What is the Role of the Blockchain in Development?

Our understanding of the blockchain and its usefulness in the context of the Peace Process in Colombia is still very much in its infancy. We have seen the upsides and the downsides of this emerging Fintech approach to decentralizing markets, money, and power. Market forces have tended to be speculative with cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin approaching the $5,000USD mark in late August 2017, plunging to $3,000USD two weeks later – as traders and speculators attempt to extract profits amidst the growth of cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs). One of the more provocative elements of the blockchain, however, is the presence of what we might describe as “social cryptopreneurs” entering the space. Having an evolutionary purpose associated with a cryptocurrency – financial access & financial literacy, as a use case with Stellar Lumens – is not a singular phenomenon. Some blockchain developers are bringing their social-conscientiousness, mindfulness and creativity into the world of tough problems, attempting to spread wealth and benefaction across broader and broader swaths of humanity, while addressing the unequal distribution of capital stocks, particularly financial capital. What this appears to be doing (outside of the speculator-driven, wealth-accumulation aspect) is channeling significant intellectual, social, and financial capitals into entrepreneurial “solutions” to some of the world’s most wicked problems. It is elongating the value chain, for example, through engagement of cryptocurrency holders in the support of source-verification and movement of goods & services from feeder markets to consumer doorsteps through “proof-of-provenance.” When a coffee grower and a consumer are realizing not merely their connectivity as producer and purchaser, but also their shared value proposition as stakeholders in the same capital stocks across hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers, this generates an increasing amount of bridging social capital. It opens vast vistas of potentiality, such as: 1) greater transparency & trust, 2) direct visitation & exchange, 3) deeper understanding & appreciation, and 4) stewardship of capital stocks. Again, there is much to be learned from the current crypto-tokens on the market today. They appear to bring enormous financial capital stocks in short order upon their launch; yet, we do not know how successful they will be in fulfilling the socio-environmental, purpose-driven missions of some offerings. Time will bring richer insights. At present, there is much about which to be optimistic – a new class of “crypto-millionaires,” a burgeoning group of “social cryptopreneurs,” and a host of consumers with, in some cases, first-time access to capital stocks never-before-realized. Doubtless, a “Peace Crypto-coin” is on the horizon – a coin which will be embedded with bonding & bridging social capital implications. Colombia may be well-positioned to be, if not the initiator thereof, certainly a participant and beneficiary.