How the ideals of a Web3 internet evolution are translating to real-world social benefit

When we think of the big names in technology, there tend to be some key figures that constantly come to the fore; Zuckerberg, Musk, Gates, Jobs and Wozniak, even Bezos. But do these names resonate with us because of their contribution to technology, or because they made a shed load of money?

One name that all-too-frequently gets overlooked is that of Tim Berners-Lee, effectively the architect of the internet as we know it. Whilst modestly stating that all he did was join together a number of already-developed elements, what Berners-Lee pioneered was truly groundbreaking — not least because rather than patenting it, he made it freely accessible to anyone who could make use of it.

And that’s because at the heart of Berners-Lee’s development was an idea — or perhaps more accurately, an ideal. His vision of the internet was about empowerment, equality and the democratisation of knowledge. But to get to that ideal, the internet would have to go through some awkward adolescent years, full of growing pains and a challenge with finding its own identity.

But now, 30 years later, we are inching closer to that ideal Berners-Lee was pursuing; an internet marked by decentralisation, developed by everyone with full participation.

This next evolutionary stage of the internet is often referred to as Web 3.0, and is marked by the advent of peer-to-peer interactions, blockchain (and its financial offspring, crypto) and a trustless, permissionless environment where nobody has to ask a single hierarchical power for the right to contribute, and the trust comes from the system and the users, not from an overarching ‘trusted’ gatekeeper.

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Of course, we’ve seen revolutions on the internet before. Web 2.0 evangelised the idea of information democratisation particularly; we could all contribute information and opinions, we could communicate and interact in a bi-directional manner. It was liberating; until it wasn’t.

The utopian ideas of social communication morphed into the dystopian realities of social media-led lives, globalised communication possibilities made us feel beholden to 24/7 connectivity and productivity, and then there were the pop-up ads. Oh the pop-up adds.

And so understandably, there is some skepticism about the concept of Web 3.0 and the power to the people that Blockchain technologies will supposedly bring. Undoubtedly, we’ve already seen some questionable elements; not least of all the crypt-bro culture that has arisen in the field of Blockchain, with bored ape NFTers and HODL Bitcoiners who often read as both exclusive and infantile, privileged and naive.

We say this because we think it’s important to be realistic about these things. After all, many critics are already talking about the bubble bursting, with NFT trading down to a fraction of where it was just a few months ago (though we’d argue what has diminished is ‘fad’ trading, and what remains is the more meaningful transactions — which we discuss in more detail below).

No, presenting the world of NFTs and Cryptocurrency as if it is a utopian future vision with no possible drawbacks is not only naive, it risks turning people off from engaging with the subject on a real and meaningful level. Because there are very real benefits to be realised from this technological transformation. And it’s those we want to focus on here.

The idea that Blockchain can make a difference is more than just rhetoric. It’s not just about wishy washy concepts of taking back power from centralised corporate entities, there are an abundance of real world examples that show how Blockchain — and NFTs particularly — represent a new tool that grassroots organisations can use to empower themselves and the people they represent.

In previous blogs we’ve talked about NFTs as a device for recording meaningful and measurable outputs in a secure and validated way; in particular, using NFTs as a way for social enterprises to record the positive benefits of their work (such as carbon removal), and then trade these for funds that support their initiative.

If you want to find out more about how this helps both the grassroots organisations themselves and corporate entities looking to offset their carbon emissions, you can read more here.

But if you ask your average Joe in the street about NFTs, they’re not going to cite complex decentralised transaction articles. They’re going to have one thing on their mind: digital art. Bored Apes. Famous artists cashing in by dividing their works into thousands of pieces of conceptual ownership.

There’s no getting away from the fact that all-too-often, the concept of digital art NFTs gets an incredible amount of flack in the media; often painting the realm of NFTs as faddish, out-of-touch, trivial and meaningless indulgences of the super-rich.

But NFTs can have a serious positive impact when pointed towards something meaningful — and by that, we mean social and environmental impact. Why? Because NFTs help solve many of the problems associated with fundraising.

Many charities still rely on the conventional methods of fundraising. Whether it’s tear-jerking adverts during daytime TV, leaflet drops, sponsored fun runs or the (let’s face it, incredibly annoying) fundraiser asking for just a minute of your time on the street corner — we’re all familiar with old-school charity approaches.

But there’s increasing recognition that these methods aren’t very effective — especially on a younger audience. They tend to be rooted in guilt and obligation, rather than celebrating the pleasure that exists in contributing, making a difference and being part of a community. In-so-far as they ever put the fun in fundraising, it’s through wacky baked-bean challenges or really-quite-selfish skydiving exploits.

And more than this, they’re incredibly expensive to run, with a very poor return on investment (in case you didn’t know, those street collectors are not out there in the rain from the goodness in their hearts — they’re paid employees).

NFTs have the potential to change all of that. They’re about utility. About mutual benefit. About community, belonging, support and enrichment of the collective. For example, when an artist creates an NFT and splits the proceeds with a charity, then both the art community and the charity are empowered. The artist gains from exposure and the creative endeavor, the purchaser gains a feeling of participation, belonging, artistic enrichment (and possibly even actual financial returns through investment in something collectible).

Most significantly, the charity gains what it most needs — funds, unmediated and untroubled by bureaucratic expenses. It fosters a direct relationship between all of the stakeholders, which is valuable on both a community and financial level. And it drives future commitment through a sense of belonging and benefit.

Now we’re not trying to detract from the efforts of mainstreaming charities. But there is always room for improvement — The intention to do good doesn’t take away the importance of recognising that times are changing, and just as for-profit businesses need to adapt to consumer trends, so too does the third sector. NFTs represent one of these important changes.

The great news is that there are some incredible examples of charities and social enterprises who are embracing this new paradigm, and demonstrating incredible success as a result — and it’s these that we’ve been focusing on at The Blue Marble.

We help people launch NFT campaigns with ease and split sales revenues with social and environmental causes. The platform has been designed to attract audiences outside of the traditional crypto space through the development of easy to use interfaces for creators and credit and debit card purchase facility for buyers. And The Blue Marble runs on Stellar’s echo friendly Blockchain.

Keep an eye out for our first curated drop that will be available for support this month! We are working with a digital artist who will be raising funds for a women’s Telehealth platform.

Are you looking to use NFTs as a means for supporting social and environmental initiatives? If so I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line: matt@task.io

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