Pom, a Native American tribe leader in Northern California, is staking out how to use blockchain to potentially revive a native species of Chinook salmon on which his community once relied. His restoration project will use non-fungible tokens (NFT) to raise funds but also awareness.
Pom, who also goes by his English name Michael Preston, has been speaking with Tricia Wang and the team at CRADL – the Crypto Research and Design Lab – to get that going.
“He’s already been obsessed with blockchain,” Wang told CoinDesk. She added that when those conversations began Pom didn’t know any crypto developers. “We’re, like, don’t worry. Just work on your idea. And we’ll find a team, whip up a Discord and you can come to Consensus,” Wang said.
That’s CRADL’s whole MO: identify crypto projects that could actually have a real-world impact, elevate them and help get them going. To that end, CRADL has joined with CoinDesk, the city of Austin and HackerEarth to host Web3athon, which will kick-start at Consensus on June 9.
“Our mandate as a lab is to understand what’s going to accelerate crypto as a driver for equity in society,” Wang said. The project was founded by Wang and others including former World Economic Forum executive Sheila Warren and Lauren Serota, former head of service design at Myanmar’s Yoma Bank. (Both Warren and Serota are full-time in Web 3 now.)
The hackathon, which runs until Aug. 31, 2022, takes a two-step, multi-month approach and will focus on the five “challenge areas” of generational wealth, financial health, sustainable culture and communities, environmental wellbeing and disaster response, Wang said.
“There’s an ideation stage and then there’s an ‘actually build it’ stage,” she said. The problem with most crypto hackathons – and perhaps crypto in general – is a lack of quality data about what projects have or are likely to have real traction. They rarely “reflect the needs of society they need to understand,» Wang said.
CRADL’s hackathon is primarily targeted towards developers, and an on-boarding process will ask them if they clearly “understand” the “hyperlocal” problems they’re trying to solve in addition to knowing how to apply this “incredible technology.”
“You can’t just go straight to building something on-chain first,” she said. Another part of CRADL focuses on existing projects to study the most effective, most coordinated and most ambitious to “open source” that data for a global community of builders.
See also: Consensus 2022 Visitor Guide: CBDCs and Public Money
This could help dispel the myth that blockchain is only about speculation and motivate policymakers in the West, “where there’s a resistance to crypto,” Wang said. Efforts like CRADL’s “Proof of Impact” report are helping tell real stories about overcoming and mitigating inflation and authoritarianism, Wang said.
And so, in a sense, CRADL is a tastemaker and crown-bestower through its research and hackathon projects.
“These are the genuine use cases and stories that we need to elevate more,” Wang said. Like Pom’s project, the aim is ultimately to build effective tech. But first you need a motivating narrative.
“How do we make sure that, in the end, everything leads to more on-boarding, more adoption?” Wang asked. By reflecting the needs of society.