even an Anal Coin providing hidden purchasing to everyday man who doesn’t have a Swiss Bank account, Cayman Island or BVR access. BitCoin now has a market capitalization of c. US$ 53 billion, rising upwards rapidly, and is seemingly unstoppable by governments or banking who have moved into regulatory or ‘if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them’ mode.
Soon people started to look past bitcoin and to examine the technology behind it — blockchain. The underlying feature set of one of the main accepted digital assets called Ethereum speaks volumes. Basically there are 4 layers.
Data layer — the asset being transacted
Protocol layer — the means of digital negotiation
Smart contract — a codified ‘if this then do that’ rule set
Governance layer — the 51% holders of the token can vote where to go next
As the transactions can be immutably recorded in a public ledger it implies transparency. You cannot see who sent the money/asset, nor who received it, but you can see a time-date-stamp and amount. This has led to a raft of permission-less and permissioned Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) type applications. The key enablers of blockchain are:
TRANSACT: Enable to transact financial and non-financial assets digitally, efficiently and without a central authority
PROVENANCE: Enable to track and record provenance of people, organisations, products, projects and processes immutably
VOICE: Enable to empower and give voice to individuals with a vote, a microshare, and be part of the governance and future benefits
The uses for blockchain can be mapped, as ever, to what kind of person you are — and all bring value to the debate
a) The Pragmatist (faster and cheaper): Ask any expert what the revolution will bring, and they inevitably point to the social space, immediately followed by a “however, here in banking” statement. Although the world is not screaming out for ‘faster and cheaper’ … banking, invoices, logistics, car purchasing, etc … the fact is that the movement of hard assets are much easier to transact than soft assets. The former applications are centred around greater efficiency to existing markets and whilst interesting are rarely ground-breaking. Nevertheless, they will leading to incremental sector progress and are most likely to last past the era of blockchain hype and noise.
b) The Trader (alternative-coins): Take a random word generator, add the word ‘coin’ to it, and hey presto welcome to the world of cryptocurrencies, Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s), digital Ponzi schemes, and prolific hacking. Around 70+% are market investors here are currency speculators irrespective of values behind the coin, but see the rise of bitcoin and want to jump on the band-wagon making quick money and spreading risk in various Alt-Coins. Whilst questionable, the Alt-Coin market has introduced the blockchain lexicon into a broader audience — after all we all understand money and greed as motivating forces in our lives.
c) The Zealot (blockchain religion): Blockchain, the revolutionary religion, believe ‘this is it’, that “code is law”, finally The Man will be brought to his knees, power will be dispersed and blockchain anarchy will subsume evil forces. The geek, which blockchain has empowered and made fashionable, has finally found a vehicle for his/her anger and rage against the world. Although possibly naïve, this sub-culture is responsible for the greatest strides in the technology that underpins the revolution at the structural level with sometimes breath-taking philosophical approaches that can be both applauded and ridiculed in equal measure.
d) The Evolutionary (transacting intangibles): As opposed to the revolutionary, blockchain represents an evolutionary shift opening up new paradigms that had never been conceived before. This vision based thinking, aimed at solving intractable problems, is often highly laudable but fraught with implementation difficulties and often falls at the first engagement with the enemy — the real world. Dependent on technical environments and value based ecosystems, solvable in the long run, are for now better seen on paper than in the field. The hallmark is a plethora of small pilot cases, and almost no enterprise level implementations. This community, however, are responsible for delivering a different future which blockchain enables.
The madness and promise that blockchain represents is often likened to the early days of the internet when it took time for the bubble to burst and adoption of real uses. The internet is based on a universally adopted single TCP/IP communications protocol that allows for interoptability of all things based on it, from the world wide web, to data transfer, to communications. Sadly there is not one blockchain but a multitude of formats and standards (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Hyperledger, Interledger, Skyledger, etc) and even the two most widely adopted blockchains have split in the last 12 months. Ethereum is now ETH and ETC (Classic, 30th July 2016), and BitCoin now comes in two flavours — BTC and BTC Cash (1st August 2017). This makes scaling and mass adoption very difficult as the sector is in a period of infancy. Couple this with a relatively immature and inexperienced set of actors adds to the unpredictability. Regulators are behind the curve with SEC (USA) only now having made a statement on 25th July 2017, and FCA (UK) no where near yet — even exchanges aren’t regulated for Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) until 2018. Having said this, just as with the early days of any tech driven transformation like mobile phones, video players, etc we will eventually settle with more stable platform, agreed protocols, and a regulatory framework. Blockchain is here to stay, so let’s now settle down and focus on how to use it.
This heavy mix of people, technology, vision and perhaps above all hope, has created some truly novel secondary instruments.
o The Initial Coin Offering (The ICO) — Not IPO (Initial Public Offering), but a corollary which has already surpassed any previous crowd funding financing initiatives. Although some 70–80% of these are dubious in nature with no real substance, the instrument itself is undeniably brilliant raising US$ 500 million in just 3 of the ICO’s in June 2017, some completing in 30 minutes when they expected 6 weeks.
o The Distributed Autonomous Organisation (The DAO) — no board, no directors, no company, no staff, no building but using the Smart Contract to manage decisions and investments of funds raised. Although the first application of this in May 2016 was a disaster, when 3 months later half of the US$ 150m proceeds being legitimately ‘stolen’ due to a code defect, nevertheless the concept of having a virtual organisation with governance intrinsic to the fabric is truly a breath of fresh air.
o The Citizen Ownership (The Fork) — the Personal Data movement describes the powers that owning your own data can bring without intervening governance being required to speak for us. Brexit (UK), Trump (USA), Five Star (Italy), etc are all signs of a disenchanted world where people power determines the direction of much larger institutions. At a community level it’s the democratization that can abruptly fork directions of travel and lead to polarisation. At an individual level, you can decide who you share you data with, and for how much and to what extent.
o The Non-Financial Token (The Microshare) — As cryptocurrency is to the tangible financial value, the microshare is to intangible non-financial value. This token represents the digitisation of non-financial value, the turning of sentiment into financial value, and can be undertaken using Fast Data. You can transact love, goodness, health and other soft assets using blockchain like any other hard asset. It represents, of course, a radical departure from what we now understand by value, and is a glide path to transacting Total Value, not just financial.
3.Transacting Goodness as Instruments of Change
To create an artefact of a new world order needs a scalable and sustainable Circular Economy that transacts these new instruments seamlessly whether they are based in Fintech, HumTech, SocialTech, GenderTech, FaithTech … or any other solution. Envisage a world where you are born automatically registering your DNA on a blockchain which becomes your Digital ID whether banked or unbanked. You then use your ID to buy things, build trust, make retail choices, vote, have a voice … all operating within their own nested blockchains. You can volunteer and get credited with social coins, go to Starbucks and pay for your US$ 10 drink with US$ 8 cash and US$ 2 social credit. Go down Google Street and make retail outlet choices dependent on the ethical practices of the organisation (Walmart .v. Little House on the Prairie grocer); or products dependent on the slavery conditions of supply (sweat shop with slavery conditions or happy children milking happy cows in a happy field). You can pay and be paid in the currencies you have aligned to the values you believe in. Our values will represent the ultimate currency of non-financial value which we can trade with and utilise as an instrument of power just as money has done for hundreds of years.
Through blockchain goodness can be transacted, and ‘cryptocurrencies with values’ are the instrument of change. Our strength will be based on communities of shares values which sometimes be bordered by our patriotism (eg. FIAT currencies issued by a country), or be borderless in an increasingly blended society whilst still giving respect to minority voices who do not share our values. We all have multiple values and so hold multiple coins — Women’s Coin, Edu Coin, City Coin, Islam Coin, Leadership Coin … paying with one or another is promulgating our values and allegiances whilst acknowledging the debt. Our alignment will become a currency of its own, a microshare (token) of ourselves, which may have no financial benefit but carry the same gravitas and weight. One day, those microshares may even be interchangeable for regular FIAT currencies with their own exchange rates. Brands can reward in microshares, and part pay in Coco Cola Coin to their suppliers to ensure their values extend beyond their organisation. Families of values, such as the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goas, can have branded currencies which are entirely interchangeable in terms of financial value but differ in their terms of their impact targets. Perhaps more importantly, impact and financing of them can be inter-linked to ensure the former is a condition of the latter.
This acknowledging, accepting, rewarding and trading in a values based society is key to shift our paradigms from a financial footing to a more balanced approach. The greater the generosity of enlightenment from sharing our values with each other, giving insight into each other’s alignment, the less likely it is to rage against each other. We do not want to eradicate the governance systems and financial structures upon which our world is built, but want to turn these swords that control all around us into ploughshares that do good for mankind.
“He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” — [Isaiah 2:4]
The concept of a ‘microshare’, a token of non-financial value, has wide reaching implications. It can be a microshare of ourselves, our Personal Value, that we are dealing with and transacting with others; perhaps someone impacted meaningfully in our lives and we wish to recognise it in the future. It can be a microshare of a community of practice or belief, playing our part with votes in the larger entity who share our values. We can have a microshare of an organisation, rewarded for volunteering for projects attributed or aligned to that organisation, or for even being a customer like a Loyalty Card. It is empowering the single voice to have collective strength across our locality, our cities, our regions, our countries and our continents. It is rewarding each other for being good, and being able to spend that goodness for ourselves or for others aligned to our views. It is exporting our values to others and allowing them to face up to the values we share. Together, it gives us collective bargaining, as any large financial institution would have. A seat at the top table for us individually.
4. Transition Not Dismantling
Why blockchain appears to have gained traction is the relative ease with which it uses existing infrastructures and can co-exist alongside legacy systems. Not all would agree with this approach. Social Innovators are usually left wing radicals who believe in dismantling the system often in the most disruptive way possible, tearing down structures seeing little benefit in supporting ‘Last Thursday’ ideologies. Humanitarians, however, are right wing conservatives who want to leave the smallest possible footprint due to their interventions, operate ‘hic-et-nunc’ style and are resigned to repeat the same the following year. The latter may well be the destination glide path for such solutions, ie. to build on existing systems as a layer on top. They use existing government legislative frameworks, conform to regulatory controls, and perhaps at best push the envelope at the margins to begin with. Like Uber, you can push against the system but the powers of SEC are all encompassing, regulators have international reach, and not to be toyed with. In contrast, one should not underestimate the resolve of the blockchain enthusiast to circumnavigate the system as the de-establishment rhetoric is strong and persuasive in the current climate where even the World Economic Forum’s Davos is now considered merely an extension of corporate reach.
Structures that can manage these transitions are invariably foundations, such as the Ethereum Foundation, that curate the birth of such ideologies. Almost all substantive cryptocurrencies have copied this format. The latest — the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance (CCEG), is a not-for-profit think tank that is issuing the Seratio token compliant to UK regulatory frameworks. The unique feature of the Seratio token is the transactional ability to capture the financial assets, microshares and provenance of involving people, products, processes, projects and organisations. It is being effectively marketed as the ‘Ethereum UK’ adhering to best practice treasury management to ensure random Quantitative Easing does not dilute the offering. Being launched into the market in September 2017, alongside a large number of inter-optable prodigy currencies, together they form a circular economy eco-system, with each coin representing a vibrant, transactional, cohesive group that articulate their values through their own currency.
Over the first 36 months CCEG effectively writes itself out of the picture by removing any dependencies on itself during a handover to a DAO. The new body will take on the role of a Card Scheme (UK) or Card Association (USA) — like MasterCard, Visa, Amex, Diners, etc guaranteeing settlement irrespective of what cryptocurrency is being traded but this time focused solely on Cryptocurrencies with Values. Remarkably, none of the existing cryptocurrencies have this interchange feature and have no ‘Assured-Coin’ guaranteed settlement branding. At present you simply cannot take a Vegan Coin and buy stuff from someone who retails using Solar Coin. Although one imagines the values are not too dissimilar, this lack of infrastructure is currently holding back momentum of blockchain in one place as opposed to being dissipated across a series of offerings. Exactly the same, but perhaps less so, goes for non-financial blockchain applications as standardisation is far from mature. The latter can communicate with each other via API’s (application protocol interfaces), but cryptocurrencies cannot unless they adhere to the same protocols.
I think by 2030, when the UN SDG targets are set to be achieved, blockchain will be as common as the internet is today.
That is my hope, it is my ambition, but above all, it is my greatest wish that it leads to a more transparent and harmonious world.
There is only one thing that the world has in common outside the essentials of food, water, air and heat. We do not agree on values, what is love, or music. Even our attitude towards spirituality, religion, has historically been both unifying and divisive. It is our intangible values that sometimes escalate to wars and killing our fellow man. Sadly, however, tangible assets including money is the only things that is used universally, accepted, and agreed whether in New York or Shanghai, in the middle of the Gobi desert or dealing with your neighbour. We all understand the value of assets, benchmark ourselves and other things with it, and have a sophisticated ways to trade on items based on financial value whether through bartering or using tokens of currency. So when remodelling our interactions and visioning the new world order, why not start with something we can all agree on, and build up from there?
We can see the rolling of eyes and shaking of heads; a new vision of the world built on the worst possible instrument of materiality and lowest common denominator of mankind? The very thing that is blamed daily for the ruin of the world. Money. Representing greed, hedonism, selfish and self-centric behaviours that are universally considered vile and demonised in the press. Hardly in line with what society needs to promote – love, happiness, kindness and transparency. The idea of money to unify the world seems ridiculous and out of step with the positive direction we are heading. But what if money, the universally accepted mediator across mankind, can be injected with values that can be exchanged just as easily as currency? A world where hard tangible financial value and soft non-financial value are interchanged seamlessly and a world build capturing all values inherent within society wherever it may lie or extreme it may be. A circular economy trading value built on our values.
So how can money be injected with values? It already does. Would you accept $5000 for your shirt if it’s paid in KKK Coins? It may offend your values, or you simply think that since you do not associate with the Klu Klux Klan where could you spend the currency? Currency carries both a financial value and represents values attributed towards a community, a set of beliefs, or alignment of values. Perhaps you can spend it with those who share similar values, who possess Trump Coins. What it does is to create a circular economy based on total value, both financial and non-financial value, and the exchange rate or desirability will be dependent on the demand that a vibrant, transactional and cohesive community creates. Fair or not, abhorrent or not, giving voice to those whose values are repulsive to the rest, a new system of currency that encapsulated all our values is equitable and transparent. We will fight in the exchanges, not in the streets, and we give value to all mankind not artificially censor those who we prefer to supress however unpalatable this may seem. It is democracy built on a common fiscal platform following thousands of years of maturation.
The solution is at the centre of the burgeoning 4th Industrial Revolution where Fintech meets Socialtech. The technology is called ‘Blockchain’ and touted as a panacea for all world problems, it nevertheless has some features that truly “smell of teen spirit” – decentralization, democratization, distributed governance and anti-authority. More importantly, the movement of these ‘blocks’ of digital value can carry a vote, a governance layer giving currency the power of consensus. They can integrate smart contracts that determine a transaction of value dependent on third party values. Finally, they can move any kind of value – both financial and nonfinancial – digitally, at a fraction of the cost of existing legacy systems with instantaneous efficiency. Blockchain is promising truly ground breaking evolutions in Humtech, Faithtech, Gendertech, Edutech and many transformative solutions. These articulate through cryptocurrencies which are values based – Women’s Coin, City Coin, EduCoins, Islamic Coin, Leadership Coin, Water Coins, Care Givers Coins, Fashion Coins, EnviroCoins … all contributing to a family of United Nation’s 17 SDG Coins (Sustainable Development Goals) representing us all.
So let’s imagine a world where we all hold multiple coins representing the rainbow of our values and the degree with which we align with different communities. The importance is reflected on how ready we are to exchange our coins for products and services. Whilst the financial value within the SDG family of coins are the same, the non-financial tokens of value are different. The latter is a microshare of provenance of ourselves, products, organisations, projects and processes – which can be earned, exchanged and spent dependent on the degree to which we fulfil the values we ascribe to. In future, the exchange rate between families of coins determines the veracity, passion and demand for those beliefs benchmarked against each other. Afterall, what is the use of holding an ISIS Coin if it’s unaccepted in most retail outlets, but equally minority rights are safeguarded as they can champion their own values and spend it within their own communities irrespective of adoption by others. Evolutionary market forces determine what values survive, what grows, and which values becomes extinct over time.
The reliance is not on fickle regulations, untrusted judiciary, size of our armies, interpretations, aggression or force, votes, politics, economic strength, or subterfuge. The dependence is entirely on our values, and the belief that positive attributes will rise naturally to the fore and less mainstreamed values will find their natural equilibrium in the grander schema. Bad people can do good, good people can do bad, nevertheless all our values need to be recognised, transacted and tested. We all know the currency of financial value, but what is the currency of non-financial value? At last, we have a means to capture that, and to articulate intangible values as robustly as we have learnt to do with hard assets, in order to build a better world but based on reliable and time served systems.
In June 2017, the sustainability label provider, UTZ announced a merger with the Rainforest Alliance to issue a single sustainability certification label by 2019. The news was welcomed by stakeholders across the supply chain, including farmers and retailers. For example, Roberto Vélez, CEO of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, noted that:
“It should bring great benefits to them, such as being audited against one standard instead of two, thereby making major savings on auditing costs…This should allow coffee growers to invest more efficiently in sustainability and increase their income, hence contributing to their economic sustainability.”
UTZ which had income of just over €19m in 2016, is a program and label for sustainable farming. It provides sustainability certification (for farmers, products and companies), impact measurement, traceability along the supply chain, and training. The Rainforest Alliance is a global nonprofit that works with a range of stakeholders (e.g. large multinational corporations, small, community-based cooperatives, and individuals), whose livelihoods depend on the land, helping them transform the way they grow food, harvest wood and host travelers. The two organisations reportedly certify around 180,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers globally. However, their efforts benefits millions.
This merger continues interesting trends and shifts in the sustainability certification field. For example, Fairtrade International another global sustainability certification provider, has shifted from certification of the end product, to focus on developing partnerships along the supply chain. Similarly, another organisation, SusConnect is also seeking to deliver value along the supply chain.
These shifts and trends in the market are as a result of various factors. While there is a growing market for products certified by major sustainability initiatives (e.g. Fairtrade International, the Forest Stewardship Council, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), much of the switch to standard-compliant and certified production is about risk management and brand protection, rather than consumer marketing.
Indeed, within recent years, price premiums have been declining across certified markets. I have written previously about the need for the double bottom line of environmental and economic sustainability. It is easier to do business where there are economies of scale (e.g. in larger, more export oriented economies) that can offer better infrastructure and governance. One of the few exceptions to this rule of economies of scale is cocoa, where certified production is concentrated in less-developed economies (e.g. the Ivory Coast and Ghana), mainly because Africa accounts for around 70 – 75% of global cocoa production.
Not withstanding these issues, there is growth potential in the market through for example, higher productivity, higher-quality products, secure trading relationships and technical support. However, it is likely that there will be further mergers and consolidation, as strategic partnerships are forged to most effectively realise this potential. Blockchain technology could play a key role in the facilitation of these partnerships, as well as in the transfer of the sustainability labels and certificates.
The case of the digitally poor and how Blockchain can help
Our first Blockchain meeting took place on Friday May 5 at the Innovation Centre. It went well as we were buzzing with ideas and ways in which Blockchain can help across all aspects of human life. Of course a cursory look at the many twitter sites and the growing number of websites dedicated to Blockchain show that the main interest is still within the Fintech word.The legacy of the cryptocurrency is still strong and economically a great disruptive force. Yet, as I argued in the Blockchain Educational Passport: Decentralised Learning Ledger, the 4th Industrial Revolution is not about money, but about people, and about procuring knowledge.
In this post I would like to draw the attention to and start a conversation about the ‘digitally poor’. In doing this, I will define poverty along the lines of the capability approach and the human development paradigm, as a deprivation of capabilities, that is, opportunities to lead a life each has reason to value. Within this definition of poverty, I argue that the ‘digitally poor’ are going to be those who have no means to show what they know, what they can do, and who they are. The digitally poor are the known unknowns and in a world that is becoming more and more connected and they are islands of disconnection, numbers in statistics at best, or invisible at worst. The post is a starting point and more, I hope, will follow.
Case 1: Ann’s story
Almost 20 years ago I was working as a Learning Teaching Assistant in a secondary school supporting the inclusion of young people with disabilities and learning difficulties. Ann was a 13 years old girl certified as having dispraxia, dislexia, discalculia and, fundamentally, ‘dis’-functional at many levels of basic skills. Yet, Ann could tell my state of mind as soon as I enter the room. She could tune in and empathise at a deep level with the people around her. She was, as far as the school was concerned, a ‘good girl, who tried hard’ but clearly had limited success. In Math, for example, she was still asked to add and subtract to 100. Divisions and multiplications were deemed too hard and nobody mentioned any of the other key mathematical skills a Year 9 should have had. All her school life, she was kept behind without a chance to move forward.
Yet, one morning at one of our weekly meetings we found out that during the previous few weeks Ann had been looking after her mother who had been lying in a dark room and living with depression. Of course, she had also been looking after her younger sister, and the house. She cooked, cleaned, did the shopping, paid the bills, and still came to school to be our ‘good girl’. When I pointed out that in order to do all such things she needed to be able to use math, at least at an intuitive level, and that we could have done something to take this into account, I was told that … well, no, it was not what schools do. Schools are bound to label our children for how well they pass the academic testing. For how well they fit artificially drawn boundaries in our curriculum. Because there was no other way to show what Ann could do, we could not measure her real value as a human being. We were happy to label her as dis-functional, morally inclined to admit that she was kind and caring, but otherwise unwilling to testify her abilities.
Ann is by no means the only child or adult with learning difficulties or disabilities who suffers the injustice of being ‘poor’.
Case 2: Islands in the desert
We have left Beirut and we are steadily climbing the Mount Lebanon Ridge heading toward Hermel at the farthest North point of the Bekaa Valley and less than 30 minutes drive to the Syrian border on the road to Homs. The furthest North you drive the least luscious and fertile the valley becomes until the land between Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountain range is a semi-arid stone landscape.
Yet, among the stones, there is life. I do not refer to plants, insects and other animals. I refer here to human life. Scattered across the Bekaa all the way from Baalbek to the Northern borders, along the main route to Syria, or tucked away on the limits of the horizons are the settlements of Syrian refugees.
Lebanon has more than 1 million Syrian refugees and by no means are they all settled in the Bekaa Valley. Those who are might not be the best educated, or the ones who had the means to start a new life. They are those who live out of UNHCR’s support mechanisms and who compete for work with the Lebanese in this harsh and unforgiving land. Some might have left with papers showing who they are and what they can do. Others might have left their homes with nothing but the bare necessities. Each one of them has something to give, but they are doubly poor. They are deprived of their homes, money, family, old connections, dignity and above all identity. Uncharted and unknown, they, like many others across the world, inhabit an alternative map of human geography. By all means, they are islands in the desert.
Case 3: More than schooling
Amidst such gloom, there is also hope and education is the key to bringing about change and human development. An example of this is the work carried out by the Ana-Aqra Association. A ‘non-profit, non-sectarian, non-political association founded in 1994 and officially established in 1998’ Ana-Aqra (I read) runs a number of programmes to enable disadvantaged children to thrive and flourish.
One of such programmes is the one I visited in Baalbek, ‘The Children’s Learning Center (CLC) – Al-Madad Foundation‘ which is one of the many initiatives supporting Syrian refugee children. Hosted in old traditional Lebanese house, the Association and the teachers working for them create an environment in which the child is at the centre of learning. For a few hours a day, each child is a person. Not a statistic, not an island, but a human being whose rights to play, to be safe, to be able to read, and to be healthy are enshrined and signed with the colourful prints of the children’s hands.
Yet, because they are refugees, they exist only within the safe boundaries of the school. They are known to the few and ignored by the many. Most importantly, they will be the next digitally poor. In years to come, if we do not develop a system to show what they have learned, they will not exist, unable to prove what they have learned to be and deprived of the opportunities to become.
The Blockchain Educational Passport: adding value to our learning
The ones above are just three cases in which a Blockchain Educational Passport can help. I do not go into the details of how Blockchain can work as part of the more comprehensive CCEG Blockchain UN Lab portfolio. This can be found in the Whitepaper 5.0. The point here is to put forward a draft framework for capturing the ‘combined value creation’ as evidence of impact of learning within a knowledge procurement framework.
The figure below shows an initial blueprint combining both the DLL framework and a more traditional procurement cycle framework. While the former focuses on capturing and making visible the intangible nature of both learning and its impact, the latter makes use of available accountability systems related to the procurement of tangible assets. The key innovative approach is to use Blockchhain to map, track and account for all transactions and produce personalised impact ledgers, or Educational Passports, for both the individuals and the organisations involved in the process.
One of the key features of the iDLL (Integrated Decentralised Learning Ledger) is its flexibility, adaptability and connectivity across different contexts and domains so as to build a more representative eco-systemic view of value creation and impact.
For example, in the case of Ann, it could be possible to make use of a number of already existing documents assessing her academic value (grades, tests, progress reports, Individual Educational Plan) but also devise indicators for measuring social value (in her case her caring responsibilities). In this way, Ann will not be assessed only in terms of academic value (AV) but also in terms of social value (SV). While AV and SV will be a unique measure of personal value (PV) belonging to Ann alone in the form of a personal wallet, part of either AV or PV can be shared with teachers or the school as they contributed to, or not, to Ann’s PV or part of. The same process can be applied to all students and teachers in the school to arrive to a combined organisational value (OV) measure not dissimilar from the already existing S/E ratio. Blockchain will provide the evidence of transactions (both belonging to individuals and to the school) to be kept in the public ledger.
The same approach can be used not only for schools, but also for any organisation (public or private), universities, businesses, NGOs or other associations. This approach allows for both a permanent record of value creation and for a record of its fluctuation over an individual’s or organisation’s lifetime. In the case of schools, the iDLL can make use of current accountability system (such as Ofsted evaluations), but, most importantly, add to them new criteria and indicators which are currently not applied since they do not fall within the tangible assets framework.
There are of course challenges. First of all is the challenge of identifying and agreeing on indicators of social value and of redefining accepted measures of tangible value. Second is the challenge of building the complex technological infrastructure able to support the increased number of transactions, and in some cases to bridge and combine different accountability systems. Third is the challenge of changing users’ mindset with regard to the usefulness of broadening the information base required to make the final evaluation.
All the above are points for future blogs and discussions. Yet, i believe that we need to start now to think about how we can ensure that there are not digitally poor individuals in generations to come. Devising a new system such as the DLL or iDLL is not just a technical challenge, but a moral priority which has the potential to address current inequity and unfairness.