14 ways in which the blockchain could unleash social impact.

While the world awakens to the phenomenon of Bitcoin and crypto currencies, widespread awareness is yet to uncover the potential of the underlying technology – a peer-to-peer, decentralised, distributed ledger known as the blockchain. Here’s a quick video if you need the 101 on what block chain is:

This revolutionary technology has been heralded by thought leaders of Silicon Valley and PhD mathematicians alike as the greatest confluence of technology since the invention of the internet itself. More than just a “trust-less” (e.g. not requiring the trust of other parties) means of securely and instantaneously sending currencies around the world at low cost, the blockchain (and technologies of its kind) allow a multitude of applications, such as peer-to-peer “smart contracts”, the creation of digital assets and data collection. It may also be the missing piece of the puzzle for the“Internet of Things” (IOT).

Here at Ellis Jones, whenever we hear of new tech, models and ideas we think about how it can be used to do good. So, how could the blockchain be applied to generate social impact?

1. Social impact investment
Social Impact Investment may be opened to a wider audience as private assets such as wind turbines and solar farms are listed for public ownership. Much like crowd funding but with the addition of smart contracts that could automatically and securely pay out to shareholder profits as they are created. This would reduce the need for intensive legal and financial intermediaries which is typically a long and expensive process with impact investing. Increased data collection via the blockchain would also assist in accurate measurement and valuation of investment outcomes

2. Renewable energy exchanges
Renewable energy delivery will become increasingly distributed with localised peer-to-peer renewable energy exchanges. Powerledger, a Perth based company, has recently funded it’s plans to build a blockchain-based solar power exchange that allows solar panel owners to trade surplus energy with their neighbours or apartment blocks.  Entire energy economies could stem from this and Powerledger is not the only one moving into the space (WePower, SunExchange).

3. More secure personal data 
Citizens of the world will gain control of their personal information. Storing data securely and privately on distributed, decentralised apps which then, at their discretion, could instantaneously be transferred to financial institutions, insurance companies or health professionals.

4. Big data collection 
As we exponentially grow our ability to collect and process big data whilst retaining privacy, information generation will be revolutionised across all sectors and industries. Tradeable, tokenised incentives could be created by health researchers, pharmaceuticals companies or social services for the ongoing collection of anonymous personal information from clients. For example, with the rapidly expanding wearable tech market, individuals with relevant personal health data could be incentivised to securely and privately deliver their data via the blockchain to medical professionals, researchers or fitness trainers (Lympo). This could offer greater accuracy in prescribing, responsiveness in testing new programs, or increase the speed of recovery for patients.

5. Direct access to funding for charities. 
Instantaneous transfer of currencies across borders to charitable organisations and emergency support will allow faster, more targeted response rates. Lower cost in transferring funds internationally could mean an overall increase in the funds sent to charities.

6. International Identification
International, immutable forms of identification via the blockchain could assist verification of volunteers wishing to work for international charities. Instead of delays while Emergency Aid management process and ensure large numbers of volunteers are safe to work in disaster relief programs, they could instantaneously access verified work history records.

7. New fundraising strategies
Due to the highly divisible nature of crypto-currencies micro-donations become much more feasible. New fundraising strategies requesting fractional pledge amounts from larger pools, possibly collecting infinitesimal “dust” divisions of coins from crypto exchanges. Charities could also creatively pair this with smart contracts for their donors such as, every time you purchase, 0.0000001 of a Bitcoin (or a purchase percentage of your choice) is transferred to your charity of choice.

8. Verified supply chains
Companies adopting a shared value model may integrate blockchain into their supply chains such as tamper proof verification of traditionally exploitative supply chains (tracking of diamonds, WWF tracking tuna ) and data collection of delivery conditions and times (Wallmart and IBM.)

9. Democracy 2.0
Democracy may be reinforced as trust-less, highly accessible voting systems are rolled out. (Horizon State).

10. New tactics for behaviour change
Combining smart contracts and the IOT, companies and organisation will be enabled to create incentivised or tokenised social marketing, behaviour change and nudge campaigns.

11. Decentralised computing power
Imagine sharing your PC’s CPU power across the world to projects requiring super computing power. Projects such as Golem are working on this very concept now to create decentralised super computers via the blockchain. As a social impact, this could offer third-world based entrepreneurs the ability to rent higher processing power and compete or work internationally without the immediate cost of prohibitively expensive hardware.

12. Sharing economies
Sharing economies will evolve or be disrupted as we see the next version of Airbnb type businesses integrate smart contracts that combine peer-to-peer sharing with immutable conditions set by the owner, such as speed limits on loaned electric cars, or time limits set remotely for access to hired holiday homes.

13. Musicians and artists regain control
The music and arts industry will evolve to a distributed music system for storing and selling intellectual property direct to customers with revenues going direct to the artist.

14. Welfare with purpose
Counter measures to unemployment such as the Universal Benefit Funds could include smart contracts and incentives to engineer positive social impact and increase accuracy in the monitoring of any welfare support.

Talk to us if you’d like to integrate social impact and social innovation into your business model.