Recap of #18NTC, Part 1: Blockchain for Good
The 18th annual NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference (#18NTC) took place in New Orleans on Apr. 11 through 13. It was my second time attending the conference and while the venue was very different from last year, the energy, passion and general fabulousness was not.
NTC is the must-attend nonprofit conference for those interested in technology, digital marketing and online fundraising. Throw in some sessions on well-being, mindfulness and storytelling, you have the recipe for innovation and connection.
Also, there were tequila drinks in the exhibit hall. (Thank you, NOLA!)
The exhibit hall was sprawling but filled with friendly faces, some familiar and some new. There was something neat to check out in every corner, from live software demos to inflatable penguins to a live mural drawing at the Frontstream booth.
NTC is my favorite conference of the year, by far. Chock full of brilliant sessions, insightful small group roundtables and helpful people, NTEN has worked incredibly hard to create a community that is diverse, inclusive and kind. Cheers to the staff and volunteers who made it all a reality!
Here are just a few of my top takeaways from the conference sessions.
What the Heck Is Blockchain, and What Can It Do for Nonprofits?
In their incredibly educational session, “Blockchain For Nonprofits: Fact vs. Fiction,” nonprofits were treated to the insights of Sheila Warren, head of blockchain and distributed ledger technology at the World Economic Forum, and Marnie Webb, CEO of Caravan Studios and TechSoup speaker.
I walked into the session having heard of blockchain, but still not truly understanding what it is or the potential that it provides for social good organizations. Warren and Webb schooled me and then some!
The best way that I can explain it is like this: Blockchain is similar to the Internet, in that you build cool things on top of it. According to the World Bank, blockchain is “a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.”
The power of blockchain for nonprofits remains to be seen, but Warren and Webb laid out quite a few use cases that blew my mind.
- It can make sending a receiving money, especially to and from the developing world, much easier and completely free.
- It can protect open data, where accountability and transparency are key—think Freedom of Information Act requests, counting refugees in encampments and employees reporting workplace harassment.
- It can verify that something—food, furniture, jewelry—is sustainably sourced, because it can keep a record that holds companies accountable each step of the way.
- It can help in tracking aid shipments to ensure that food and supplies are reaching their destinations.
- It can prove ownership and digital identity, which would help transient populations, refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants and more.
The World Economic Forum has a free white paper on this topic: “Blockchain - Beyond the Hype.”