After a good couple of years of drawing breathless awe (including from us), the blockchain appears to be reaching its reckoning point. The price of cryptocurrency–payments made on the blockchain–crashed a few times last year, and think pieces on the undeniably grifty nature of many blockchain applications abounded. Someone even built a mock website, Useless Ethereum Token, poking holes in how cryptocurrency transactions happen. There’s also the problem that despite the lofty promise of the decentralized ledger system of the blockchain serving as a great equalizing tool, many of the people revolving around the technology continue to rake in wealth.
Breaker Magazine launched last year to report on the technology and culture of the blockchain universe. The publication applies a hefty dose of salt to its coverage, but it also holds out hope–as many technologists do–that beyond cryptocurrencies and the weird luxury culture that surrounds it, the blockchain itself may be a tool that could do some good in the world.
To that end, Breaker has put together a list of 73 companies and organizations that aim to use blockchain for positive social impact, and are following through on that promise. “Among the many futuristic promo videos and do-gooder buzzwords, we found startups with smart, practical plans of action that happen to include distributed ledgers and state-independent currencies–not because those terms make bitcoin billionaire investors wiggle their ears, but because the technologies bolster the organizations’ goals,” writes Jessica Klein.
Klein caveats that because blockchain is still relatively new technology, the criteria they used to assess the blockchain-for-good ventures was flexible. “Each organization had to have exhibited credibility in at least one of three categories–concrete action (have they done anything?), money (have they gotten or given any?), and/or big names (do we know and trust the people involved?),” she writes.
But across the eight categories Breaker selected–funding and donations, environment, food and agriculture, gender and sexuality, government, healthcare and medicine, identity and banking, and information and education–the editors came up with some pretty compelling projects.
BitGive Foundation, for instance, launched in 2013, uses blockchain to help people track the impact of their donations in real time, and aims to correct the often-frustrating lack of feedback philanthropists receive about the impact of their money. The Brooklyn Microgrid uses blockchain to manage a new energy source for people in the community who don’t want to be beholden to the local utility. Goodr helps manage the flow of excess food from grocery stores and restaurants to organizations that need it, and has since rescued over one million pounds of food.
These are all pretty compelling applications, and barely scratch the surface of the list Breaker came up with. See all 73 companies here, and be assured that both reporters and technologists will be watching these applications closely to see if they do, in fact, live up to their promise of delivering positive impacts.