The financial value of blockchain is very straightforward. But what’s the non-financial value?
During her influential talk “Beyond the ICO: How to create Total Value with Blockchain” at JAX Finance in London, Barbara Mellish explained how we can achieve total value in finance with Blockchain. Here, Barbara Mellish and her colleague Jan O’Hara give us some more insight on the topic.
JAXenter: So how was the blockchain keynote?
Barbara Mellish: The keynote was great! There was a really good audience and a lot of excitement in the room; as you know the topic itself is exciting and I think the decentralization agenda is huge. I had a great time.
JAXenter: You talked about blockchain. Is it just one of the many technologies out there or is there more to it?
Barbara Mellish: At its base level, of course, blockchain is just a technology and but it has the potential to be much more than peer to peer payments. As we start to explore the possibilities it will be the great applications that start to make the pivotal change. What differentiates blockchain from other technology projects is the ability to eliminate the central controller and, with that, various middle-men layers as part of the construct. Governance, decisions and control of a Decentralised network rests with the network which therefore has the effect of empowering communities. That is a fundamental shift in the structure of control. The traditional bottom layer is now on the top. It’s very exciting!
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JAXenter: And you also mentioned the middlemen, which blockchain could/will eliminate? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Barbara Mellish: It depends on how you view things. Of course, we’ve come to expect a central body, a reputable body that you can go to, to complain to or to protect us but it all costs money. And so, if you can empower a community and you don’t need a central body everything becomes simpler.
So, the kind of empowerment of losing those middle-men gives a very different, cost efficient commercial model but without some of the safeguards. It’s about having trust in the networks you use and being able to share in the efficiencies created. We are only at the start of this journey to explore how blockchain can evolve.
JAXenter: Speaking of the potential of blockchain, it hasn’t gone mainstream yet but that doesn’t mean that it’s new. So what is the exact value of blockchain? What can we use it for?
Barbara Mellish: Our projects are bringing transparency of non-financial values in transactions. The financial value is very straight-forward; we all understand that. I give you ten dollars, you get ten dollars. But what is the non-financial value? Can we be sure our values align as we transact together? Whether in the retail environment, or the longer supply chains it is not easy to understand the full value proposition of the things we buy.
Have the products I buy been made under slavery conditions, has the workforce been paid properly, has there been negative environmental impacts? We are working to bring that transparency to life in the Blockchain and create the structures that empower communities to align to their values by using their buying power. We will be able to buy what we value.
JAXenter: The non-financial value of blockchain is something that sounds amazing! Could you maybe talk more about your projects? How you put it into practice, for example?
Barbara Mellish: Just to mention there’s a lot of technical information, all available publicly at GitHub and Slack; there has never been a more open source environment for information. We’ve written 9 whitepapers and are still producing them! Student Coin is a great example of one of our projects. A vibrant community working together to gain greater value for all. A simple app, linked to the blockchain which contains and enables the voice and vote of students, offers and rewards, peer to peer transactions. This is a true organic play developed by students for students to improve value for students.
JAXenter: And which are the areas in which blockchain can actually make a difference, in addition to the financial area?
Barbara Mellish: The financial area is the one that has got all of the media attention, all of the cryptocurrency rises or falls, the comings and goings, the ICOs, the ones that are successful and the ones that are less so. I think that will continue to be an area of press focus in the short term.
But the big question is: where does blockchain add value? Where might it change the structure of society that we have? Where can Blockchain come in and make a difference? Surely it has to be more than just efficiency and cost saving. So, at CCEG we focus on creating different structures for society, to enable people to make a difference and see that difference.
Let me illustrate when I buy locally, what difference does it create? Do I understand the implications of buying something; say that has been created with slavery? Once those aspects are transparent we can make informed choices. And we are not about to say what these choices should be, we are about informing and bringing transparency because people are smart and they really know what they want to buy.
JAXenter: That sounds amazing! And last but not least, a lot of companies nowadays say that Blockchain is a silver bullet but that doesn’t mean it actually is. So when should companies refrain from experimenting with blockchain?
Jan O’Hara: Of course, it all depends on the business case, what a company is trying to develop and what the value proposition is that blockchain alone can enable. It is a complex area which needs technical blockchain and business expertise. Rothbadi & Co. was created to fill the gap in the market place in response to customer demand. Companies and organisations can reach out to us and we have experienced consultants that will take them all the way through the whole process from review to project delivery. See www.rothbadi.com for more information on the team.
Thank you very much!