ACT blockchain startup is creating NGO 2.0

A while back, when I was working for Humaniq, I wrote an article about how blockchain is going help make philanthropic organizations better. The stripped down essence of it is that under the current models, there is a big gap between donors who want to make a difference, and the people and causes they want to make a difference for. What currently fills this gap is a jumble of bureaucracy, governmental organizations, charities, and NGOs.

ACT aims to close this gap and make civic action and charity much more accountable and much easier to accomplish. Started by Fraser Brown and Ian Cunningham, they’re creating a new decentralized system where anyone can submit proposals, which are then voted on by the community members who are interested in participating and funding the action. If a proposal gets enough votes, the requesting individual or organization gets the funding to carry it out.

ACT wants to empower individuals and organizations to be able to achieve realistic goals and make things happen in their communities and countries. In almost every country in the world, there’s a profound desire for positive social change, but individuals feel disempowered to do anything to make progress towards it. What stops them?

  • Government bureaucracy: it’s often a very long and drawn out process to petition government offices to do the jobs they’re supposed to exist to do. When faced with the monumental grind of navigating the bureaucracy, most people give up…which a cynic might say is a design feature of said bureaucracy.
  • Government opposition: government censorship and oppression is a daily reality for citizens of many countries around the world. They can’t exactly go out on the street corner and talk to people about a cause they’re passionate about if the government isn’t also passionate about that cause, and especially if the government is actively opposed to it.
  • Financial leakage: this is the term used to describe how the money budgeted for a program tends to largely disappear before it reaches the end users that it’s intended for. People look at some rather famous international charities and NGOs, and they see executives with $600,000 salaries who ask people to work for their noble organization for free as volunteers, without any sense of irony. It also causes a concerned citizen to wonder how much of their donation is going to help people when these NGOs are paying for expensive office space in London, New York, Paris, and Washington.
  • Uncertainty that they’re making a difference: a person gives money to an NGO or charity and the only reassurance they have that it’s being used for something positive comes from a slick PR campaign telling them that they’re making a difference, and that always seems to coincide with asking for more donations. Cognitive dissonance is real, and there is little transparency or proof of action in the world of NGOs.

ACT addresses all of these concerns, because they’re all related to the concept that a single individual can’t accomplish a lot on their own, but when like-minded individuals work together towards a common goal, they can achieve results that would be impossible otherwise. How will ACT help people with the issues we just listed?

  • Government bureaucracy: an individual on ACT can submit a proposal to get help petitioning the government. The proposal could take many forms, such as funding ads in newspapers to bring awareness of an issue the public may not be aware of, or paying people to help collect the required signatures for a public referendum to take place.
  • Government opposition: ACT users could ask for help from the global community to pay for the costs of flyers, banners, signs, and photo and video journalists to cover a march for whatever cause they’re advocating for, thus bringing heightened awareness and pressure on their government to make reforms. It can also be used for the little things, like paying the organizers to take time off from work to do the logistics and prep for the event.
  • Financial leakage: ACT is going to cut out the middleman organizations who are a relic of pre-internet days. People will no longer need to give money to a non-transparent intermediary when they could give it directly to groups on the ground who are ready to take direct action. For example, if you want to donate money to help build water filtration systems for remote villages in Senegal, you could work directly with the organization that will actually be delivering and installing it. None of your donation will be spent on propping up bloated organizations that spend 70% of their funds on overhead. Funding for ACT proposals uses blockchain technology, so every transaction is traceable and publicly visible to anyone who wants to look.
  • Uncertainty that they’re making a difference: ACT uses decentralized curation of proposals, and proposals that are approved have to show proof that they’ve taken the actions they outlined in their submission for funding, as well as reporting on the results. ACT users will be able to track the proposal funding through the blockchain, and see concrete evidence of exactly what results their support achieved.

The final goal of ACT is to help regular citizens get the support they need to affect positive change in their town, state, and country. The old activist slogan is “Think global, act local.” With ACT, it’s more “Act global, make progress local.” It’s streamlining the process of getting aid to those in need of it, and taking the decision-making power of who gets help out of the hands of people who haven’t been very effective at delivering it. ACT is accountable, transparent, decentralized, and crowd-sourced. In short, it’s giving power back to the people.