Connecting The Dots Between Blockchain and Sustainability

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@MeganMegan Doyle

Growing up in South Africa, the team at Wildcards witnessed first-hand the impact of poaching, pollution, poisoning and other forms of destructive human behavior leading to the extinction and endangerment of hundreds of animal species.

Using Radical Economics to Save Endangered Animals

It became obvious that things needed to change — and fast.
Bringing together a team of 3 university students set out to make a difference, Wildcards was born out of Africa’s first ETHGlobal hackathon, ETHCapeTown 2019. Under an intense 72 hours of hacking, team Wildcards built a real-world use-case showing the immense potential of blockchain technology for a greater good — animal conservation.
TL;DR: The Wildcards platform connects global conservation organizations to users by enabling individuals to become a “guardian” of an endangered animal on the ethereum blockchain. Each animal is represented as a digital asset or Non-fungible token (NFT) (a wildcard), where all generated funds go towards the conservation of at-risk animals.
The platform is a social, gamified and transparent ‘giving’ experience set out to make a difference in the world.
At Next Big Thing, we want to highlight new ventures that use disruptive tech in innovative and sustainable ways. As a venture studio for the Machine Economy, we bring together today’s most ambitious thinkers & doers to solve tomorrow’s greatest challenges with technology. So in light of this, we talked with JonJon Clark to discover how Wildcards came to life and how the project’s underpinning technology, blockchain, is saving the lives of endangered animals.

1. How did your journey toward blockchain-enabled sustainability start?

Our project journey kicked off in April 2019 at the ETHCapeTown hackathon. Back then, we were a couple of friends (JonJon Clark, Denham Preen and Jason Smythe) who originally met studying mathematics and computer science together a few years prior. We reignited our friendship at the hackathon and went on to win with our project idea, Wildcards.
At the time of ETHCapeTown, we all had full-time jobs in tech so further development was restricted mostly to Thursday nights and weekends when we would all get together to cook and code.
Once we started to get external validation and support for our project, we were accepted into programs in both Paris and Zug, which was when we all decided to transition into Wildcards full time. As a team, we’re collectively passionate about sustainability and our project cause, animal conservation, motivated us to continue working together to bring this project to life.

2. Why the use of blockchain? How does it differ from the service(s) that established conservation organizations currently provide?

Currently, the traditional donation process is rather detached and unrewarding. It generally involves entering credit card details, a once-off payment and a generic ‘thank you’ email. We were interested in building an innovative, fun and engaging mechanism that could help bring more funding to important causes such as conservation.
The use of a blockchain enables us to implement a unique mechanism that wouldn’t be possible with other tech stacks. Our platform uses ethereum, which is essentially a digital public transaction ledger. This means that every single action happening on the platform is completely public, verifiable and auditable. All funds flow transparently and users have oversight where each donation ends up.

3. The Wildcards platform makes use of harberger tax. Could you explain more about why this is important for animal conservation?

Harberger tax is the mechanism Wildcard’s uses to generate funds for conservation. In a nutshell, it works as follows: animals are represented as digital assets from partner organizations. Users then pay a price to become the ‘guardian’ of one of these animals. As a guardian, you immediately set a price at which any other user can pay to become the new guardian of that specific endangered animal.
The guardian then pays a percentage of the selling price that they set, the harberger tax, in order to continue being the guardian. This means that the wildcard is ‘always for sale’. For example: if the harberger tax rate is 10% per month, and the guardian sets the price to $100, they will be paying $10 per month toward the conservation of the animal.

4. How is this platform revolutionizing sustainability?

Firstly, Wildcards bridges the gap between entertainment and ‘giving’ by incorporating a gamified element that creates a more enriching user experience throughout the donation process. Gamification (streaks, challenges, badges, leaderboards, and profit incentives) encourages user engagement and participation, while educational segments bring awareness to the current state of animal extinction. Through our platform, we’re creating a social impact economy that introduces another market to the world of giving.
Beyond the Wildcards model, blockchain is revolutionizing sustainability efforts and maximizing impact in several ways as a result of the technology’s core features:
Blockchain is borderless, which means it’s global and decentralized. According to Non-Profit Source, 31% of donors worldwide donate to locations outside of their own country. Cryptocurrencies allow (almost) instantaneous transactions across borders without the exorbitant cross-border transaction fees.Transactions and donations are transparent and publically viewable. Anyone can verify where donations are going.Blockchain removes the need for third parties and speeds up the donation process.

5. Can you quantify your impact?

So far, our key metric is the total funds raised for our conservation partners. This ticks up every second thanks to our online guardians and the continuous nature of our harberger tax implementation. At the time of writing, Wildcards has raised 8.945300977 ETH. If you checked the website right now, this number would have risen.
In addition to this, we’ve already partnered with two conservation organizations: 1) La Senda Verde, a non-governmental animal refuge dedicated to the rescue, care, and protection of wildlife; and 2) The Wild Tomorrow Fund, a non-profit organization operating in Southern Africa dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife and habitats.

6. Why stop at animal conservation? Have you thought about extending your efforts further — to let’s say — environmental sustainability?

Yes of course! When we participated in a hackathon in Berlin, Diffusion 2019, we built another project, Carbon Credits Club, tackling climate change using similar concepts learned through Wildcards with the “always for sale” model. This project is also underpinned by blockchain technology and acts as a decentralized platform connecting forest lands to companies and individuals that want to offset their carbon footprint. Although the project remains in the proof of concept (PoC) phase at this point, we hope to continue with further development in the near future.

7. How are you promoting greater awareness of Wildcards and its underlying cause?

We’ve spoken at several events around the world to spread awareness on the urgent need to promote sustainable practices and the use of blockchain technology for good. We recently presented at an event in Davos during the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Ethereum Community Conference (EthCC) in Paris, the Radical Economics Exchange at ETH Zurich and NFT.NYC in New York, just to name a few.

8. What kind of project support are you currently receiving?

We have partnered with Ubisoft and joined them for 6 months in Paris during our development phase. We also took part in an incubation program and received investment from a Swiss firm, CV Labs.

9. Why is it important for projects like yours to attend hackathons and get involved with venture studios?

Hackathons are such a collaborative and creative space. Developers and tech enthusiasts from around the world get the chance to build anything you can imagine, and this is the start of something that is often, innovative and impactful. We see immense value in hackathons in terms of technology, mentors and developer networks, and have so far managed to attend events in Cape Town, Berlin, Bangalore and London. Both hackathons and venture studios offer direct access to deep-tech ecosystems made up of change-makers who are passionate about providing shared resources and offering hands-on support to build something of real value.
These ecosystems have wide networks of industry experts behind them and give projects the right tools to take these ideas to the next level, faster and more reliably. By building alliances and catalyzing collaboration between key players, we can scale innovative ideas — like Wildcards — to address some of the greatest sustainability challenges of our time.

10. What’s next for Wildcards? There are rumors about a Wildcard’s token standard.

We’re looking to partner with more conservation organizations and release more wildcards. We’ve also released some really exciting social and gamification features and are continuing to expand on this. The token standard is definitely on the roadmap, but we still have a few ideas we want to experiment with before we finalize it.

11. Finally, how does someone get involved and start supporting animal conservation?

Wildcards is a platform where users can learn more about different applications of blockchain technology by connecting donors to animal conservations. Some wildcards represent real animals, while other wildcards are symbolic of the conservation efforts of a specific organization.
On the platform, users can connect to a digital wallet provider, learn more about a listed endangered animal and decide on whether to become the ‘guardian’ of that species. It’s simple, accessible and lowers traditional donations barriers to encourage more (necessary) involvement from individuals.
Saving animals is at the very heart of what we do as Wildcards, and now we’d like to give everyone the opportunity to do the same.
Thank you for sharing your insights, JonJon!
(Originally published here)

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