Since the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto white paper first spoke of a “peer-to-peer version of electronic cash” more than a decade ago, social impact applications for blockchain, bitcoin’s underlying technology, have remained a cornerstone in the sector. Indeed, blockchain projects large and small have attached themselves to fighting the scourges of traditional systems and centralized structures, which have produced an uneven embarrassment of riches on the planet and left billions of people on the sidelines. Now, more than having a business case or determination for social impact using blockchain technology, there is a new ledger cataloguing blockchain-powered projects from around the world and how they are aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Blockchain Impact Ledger was spearheaded by New America’s Blockchain Trust Accelerator with support from Social Alpha Foundation. The Blockchain Impact Ledger adds to the previously launched Blueprint for Blockchain and Social Innovation, which sheds new light on how this emerging technology is moving the needle on social causes. The Impact Ledger captures a range of blockchain projects from around the world all having achieved a minimum viable product (MVP) or beyond. The Ledger also highlights the type of blockchain standard being used, the estimated number of people impacted, as well as the project description and SDG alignment. This list, by no means exhaustive, which the authors recognize and hope to spur an open source registry, joins a growing effort among social entrepreneurs, investors and technologists who are de-abstracting the SDGs and turning them in a veritable north star for their investment thesis. Short of this, the required leverage on social impact investments may never move from the billions to the trillions needed to bridge the world’s development deficit. Indeed, the legendary venture capitalist, Bill Tai, who has either spurred or captured most waves of technology investments over the last 3 decades (and is going long on blockchain and cryptocurrencies), has aligned the Extreme Tech Challenge to the SDGs – upping the ante on available capital to $10 million.
Following this announcement in Paris, the Extreme Tech Challenge focusing on breakthrough technologies that help bridge the gap to the SDGs can help spur a wave of innovations and bring much needed attention to early stage social impact projects. No stranger to blockchain-powered startups, Power Ledger, which is featured in the newly launched Impact Ledger for its blockchain-based energy marketplace, was also a winner of the 2018 Extreme Tech Challenge, which was held on Necker Island – a place that has very much catalyzed the blockchain for impact movement through the annual blockchain summits. Between the Impact Ledger and the Extreme Tech Challenge focusing in on the SDGs, investors, entrepreneurs and increasingly the enterprise blockchain arena, which is dominated by large firms, have a guide for where this technology is breaking ground on grinding social challenges.