Pixelated graphics, cats, apes and something called the metaverse. It seems like a neverending stream of headlines and content — some good, most of it absolutely awful.
Yet almost no day goes by without someone swapping their profile picture for a newly purchased NFT, or another record-breaking sale that makes your eyes water.
The cheapest image of a Bored Ape is $250.000 (Feb 2022).
Let that sink in for a moment.
The fact is, soundbites, celebrity buyers and incredible prices make great stories.
Yet what makes all of this so intriguing, is the underlying technology that enables it.
This means that every transaction is done in a safe, trustless and decentralised manner and recorded in a digital ledger.
No middlemen. No central institutions. No borders.
“Newer” blockchains, such as Ethereum, Cardano and Solana, to name a few, can do more than simply document a transaction of value, compared to the OG Bitcoin. They allow developers to create apps on top of them — decentralised of course (Dapps). The ecosystem is very similar to the operating system of your smartphone with apps on it, each with a different function.
These Dapps execute smart contracts that can carry more than simple transactional information and are triggered automatically when predetermined terms and conditions are met.
In the case of NFT art, this means that ownership of the digital asset is transferred from seller to buyer.
This technology can also be used for other things.
For example to do good.
With the ongoing war in Ukraine, many are wondering what they can do to help. And while most relief organisations are calling for donations, there are additional ways to help people in need.
There’s the Ukraine DAO, the decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) that was founded by Russian punk group Pussy Riot, among others. On their website, you can donate cryptocurrency to benefit those in need. In addition, they've auctioned off a 1/1 NFT of the Ukrainian flag. The final bid came in at over $ 5 million.
There’s also RELI3F, a web3 initiative that provides humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Their NFT release features work from 37 exceptional artists, some of who call Ukraine home. And, thanks to blockchain technology, they can provide full transparency of where the funds are going.
Empowa is a project hosted on the Cardano blockchain.
The team behind it aims to solve one of the most pressing problems facing people in Africa: Over 80 % of Africans don’t have a permanent roof over their heads.
Inflation and mortgage rates in many African countries are extremely high. The other problem is… while many Africans own a smartphone, many simply do not have a bank account.
A large part of the solution is going to be Decentralised Finance. DeFi enables everybody to take part in the world of finance without the need for a bank.
It features simple, safe peer-to-peer transactions and a full spectrum of financial services, from everyday banking, loans and mortgages, to more complicated contractual exchanges and asset trading.
All done without high interest rates, banking fees, management costs, exchange rates or dependencies on currencies like the US Dollar.
This helps Empowa get money where it is needed, which is used to create affordable, sustainable homes for Africans.
Investors can expect to see returns on their investments and are therefore more than just simple donors.
This is of course an oversimplification, so be sure to check out their roadmap and whitepaper.
Another project is the charity initiative Save the Ethimals on the Ethereum blockchain. They have created a series of animal illustrations, each being sold as an NFT.
The money goes into a fund that is then distributed among several charities, such as the WWF or the Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Thanks to the open nature of blockchain technology, everyone can see where the money went in the digital ledger.
A bonus, and a big reason why NFTs are revolutionising the art world, is that with every subsequent sale, a small percentage goes to the creator — in this case, Save the Ethimals. This fee flows back into the charity fund.
The only drawback is that Ethimals runs on the Ethereum blockchain, which as of now, is still not as environmentally friendly, compared to others.
The WWF has a project out as well called NFA (Non Fungible Animals). For this, several well-known artists have created digital art. Each, featuring an endangered animal in need of donations.
The WWF project runs on Polygon, a layer 2 solution of Ethereum, which is sustainable and considered a “green blockchain”.
A project helping people. A project saving animals.
That leaves us with plants.
Veritree is an organisation that plants trees around the world, starting in 2022. And just like Empowa, it is utilising the Cardano blockchain which is establishing itself as the “blockchain platform for changemakers, innovators, and visionaries” aiming to “bring about positive global change”.
Veritree uses the technology in combination with on-ground data to verify each planted tree, which is saved as a token on the blockchain.
Additionally, several data points are captured and shared.
This transparency reassures donors and prevents double counting of trees — all in real-time.
The blockchain, as with the other two projects, helps build trust through transparency, directness and accessibility.
It also ensures the integrity of a project.
The powerful thing about the blockchain is that people see what happens with their money. And get something in return to hold onto.
That could, as is the case with Empowa, be a return on investment. Or simply a beautifully designed NFT as a reminder of your good deed — as is the case with the RELI3F project helping Ukrainians.
Reselling an NFT supports the project financially in perpetuity, as a percentage of each sale goes to the creator.
This just shows, NFTs are not only about art and collectables, such as the infamous Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Social and environmental projects can take a few cues from such projects. Their strongest asset is not the art itself, which is subjective. It’s the trust they’ve built within their community and long-term utility.
Combined with blockchain technology and, in some cases, utilising decentralised autonomous organisations, these NFTs can become powerful tools for change and can help you make the world a little bit better.