The potential of Web3 to transform the charity sector

Daniel Ford
Huddlecraft
Published in
4 min readMar 7, 2023

What do you think when you hear the word ‘Web3’? It’s a term that has gained a lot of attention recently. I’ve noticed that people have wildly different opinions about it, ranging from people rolling their eyes and thinking ‘here we go again with another tech buzzword’, to people finding the term abstract and alienating, to people thinking it’s the most groundbreaking technological development since the birth of the internet. There’s probably wisdom in the whole range of responses.

But whether we want to buy into the hype or not, Web3 might offer huge value to charities and the work they do. If you’re not versed in everything Web3, there are some great resources and articles out there to learn more about what Web3 actually is. For our purposes, we’re using Web3 as a catch-all term for technologies, values and organising forms that are emerging out of the latest evolution of the internet.

Shiny and transformative or ineffective?

We’ve been in conversations with Catalyst about the potential of Web3 for UK charities. And without jumping on the Web3 bandwagon, we’re interested in how we can learn whether it is shiny and transformative, or shiny and ineffective. Technological innovations often diffuse unequally across different sectors and systems. The charity sector is seen as being left to play catch up and having to repurpose technologies that have been designed and positioned for commercial purposes. Part of what we’re interested in testing is how we can accelerate our understanding of the potential of these new technologies, so that we can better enable social change, and not waste precious resources on what’s shiny and ineffective. We hope that in future this can contribute to the charity sector being better positioned to shape the development of these technologies for social impact.

Peer learning approach

At Huddlecraft we specialise in peer-led learning and action. We imagine a world of co-learners shaping change together. So we sensed potential in bringing some peer power to the question of Web3 and whether it’s useful for charities. We want to value both the power of peer learning and support alongside the depth of existing Web3 expertise, so we’re inviting a cohort of charities into a learning immersion together, supported by Web3 mentors with knowledge of the landscape and opportunities. We want to experiment with a model for learning that we can test and evolve over time. Through some of our own work in the Huddles that we run, participants report a 25% increase in feeling useful, purposeful and worthwhile after a Huddle, and an almost 40% increase in feeling supported and invested in by others. We’ve found that we can literally alter our perception of challenging things by surrounding ourselves with the right kinds of relationships. We think the power of this kind of learning, combined with sound expert input, could lead to some cool outcomes for the charities involved.

So what are the kinds of things we might explore through this process? I don’t want to pre-empt it, but there are a couple of things I’m excited about that I would call out:

  • Transforming funding and resource flows: Web3 technologies have been shifting what’s possible in the world of philanthropy and funding. Check out the Decentralised Finance (DeFi) and Regenerative Finance (ReFi) movements for more on this. They have made funding more direct, more transparent and more decentralised. Miranda Dixon points out that in places where people have less access to bank accounts than they do smartphones, tokens and cryptocurrencies might better enable access and impact. How might charities harness the potential of these technologies to better create social value and track the impact of their money?
  • Shifting power: the decentralising dynamics of Web3 technologies offer both opportunities and risks to charities. Some of the decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) that are emerging are displaying incredibly innovative ways of working, rewarding contributions and making collective decisions. This is contributing to decentralised coordination at scale. How might charities use some of this decentralising power to make how they organise, build community and make decisions even more effective? How could this allow them to shift more power to their communities and beneficiaries?
  • Learning about learning: a slightly more meta outcome of this is the potential to learn about this mode of learning for exploring emerging tech trends. Beyond the application of Web3, what are the ways charities can start to sense, learn and adapt to emerging trends in ways that are useful for the rest of the sector? In our Money Movers programme, that supports peer groups of women to green their finances, 140 women have moved £1.2million for the planet — and every woman has reported feeling more able to align her finances with her values. Inspired by this, I wonder what an effective peer-to-peer structure for exploring and responding to emerging tech trends looks like? We’re hoping to learn a lot through this process about this question of how charities can better learn and adapt to change.

These are just some of the areas that seem juicy from my perspective. I’m looking forward to learning with the Web3 mentors we are recruiting about all my current blind spots and how we can best curate the learning immersion for the charities involved. If you’re reading this and you think that you or your charity might be interested in joining us, please express your interest and apply here. We’ll be sharing our learnings at a showcase event after the immersion, so stay tuned for more!

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Daniel Ford
Huddlecraft

Learning Ecosystem Lead at Huddlecraft. Lifelong learning, systems change, Deep Democracy, healthy human cultures...