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Should Nonprofits Care About #Blockchain? Probably.

All anyone needs in this moment is awareness and an appreciation that more learning is important right now.

ActuaIly, everyone should care about blockchain, because it’s changing the way many things work. But I say “probably” because you don’t need to care about blockchain – the technology – at all, to realize the significance of blockchain, the invention. 

Technology throws many people off.  Any new technology sounds…complicated.  And it might be.  But really, no one has to know *how* technology works in order to know what cool new things it can enable.

I might not know how electricity works, but I like having light.  And I can drive a car just fine without knowing how the engine functions.  Blockchain is the same thing.  How it works is interesting, if you care to explore, but there’s no real need to know the intricacies.  What matters is, how can blockchain technology allow you to do something you couldn’t do yesterday?

[And if you really want to know how blockchain works, this video, this video,  and this TED talk are a good start.]

That’s where it gets interesting.

Here are just a few things that you could not do before blockchain, that you can do now that blockchain exists.

  • Exchange money for services or goods with people you don’t know, anywhere in the world – without banks, and with certainty that you will receive your money – within minutes.
  • Create an identity that can follow you anywhere, even if you don’t have paper ID.  Anyone can check if you are who you say you are, instantly – even if you are a refugee with no papers, using, for example, a retina scan.
  • Exchange ownership, like car titles, property, and creative or artistic goods like art or music, in real-time, and where anyone can instantly verify ownership.
  • Share and get paid for clean energy that your home’s solar panels create and store in batteries with your neighbors, while you’re out of town and not using energy, and your neighbor’s family is actively using energy.
  • Establish ownership of your family’s historical property via drone footage, GPS coordinates, neighbors vouching for you, photos, history, and other credible, documentable means – in spite of any questionable government policies or unrest, anywhere in the world.
  • Instantly tip a grower of coffee that you never met, thousands of miles away, because you love the coffee you just drank, and because you can see the path of the coffee beans all the way back to her… helping her family.
  • Check credentials instantly – like college degrees, certificates, training, memberships – without a need to request or supply any paper documents.
  • Track where anything came from (provenance – supply chain), from start to finish – like where romaine lettuce was grown, so only contaminated bags need be removed from shelves; if diamonds are really conflict-free; if food is truly cruelty-free; if donations go to their intended beneficiaries; if medicines in third-world countries are real or counterfeit, and if they were always at a temperature that kept them intact.

These are only a small sample of the things blockchain enables.

It’s not necessary to know anything about blockchain to know it’s hugely important.

And in my opinion, having watched several waves of technology progress, this is a seismic shift that feels to me like the internet felt to me in 1995.  I kept hearing about things, and I saw things, that were really incredible and made me want to tell everyone. 

This is the same.  It feels like the internet felt in the late 90’s.  Not everyone was on board right away, or even knew about it, or cared, or thought it would…replace fax machines. 

But lo and behold, the internet did replace fax machines, and this feels exactly the same.  And like fax machines to email, no special knowledge is needed.

All anyone needs in this moment is awareness and an appreciation that more learning is important right now.  There are many free or low-cost courses online to learn more.

Blockchain is new(ish) but holds so much potential that it’s worth paying attention to right now. Take this time to get ahead of the curve and be a leader in your space who can provide insight.

There are many excellent conferences available to attend in the United States and elsewhere if you search. 

Do a search for blockchain conferences, workshops, talks, Meetups, or other events in your area to see how you can get involved.  It’s more popular than you think, and we need smart people like you to get involved, and help educate others!

Have you seen an interesting use case for nonprofits or social enterprise that you think can help create positive impact, or #changetheworld? Please share your ideas with me @CharityIdeas!

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