Blockchain global citizenship

Is Blockchain the Link that Global Citizenship is Missing?

Once upon a time, as an 11-year-old I was enthused by OXFAM’s ‘Poverty Make History’ campaign. Once I believed that changing one life was enough. How often do you hear that story? And how often do we find a way to ignite that passion again? Well, for me, Tuesday evening at Tech For Good’s Blockchain: Hype or Hope? at TechSpace was one of those nights. Is blockchain the link that global citizenship is missing?

Previously, it’s been possible to disregard the idea of a ‘new face of capitalism’ or responsible capitalism as utopian, but listening to Cecile’s manifesto for blockchain for good, humanising the blockchain, it seemed that people could matter, wherever they are in the supply chain. Could blockchain be the new face of responsible capitalism? Of consumerism?

Kate Dodson’s example of ethical mobile phones, such as Fairphone, such a vision a reality. Kate, consultant and Project Manager for HumanityX,  discussed the potential to transform supply chain tracking and therefore consumer behaviour. This would put individual choice and ethical decision making right back in our hands as consumers. She envisioned a world where you could track the source of a product, such as tin of tuna or the cobalt in a mobile phone at the swipe of a finger by scanning a code on the packaging. This way consumers have a meaningful way of engaging with that product’s supply chain and have the opportunity to balance economic cost with human and environmental costs- the ‘true’ or ‘triple’ bottom line.

Cobalt sourcing in the DRC
Cobalt sourcing in the DRC. Photo credit: Fairphone

With the increasing demand for ethically sourced products, this could be the ‘magic bullet’ for systemic positive social change through consumerism. It could be a means of connecting the admirable and tireless efforts of customer boycotts, regulation and policy, undercover investigative journalism and human rights watchers. The reality of consumer experience that Kate envisioned is still a way off, but the principles and the feasibility of using blockchain is there. It suggests that to truly realise Blockchain’s potential for good, we need to first recognise the individuals and human stories behind each of our economic transactions, and then allow the technology to positively reinforce this recognition rather than degrading it. Maybe blockchain is the ‘voice of the next billion.’

Maybe blockchain is the ‘voice of the next billion.’

However, a note of caution was obvious too. For all its thrill and hype, blockchain is still an immature technology. Just because blockchain promises complete transparency in every transaction doesn’t mean the technology could deliver this, or even that we want it to. To be truly ethical, a balance needs to be struck between amplify workers’ stories and protecting their identity. Revealing too much about someone’s identity could be more harmful than a lack of data. For example, the amazing work of FairPhone and the ethical consumerism industry will not transform the forces of capitalism overnight. There will still be a demand for cheap goods and the temptation to down-play workers’ rights in return for higher profits. Therefore, at the moment, maybe blockchain technology isn’t a one-off magic bullet enabling total supply chain transparency but is a way to target and effectively enforce and nudge supply chain practices for the better. It could be a more effective tool in the race ‘to stay one step ahead’ of the latest worker exploitation cases.

Blockchain is only as socially impactful as its creators and its users. Technology is not neutral.

Overall, at the end of the day, blockchain is only as socially impactful as its creators and its users. Technology is not neutral. Whether techie or Luddite, citizen, social impact professional or consumer, we all have a role to play in creating a better world. I remain sceptical of anything that promises total, systemic change instantly. But then, that’s what they said about the internet. Not all social impact can be achieved through blockchain technology, but in some sectors, the impact could be immense. Get it right and we could kick social change into the stratosphere. It may well turn out that blockchain is indeed the missing link the global citizenship needs.

Zoe delivers TRVST's editorial vision, network outreach and multi-channel social engagement. She is passionate about building networks and movements to accelerate social change and to create system-wide change. She has previously worked for citizen-led change in UK social care and mental health services and working in Uganda to empower university students through social entrepreneurship.
Featured in Charity & Civil Society
Sign Up for Updates
SIGN UP
You Might Also Like
In this article, the team from Startup Societies explore how to quickstart communities by providing the means for a place to start developing new ideas and approaches to governance and government. 
The bravery to step into a room and ask, How does injustice live in us? How are we behaving in ways which undermine our values? That’s the kind of leadership that’s required of us as our sector reels from the Oxfam scandal. Here Mary Ann Clements looks at how across the third sector we need […]
Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas and inspiration from across the world which demonstrate how real action can accomplish positive social impact. In this edition we're looking at the importance of building local communities and what they can collectively achieve.
Those of us working for change, in charities and in growing social enterprises, need to be rediscovering purpose: what we are here to do; and who or what we are doing it for. That’s become a mantra for “purpose led” global businesses like Unilever and Coca-Cola. It should come easily to us. After all, that’s […]
It’s been ten months since Hurricane Maria put Puerto Rico’s crumbling infrastructure in the international news. As life returns to normal for the locals, the headlines fade but the hard work of preventing another catastrophe has not yet begun. Humanitarian organizations were quick to focus on water, shelter, food and warmth. Hundreds of thousands of […]
TRVST
ABOUT  ·  THE TEAM  ·  CONTACT  ·  PRIVACY  ·  COOKIES  ·  T&Cs
Copyright © 2021 TRVST LTD. All Rights Reserved