Cryptocurrencies with Values

Professor Olinga Ta’eed PhD FIoD
Director — Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance

1. Description of a Blockchain 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.

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.

In 4th Industrial Revolution, Blockchain is where Fintech meets Socialtech.

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.

Visit our website Seratio Platform ICO to get the ideas about the world of values.

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

Bitcoin is the most well-known among cryptocurrencies, now has a market capitalization of c. US$ 53 billion

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.

Ethereum has the best developed infrastructure and is well adopted within the community

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.
 

What kind of blockchain enthusiast are you?

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.

A new world order needs a scalable and sustainable Circular Economy

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.

We will introduce the first ICO in UK regulatory framework in this September 2017 (source: Seratio Platform ICO)

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.

www.seratio-coins.world

via GIPHY

More transparent and harmonious world is awaiting us

 

 

 

Cryptocurrencies with Values

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.

seratio-coins.world

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.

 

Don’t ask what we gain: ask what we lose.

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.

Educational Passport: Decentralised Learning Ledger (DLL)

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.

Stone walls, Hermel

The North Bekaa Valley from Hermel

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.

Syrian refugees settlement, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Syrian refugees settlement, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Syrian refugees settlement, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Syrian refugees settlement, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Syrian refugees settlement, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

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.

Ana-Aqra school in Baalbek, Lebanon

Ana-Aqra school in Baalbek, Lebanon

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.

The children’s rights – Ana-Aqra School, Baalbek

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.

Integrated decentralised learning ledger

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.

 

UoN Blockchain Workshop – 5 May AM

UoN Innovation Centre (opposite Railway Station)

UoN Blockchain Workshop

9am-1pm 5th May 2017

UN Innovation Centre, Green Street, NN1 1SY

The broad purpose is to explore the opportunities that Blockchain and associated technologies can offer the University. Blank canvas, open mind – no agenda other than that.

If there are other colleagues that should take part in this workshop, please let me know (olinga.taeed@northampton.ac.uk), or the meeting organiser – Professor Armellini, Dean of Learning & Teaching Ale.Armellini@northampton.ac.uk

Tracking progress on sustainability certification

 

Driven in large measure by the ground breaking outcomes of the United Nation’s (UN) Rio Summit of 1992, on environment and development, and the more recent UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (which replaced the Millennium Development Goals – MDGs), there has in recent decades, been a growing move towards the development of a number of sustainability/environmental certification schemes. Indeed, the number of such schemes (e.g. for commodities trading), is endless and is somewhat of a mine field, without effective guidance and support.

For example, there are well known designations such as Fairtrade and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). However, depending on the commodity, there are others that might provide a ‘better fit’, for example, The Better Cotton Initiative for cotton producers, Bonsucro for sugar cane producers, or the Pro Terra Standard that is primarily focused on soy-derived products. For example, ProTerra is the first certification program in the food and feed commodities sector to respond to the demand for both non-GMO soy and improved sustainability. 

As I have written about in previous articles (e.g. on frugal innovation and shifts towards the developent of market equity portfolios that take account of the future impacts of climate change), there is an increasing drive towards organisations taking account of their social impact. Thus there are a growing number of ‘double bottom line’ companies being developed. For example, the B-labs of which there are more than 1,800 so called B-Corps’ that are committed to producing a measurable social impact.

Without doubt, this increasing move over the past decades towards increased socio-environmental impacts-based initiatives and certification is a good one. However, one question that does arise is how might progress towards these goals best be measured? And how might it be done in a manner that is transparent and with results that are widely available? Could Blockchain serve as possible option?

Empowering Consumers in the Circular Economy. Is Blockchain the Missing Link?

The call for a more sustainable economy is not new. It goes back as far as the call for global responses to climate change and the rapid growth of populations associated with the rising scarcity of natural resources. We are living however a momentum of unprecedented favourable alignment of technological, political and social factors that are enabling an effective transition to a more sustainable economy. The term ‘circular economy’ has emerged to represent this new economic landscape which is paving the way for business model innovations that maximise environmental and societal benefits with no detriment to economic gains. In general, the circular economy advocates, inter alia, the creation of production/consumption systems that:

  • Emphasise the delivery of functionality and experience (value in use), rather than product ownership;
  • Build upon collaborative or shared consumption approaches;
  • Create closed-loop or cascading (open-loop) value chains where recycling, remanufacturing, repair and reuse processes substitute or minimise disposal processes.

An increasing number of businesses are already implementing one or more of the initiatives above, which are fundamentally based on the prolonged use of products. This is the central point I would like to draw your attention to.

The role that end consumers can play to prolong the life span of products is not just a consumption issue, it is also a supply issue in the sense that consumers can potentially supply other consumers or businesses with products that can be further used, repaired, remanufactured or recycled.

There are actually digital platforms where consumers can make their assets and even their skills available to the market (e.g. ebay, Airbnb and taskrabbit). But these business models are third-party centralised marketplace systems that control the flow of information and currency between the parts involved. 

Another limitation for consumers is that a number of current circular economy business models are still primarily focused on the firm, relegating the end consumer to roles such as use or share and the subsequent separation of products or waste for reuse or refuse collection. This wastes consumers’ capability and effort which an effective circular economy should co-opt.

Co-opting the consumer’s capabilities and skills has the potential to transform regenerative product-service systems and accelerate the shift towards the circular economy. The main question is: How can consumers be empowered to engage and participate more actively in product reuse and recovery processes? Blockchain seems to be the key enabler to significantly empower consumers for the circular economy.

The advent of the blockchain technology offers unprecedented opportunities for circular economy business models geared by peer to peer (P2P) networks. Digital ‘blockchain-enabled’ platforms allow P2P transactions to takes place on the cloud without third-party intermediaries. That is, consumers can engage in transactions and securely pay each other directly, without intermediaries, through a decentralised and globally distributed blockchain network. By enabling consumers to circulate and recapture value from their underused assets, blockchain platforms have the power to significantly catalyse the shift from the linear to the circular economy.

The opportunities that can be created with the support of the blockchain technology are limitless, including the value one can attach to the currency, or coin, used in blockchain marketplaces. Currency value is no longer limited to hard tangible financial value. Intangible social and environmental values can also be attached to an ‘extra-financial’ coin that connects socio-environmental value to financial value. The main challenge is to define the metrics to represent intangible values. Pioneering initiatives to tackle this issue are already in place. The CCEG Blockchain UN Lab has been developing projects aimed at enabling transactions of intangible and non-financial values using a unique combination of blockchain technology. You are welcome to take this challenge with us, helping to shape the new marketplaces for the circular economy.

As an example, follow this interactive prezi http://ow.ly/A34u303S4wa or watch video of Circular Economy in a city context

Supply chain provenance from cradle to grave

Leather Industry with Ethical Issues

In the new era of sustainable markets, like all industries buying a leather bag carries with it ethical connotations. In reality, consumers are offered little provenance information about pieces of clothing, footwear or fashion accessories. With greater recognition surrounding animal protection, human right, sustainable development and chemical processing the leather industry is facing a growing demand for transparency in their supply chains.

Each year, the leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals and tans their skins and hides. Not only the skins of cattle or calves, with the diversity demanded by customers, suppliers need to meet discerning consumer demands for sustainable practices. Although, for example, the typically alligators can reach up to 60 years, in farms, the animal is slaughtered before the age of 2 due to length considerations. Animal husbandry during those brief years plays an important part.  

Worker, Moroccan Tannery

The scandal of child worker in leather tanneries in Bangladesh in 2012 highlights that leather products are sometimes produced by underpaid workers in unacceptable conditions. Modern Slavery is not by any means an issue unique to the industry but needs to be tackled when found.

Apart from the impact on humans and animals, leather manufacturing can have environmental considerations. The older more traditional tanneries use by necessity toxic chemicals which then necessitates extensive waste processing. There is a drive in the industry towards much greater responsible practices.

To combat growing consumer awareness of such issues, the transparency of product provenance, trace-ability and effective control of suppliers are key to the growth of the sector. The question arises as to how this can be achieved most efficiently, with least cost, and maximum impact.

Potential of Block-chain Technology

One essentially need to prove to customers that they are buying a ‘good’ product, rather than one with questionable provenance. With the development of international trade and global value chains, making any product is complex intertwining a large number of suppliers with multi-step  processes. Each step involves the creation of  data, storage and centralized access. Technically, having detailed information of products from birth to death is impossible. These complexities make supply chain provenance a significant non-trivial exercise.

Block-chain technology can potentially improve the transparency and trace-ability issues within the manufacturing supply chain through the use of immutable record of data, distributed storage, and controlled user access. All data in each step of the supply chain will update directly and securely in block-chain. All stakeholders could trace and access information of the product with every detail of the animal husbandry, labour conditions, chemical processes and other intangible KPI’s that directly effect the tangible price of the product at each stage.

The Proposed Framework

The proposed approach comprises of a decentralized distributed system that uses blockchain(s) to collect, store and manage key product information throughout its life cycle. This creates a secure, shared record of exchange for each product along with specific product information.

We propose three main stage.

  • The first stage is collecting data. As a product moves through its life cycle, it is defined by a variety of actors – eg producers, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and finally the end consumer. Each of these actors play an important part in this system, logging in key information about the product and its current status on to the block-chain network. Each product would have a unique digital profile containing all related information, populated during various life cycle stages.

 

  • The second stage is verifying data. In this stage, all data collected from input stage will be gathered and compared with the block-chain. This is double verification process to ensure that all data input is identical and acceptable.
  • The third stage is calculating data. All data, both tangible financial data as well as intangible non-financial data must be represented in a consistent way to allow comparisons. In this stages, data also will be encrypted and added to block-chain.

Overall, the movement of total value will be parallel processed from farm to land-fill.

In each step, the financial value and non-financial value will be tracked –  evaluated, added or subtracted from the product provenance. Through all stage of the production cycle, the total value of product will be illustrated and articulated in simple metrics including at the end to the consumer to allow decisions to be made.

A Collective Vision

When you can measure it, you can influence the sustainable development of the cycle.  It allows for both upstream and downstream controls to be enabled and embedded, from farms to land-fill. In effect a product can carry a digital passport that contains all the information you need to make and direct decision making at each stage.

Could Blockchain help in overcoming the challenges in commodities trading?

Global production and consumption of sustainable products (e.g. cocoa and bananas), is increasing rapidly. Indeed, the value of trade across listed agricultural and seafood commodities is worth in excess of £35 billion. Organisations are increasingly buying into this agenda. For example, in 2014, the cosmetics and beauty giant L’Oréal committed to sourcing 100% of the renewable raw materials it uses from sustainable sources, as well as a goal of ‘zero deforestation’ by 2020.

However, this rise in trade and consumption is not without its challenges. For example, as is the case in all commodity trading, there is significant price volatility in the markets (see graphic below).

Commodities have been on a roller coaster ride for the past couple of years due to a surge in demand (and subsequent slowdown) from emerging economies, such as India and China, and an increasingly strong dollar. For example, prices for industrial metals (e.g. nickel and copper), fell by almost 40% in 2015 due to decreased demand from China. Another challenge lies in the disparity of the markets. For smaller producers, the capacity to produce for sustainable markets more often than not tends to be concentrated in more developed, export-oriented economies. This is so simply because it is easier to do business where there is better infrastructure and governance. There are some exceptions to this general rule, including cocoa which is largely produced in less-developed economies such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Another exception is cobalt, the largest producer of which is the Democratic Republic of Congo, even though around 1/3 of the global market is controlled by the minerals giant Glencore.

Overcoming these challenges requires innovative approaches. Internally, one strategy might be through the use of Porter’s value chain analysis (i.e. the range of activities in taking a product or service from conceptualisation to delivery). Through this approach an organisation examines its production processes (i.e. its primary activities – e.g. marketing, operations, logistics, and support activities – procurement, technology development and human resource management), and identifies where improvements can be made. If the organisation is competing through differentiation advantage it will try to perform its activities more effectively and efficiently than its competitors. If it competes through cost advantage, it will try to perform internal activities at lower costs than its competitors, and therefore enhance its bottom line and competitive advantage.

However, it is in the trading of the commodities that there are significant opportunities for innovation to address the challenges. Blockchain, the method of recording data in the form of a digital ledger of transactions is one such innovation. Indeed, if traders started sharing data using a tailor-made version of Blockchain it could remove a lot of manual processing, smoothen the volatility, speed up transactions (thereby reducing costs), and overcome infrastructure and capacity differences (thereby leading to some rebalancing of the markets).

Various examples already exist. For example, the technology company Everledger is using Blockchain to develop a system of warranties that enable mining companies to verify that their rough-cut diamonds are not being used by militias to fund conflicts, and that they comply with the Kimberley Process – a government and community-backed certification scheme for diamonds. In 2015, the investment bank Goldman Sachs and Chinese investment firm IDG Capital Partners invested £35 million in Circle Internet Financial, a start-up to exploit Blockchain technology to improve consumer money transfers. Similarly, the tech company R3 CEV has developed a consortium, including more than 40 global banks (e.g. Barclays, UBS and Wells Fargo), to explore the use of distributed ledger technology. Therefore, the rise in resource consumption has brought with it challenges. However, innovative strategies to address these challenges do exist.

Intangible Value Blockchain + xAPI + OpenBadges = BadgeChain

What if you knew? What if you knew that the effort you put into something actually had value beyond the immediacy of completed task?

What if the effects of that task could never account for an ROI? What compels us to even start that task, that project, that strategy if we can’t possibly know the benefits, the beneficiaries or the positive change that we could be affecting and effecting?

How would our stakeholders react, and how do we know it is benchmarked against what our competitors (or rather a collegiate for change) are doing beyond marketing and media kudos, and into real, significant impact – the value of intrinsically motivated efforts to add value, not to wealth, but to the value we can bring to society?

How would we possibly start to turn that value into data that we could then start to manage, analyse and make actionalbe and data-informed decisions on?

We’d need a common language, a common means to express and represent our activities, that of our agents of change, and that of the recipients and beneficiaries of the change we are facilitating.

That language exists, and it’s called the Experience API (or xAPI for short), and is already underpinning aspects of the OpenBadges movement – where intellectual currency may be in it’s infancy (seen as some as extrinsic motivators for learning), but the recognition of educational transactions across diverse and ubiquitous learning environments is becoming a common outward expressions of intrinsic desires to develop and grow, published for all on LinkedIn profiles (for more information, please take a look at BadgeChains –

If you want to know more, you’ll need to follow this project – not to be given the answers, but to be participants of the change in the way that activities which generate intangible value can be represented as a simple yet powerful statement: [Actor] [Verb] [Object] – [You] [Read] [Blogpost on IVBxAPI], [You] [Searched] [What is xAPI], [You] [Completed] [#LearnxAPI MOOC by Curatr], [We] [Started] [Intangible Value Blockchain project using #xAPI]…

We are reaching out to teams such as http://makingbetter.us/ (https://twitter.com/mkngbttr – setup by Aaron E. Silvers https://twitter.com/aaronesilvers and Megan Bowe https://twitter.com/meganbowe )to raise the knowledge and power of the Experience API from specification to application for the better good.

With your help, we can make the statement [Intangible Value Blockchain with xAPI] [Started] [Positive transferable change to Society].

Jim Harris is a Learning Designer at The Univeristy of Northampton – follow me here: https://twitter.com/JimDHarris