2016 Badge Summit preview: Interview with Serge Ravet

Serge Ravet is one of the many amazing collaborators and thought leaders who will be attending the 2016 Badge Summit on June 24, 2016 in Aurora, Colorado. For those who are unfamiliar with Serge, he has devoted a large part of his work, including over 30 international projects, to exploring how digital technologies could contribute to empowering people and communities through leading educational and social innovation. He is most known for his work on ePortfolios, identity and trust as well as leading, since 2003, the international ePortfolio conference, now known as ePIC. Working on Open Badges since 2012, as one of the winners of the 2015 DML Trust Challenge, he was awarded a MacArthur grant to develop the Open Badge Passport.

Late in 2015, he started a new journey exploring the application of blockchains to Open Badges and ePorfolios (BadgeChain). He is currently working on Personal Ledgers and BitofTrust as a means to establish the foundations for the “informal recognition of informal learning.”

We are hugely honored that Serge is traveling across an ocean to join us at the Badge Summit and I was excited to catch up with him for a quick interview to preview his current thinking ahead of our gathering next month:

1. As one of the thought leaders on the cutting edges of Digital Badges research and implementation, what has for you been the most exciting development of the last year?

From an operational point of view, the most exciting development last year was having the Open Badge Passport chosen as one of the laureates of the DML trust competition. For a long time I have been advocating (after Carla Casilli) that Open Badges are “trust statements” so I took my chance and submitted the idea of the Open Badge Passport as a means to establish and nurture bottom-up trust networks. Working with Discendum Oy, the publisher of the Open Badge Factory, is a pleasure and I believe that we are bringing a valuable contribution to the community.

From an intellectual (yet practical!) point of view, the most exciting moment was the realisation of the potential of blockchains/distributed ledger technologies to reinvent Open Badges — and ePortfolios! While recognizing the power and value of Bitcoin technology, I felt that the underpinning values and business model were antinomic to those of Open Badges and added confusion to the discussions on “badges as currencies.”

My “road to Damascus moment” (an expression that unfortunately might trigger mass surveillance systems nowadays!) came when I met the people leading Blockchain France who described the many initiatives based on blockchains that had nothing to do with the world of finance. It was then that I realized that distributed ledger technologies were in the process of becoming a general purpose technology worth exploring for Open Badges, something we are doing with my BadgeChain colleagues.

2. You’ve written a lot about trust as it relates to Badges and the claims that they make. Do you see this issue of trust as being specific to Badges or is it a broader concern throughout modern society?

I see trust as THE central issue we have to face as we are moving closer and closer to a “distrust society.” Although, from previous projects, I was aware of the importance of trust, what really helped me understand the challenges ahead of us was the first workshop organized after announcing the DML Trust Challenge laureates at SXSW 2015. While the participants of the workshop were all winners of a trust challenge, all the groups but one (!) when asked to invent solutions to address teenager online addiction came up with solutions based on the creation of control mechanisms — regulatory and digital. What those groups did not realize was that what they were really inventing were “distrust technologies” enforcing conformance, an approach that has not yet proven to be conducive to innovation, trust and empowerment!

It is what triggered the writing of a post on “The deleterious effects of mistaking security for trust.” I am greatly indebted to Alfie Kohn and his work on intrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. It helped me realize that security is intrinsic to trust and any attempt at using security as an extrinsic mechanism to address trust issues is most likely to destroy trust even further.

3. I’m really excited to learn from you at the 2016 Badge Summit. What aspect of the event are you looking forward to for your own learning?

I am also thrilled at the perspective of learning from you and the participants without the mediation of technologies! One of my missions will be to get feedback on the work we are doing with the Open Badge Passport and the BadgeChain group.


The 2016 Badge Summit is taking place on June 24, 2016 in Aurora, Colorado. Early registration is only $99 and includes breakfast and lunch, in addition to an assortment of powerful speakers, panels and workshops about Digital Badges. For more information, check out the event page, this post announcing the Badge Summit or feel free to message me on twitter (@SenorG).