What do Blockchain, NFTs, Web3, and the Metaverse have to do with Impact Investing?
ICYMI, I released two new episodes over the holidays, don't miss them!
Here’s what’s included in this edition of the newsletter:
What do Blockchain, NFTs, Web3, and the Metaverse have to do with impact investing?
Two new episodes dropped over the holidays!
What I’m reading/listening to
Upcoming podcast episodes
Sign up for the Impact Investor Matching Tool
Help me map out the Canadian impact investing landscape
Are you interested in investing in the future of health?
Join the investor track of Spring Activator's Health Impact Investor Challenge, in partnership with the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good, to meet early-stage Canadian health startups and invest in the future of health! Learn more here.
- Sponsored by Spring Activator
❓What do Blockchain, NFTs, Web3, and the Metaverse have to do with Impact Investing?
Recently I’ve been going down the web 3 / blockchain / cryptocurrency / NFT / metaverse rabbit hole. By now, a lot of these terms are probably starting to hit your radar. If you’re confused by them, don’t worry, I unpack them in an upcoming episode of the podcast and have listed lots of great resources in the What I’m Reading section below. The simple explanation is that these terms represent different but related innovations all having to do with our living increasingly digital lives. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll lump all of these buzz words into one term and simply refer to them as the metaverse.
If you have heard these terms, and you’re like me, your first reaction has been to dismiss them. For several years now I have been sticking my head in the sand on the blockchain and cryptocurrency because I’m busy, it sounds daunting, and change is hard. But I recently decided to plug my nose, hold my breath, and dive in.
One reason is personal. I have two daughters (4 and 6) who are growing up in a world that is changing at an increasing rate and I’m already having a hard time keeping up. I know I won’t be able to keep up forever but I don’t want to get caught behind the big paradigm shifts that will fundamentally alter how we interact with one another, much like the internet has done over the past 30 years. Think about it, our lives today would feel like a dystopian nightmare probably even to teenagers in the 1920’s, for instance.
I think we’re on the verge of one of those paradigm shifts with the metaverse. I think it’s inevitable that in 30 years from now, whether I like it or not, people will be spending far more time online, probably in some form of virtual reality. I don’t want to see less of my kids and grandkids because GrandDad refuses to hang out with them in VR. I’ll fight to keep them firmly rooted in actual reality but if VR is where they end up spending their time, then I’ll be right there with them.
The other reason I decided to dive in is that I believe web3, in particular, represents a huge opportunity to effect systemic change. There’s also a massive risk that this opportunity gets co-opted by private interest groups (a conversation for a future podcast episode). So I think the space needs people committed to fighting for equality in the digital world.
To briefly explain, a defining feature of Web3 is the movement to decentralize the internet, the way it was before Google, Facebook (now Meta), Amazon, and Microsoft built and then hoarded our digital infrastructure. Think about it, where can you go online and find any very large gathering of people hanging out in places that aren’t owned by private corporations? People spend their time on social media, shopping, Youtube, gaming, reddit … all owned by a handful of businesses. There’s no digital equivalent of the town square or public park where we all (at least in theory) equally own the space.
What we’re seeing with Web3 is a move to decentralize the internet. For instance, one innovation I’m particularly interested in is what is known as a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization). The short definition is that these are blockchain-enabled co-ops. Individuals are using DAOs to establish decentralized organizations where groups of people share ownership and work together on all sorts of projects.
DAOs have been established to build software, play games, make investments, etc. There was even a DAO created where people came together in the span of 2 weeks, to raise $40M to buy one of the few remaining original copies of the US constitution at a Sotheby’s auction.
KlimaDAO is an example of a DAO set up for positive impact. I am still getting my head around the economics of it, but essentially it has been established to allow people to work together and pool capital to buy carbon credits in the expectation that this increased demand will raise the price of carbon and infuse life back into that market. This will in turn incentivize businesses to lower their carbon footprint so they can sell them in the market for a handsome profit.
If you’re confused by this, don’t worry. So am I. Once I understand it a little better, I’m hoping to have a variety of discussions about the potential for DAOs to help affect systemic change.
With all that out of the way, let’s get back to your regularly scheduled newsletter. If this whole web3 topic is of interest to you, let me know in the comments below or email me!
🎙 Ep 41 - Transforming idle church properties into thriving communities of sustainable impact
Churches across the globe are in crisis. The arrival of COVID-19 served to dramatically accelerate a decades-long systemic decline in church attendance as the expectations and preferences of congregants have changed across generations. Falling church attendance has meant declining revenue and mounting financial pressure to maintain expensive real estate and buildings that sit increasingly idle. Ultimately these churches may face closure and even demolition. In Canada, it is estimated that nearly one in three churches are on track to close in the next decade.
And while we live in an increasingly secular society, as today's guest will articulate, churches represent an incredibly important social infrastructure that a vast number of social programs rely upon. In Toronto alone, over 100 non-profit organizations operate from church buildings or land. Losing these churches (which are often rented out at below-market rates to non-profits) would be catastrophic for many secular social purpose organizations and the vulnerable communities they serve.
Enter today's guest, Graham Singh, Founder & CEO of Trinity Centres Foundation, who joins us today to talk about his innovative work using impact investing to finance the transformation of idle church properties into thriving places of sustainable community impact. Over the past 15 years, Graham has led four historic building and community renewal projects in the United Kingdom and Canada. Graham is an ordained minister in the Anglican Church and has a long line of academic credentials that include a Masters from the London School of Economics, Bachelor of Ministry from the University of Cambridge, and a BA in political science from Huron University.
During this episode, Graham and I discuss the crisis that the church in Canada is facing, the role churches play as important social infrastructure, the role of blended finance in solving the financial challenges churches face, and the types of investors and organizations that are suitable partners in this work. And be sure to stay tuned to the very end where we discuss the importance of the church in placemaking; the process of co-creating quality places that people want to live, work, play, and learn in.
Resources from this episode:
Graham's LinkedIn profile
Trinity Centres Foundation (TCF) website
Where you can donate to support the work of Trinity Centres Foundation.
🎙 Ep 42 - Leveraging technology and a human-centred focus to better manage crises response
While some might argue that the world is a much better place than it was thousands, hundreds of years, or even decades ago, it's hard not to feel like the world’s problems are greater than ever. In the past five years alone we've experienced a string of heart-wrenching global crises that have come fast and furious.
Haiti, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic have all been hit by terrible natural disasters. We've seen the Syrian civil war, Venezuelan and Afghanistan refugee crises', and the Rohingya genocide to name a few. Exacerbating these catastrophes is the COVID-19 global pandemic.
So despite our progress, it often feels as if the world's needs are greater than ever and we have a long way to go before approaching anything resembling true equality.
Enter today's guest, Natasha Freidus, Co-Founder and CEO of NeedsList; a Public Benefit Corporation creating human-centered solutions for communities displaced by climate change, conflict, and poverty worldwide. The idea for NeedsList was sparked in 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe when Tasha was in France trying to help local Syrian refugee families, and her co-founder Amanda Levinson was in Philadelphia trying to figure out how more quickly and effectively gets goods and services across the globe to those in need.
The challenge is that the needs of people in crises are overwhelming and constantly changing, and it is difficult to keep track of what is needed and which organizations have the products, services, or expertise to meet those needs. In short, matching supply and demand has been incredibly difficult. That’s when Tasha decided to hack an online wedding registry as a way to solve the problem; in the process, the idea for NeedsList was born.
During this episode, Tasha and I discuss how and why it's so difficult to match supply from well-meaning groups and organizations with the needs of people on the ground who are suffering through crises. Our conversation spans the gamut from the original problem Tasha experienced first hand, the journey to founding and funding NeedsList, the evolving nature of global crises over the past decade, and the challenges around impact measurement & management. And be sure to stay tuned to the very end when Tasha discusses the opportunities she’s seeing to use machine learning and AI to gain new insights into the nature and causes of global crises so that we can address the problems before they happen.
NeedsList website: www.needslist.co
Natasha’s LinkedIn Profile
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📰 What I’m reading/watching
I’m focusing this edition on articles related to the world of Web3. I’ve included a few great resources that serve as primers for anyone not familiar with this world yet. I also want to share some really thoughtful content discussing the pitfalls and dangers of web3.
Episode 542: The Wonders of Web3 with Chris Dixon and Naval Ravikant (The Tim Ferris Podcast)
-Provides a great primer on Web3, NFTs, DAOs, and the Metaverse.
DAOs, A Cannon (Andreessen Horowitz) - I know I mentioned #1 and #2 in this list in the last newsletter but I decided to include them again here since I talked so much about Web3 in this newsletter. This is a great resource to bookmark for learning all about DAOs.
A beginner’s guide to DAOs (Linda Xie) - A great primer with visuals to really help get your head around DAOs.
Blockchains are cities (Haseeb Qureshi) - Haseeb provides a great mental model for understanding the blockchain and the distinction between level 1 and level 2 blockchains.
Critiques and Areas of Concern:
What co-ops and DAOs can learn from each other? (Austin Robey) - As fresh young faces rush into DAOs, it’s worth pausing to consider the lessons learned from the decades of experience co-ops have with collaborative governance.
Web3: Tech vs the Human Condition - Youtube (Jordan Hall) - Jordan Hall is a tech entrepreneur and coder who was involved in the building of the early days of the internet (referred to as Web1) and beyond (Web2). Jordan discusses the promise and potential pitfalls of Web3.
Why it’s too early to get excited about Web3 (Tim O’Reilly)
What is Social Movement Investing? (Center for Economic Democracy) -I haven’t had a chance to read this yet but it’s on my list to read this weekend. "Social Movement Investing is about the promise and the practice of investing capital in coordinated alignment with social movements to amplify, augment and strengthen community power building."
🎙 Upcoming Podcast Episodes
Denise Hearn, Founder, Advisor, & Author (check out her new blog Embodied Economics) joins us to discuss the problems with ESG and impact investing and more broadly, the market dynamics underpinning Capitalism itself.
Michael Lewkowitz, Co-Founder & General Partner at Possibilian Ventures joins us to discuss investing for systemic change in a world of technological disruption. We talk web3, blockchain, NFTs, DAOs and a lot more!
🎯 Impact Investor Matching Tool
Attention all impact investors, social enterprise founders, and impact fund managers! I’ve just launched an impact investor match tool to help match those looking for funding with impact investors.
For investors, this is a confidential, double opt-in service. This means I will contact you first for permission before making any introductions to social enterprises or impact funds. Learn more here.
💁♂️ Help me map out the Canadian impact investing landscape
I am building an infographic that maps out the lay of the land of impact investing in Canada. The infographic is designed to help viewers, in a single glance, get a handle on the major players across the impact investment landscape in Canada.
Keep in mind, this is a work in progress. There are three ways you can help:
Provide any feedback you have on how I’ve defined or organized the categories. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let me know if there are any great organizations you know of that I should make sure get added. Send to email@example.com.
If you represent an organization and would like to be included, please complete this form.