Overview: I spent the last 6 months diving deep into the world of web3, researching and building products that were focused on social impact
Skills: Project Manager + Research + Design Futures
Table of Contents:
I lived on a hippie farm in the summer of 2021, just before the NFT movement took off. And when I first returned from this entirely off-the-grid, spiritual experience, my first knee-jerk reaction to all the NFT and web3 talk was to reject it as a purely capitalist trend. In hindsight, some of that instinct was quite right, but let’s overlook that for now.
See, I had some friends (thanks @natalia in particular) who encouraged me to begin understanding the technology before entirely rejecting it. I’ll admit, a part of me was fascinated with this new technology anyways, so I gave in. What started out as some simple exploration turned into a 6-month deep-dive into the space. I was clawing my way down the rabbit hole. Reading alt-blogs, whitepapers from niche protocols, and a lot of philosophical literature on the subject of the internet. There was an early ethos of dot com boom scrappiness, first principles thinking, and a stream of stimulating conversations regarding how we could shift the way society operates at a very fundamental level by adjusting how our internet functions. Web3 was great, but it was more so an excuse to think about the world in a blue-sky, optimistic, more altruistic manner.
An important milestone occurred when Opensea hit – I think it was – 2 billion dollars in transaction volume. It was a shocking figure, but it indicated that this movement was growing and that there was a lot of new money being spent in the field. So some of my friends (Alex, Brandon, Kamil and Gaurab) and I decided to see how we could funnel the energy from profit motivations into an impact-oriented venture. Here, we founded Impact Labs.
Project 1: Impact Labs
TLDR: Co-founded Impact labs, a fundraising platform that uses web3 to supercharge charity + donor relationships.
Impact Labs’ first project was collaborating with the founder of Keep A Breast Foundation to bring back their iconic “i love boobies!” bracelet as an NFT fundraiser. Each bracelet would fund a micro-grant to BIPOC women in the KAB community experiencing breast cancer.
The concrete benefits of using web3:
- Democratize the fundraiser ball: NFT’s received by donors unlocks access to a digital community where donors can collaborate, get exclusive updates from the Keep A Breast team, and receive benefits from the charity.
- “Proof of impact”: Give donors a clear and transparent look at where their donations go by tracking on-chain movement of funds
In essence, the current donor x charity relationships are extremely impersonal and fragmented. If lucky, donors get a thank you email and maybe some perks for high-value donors. But philanthropy is changing with newer generations that want to support causes they care about. And the act of donating was an experience we wanted to rethink.
We spent about a month and a half building out a donation portal from scratch, developing smart contracts, and growth hacking hype for our NFT launch through Twitter, Podcasts, interviews, and spaces. After the grind, the launch day finally arrived and we opened the NFT up to the world!
- Raised over $30k in 12 hours
- Reached over 12k impressions through Twitter alone
- Insane word of mouth referrals and a sold-out concert in Decentraland
Walking Through the Design Process:
As part of the design process, we custom-built a donation portal with all the steps of the user funnel, and focused on creating a template that we could scale to other charities in the future.
The checkout experience evolved a lot from our first iteration. User testing allowed us to discover ways in which to upsell donors and provide space for extra donations. Feedback from people new to web3 and crypto wallets also provided an interesting design challenge: How might we remove the friction from the checkout experience for those who are new to crypto? This process involved pulling a lot of web2 design terminology and “disguising” the crypto wallet so it eschewed the overly web3 UX of many web3 apps.
Every component was the result of iterations and trials. A simple example: there was a lot of information we had to condense in the main donation card: information about each donor tier, the charity and cause being supported, the cryptocurrencies accepted, share modals, etc., and the information hierarchy was something we played around with a lot. I also worked with the devs to create A/B tests that helped us understand what modals performed better and led to better donor conversion rates.
We created all the 3d assets and promotional material for the launch. Peep the poster we Yoko Ono inspired poster we wheatpasted around LA 🙂
Diving deeper into web3 tools for “impact”
In a follow-up to the NFT launch, I also spent some time conceptualizing a future’s scenario for crypto philanthropy: Impact Gardens & Impact Wallet. Details of the full concept can be found here:
Visualize one’s impact over time
Envisioning a world where on-chain philanthropy became more normal, I probed into how impact labs could be a hub for encouraging longer-term, engaging donor experiences. What if donors could earn impact NFTs with every cause they supported that could be showcased in their garden? By gamifying the experience of impact-making, people can begin accumulating impact, showing off the causes they support, and creating a visual guide to one’s cumulative real-world impact. Partnering with causes like carbon offset subscriptions like Wren or other recurring donation models provides an interesting way to “grow” evolving items that change as active subscriptions contribute to impact.
Democratizing how impact funds are used at the organizational level
A big part of what intrigued me about web3 was how it enabled decentralized organizations to really involve stakeholders. Even if the utopian DAO future proclaimed by many in Web3 circles doesn’t come to fruition, the experiments being done by these communities have the potential to influence how we think of traditional organizations. So I began thinking a bit about how DAOs and tinier NFT communities could begin thinking about more collaborative and democratic methods to create impact.
Problem: Currently, the impact done at the organizational level is quite opaque.
Larger companies’ endowments and corporate social responsibility funds are used in a way that prioritizes executives’ arbitrary preferences and may not go to causes that match the values of employees. Donation matching programs are the closest solution that exists today.
Newer DAOs and NFT communities often have “impact goals” where they allocate money upfront to causes they support. But community members often don’t have a say in where funds go and these funds are still at the discretion of the founding team and rely on the trust they’ll do the right thing.
That’s where Impact Wallets can help. Impact Wallets allow organizations to create a simple, community-controlled impact endowment. This is an autonomous wallet allocated to impact causes proposed and democratically allocated by the community. Members simply propose projects (using an on-chain tool developed by snapshot.org), and vote on where they would most like funds to be allocated.
The Impact wallet can then automatically allocate funds according to the preferences of users.
- The primary distribution mode uses a quadratic funding formula (inspired by gitcoin) that matches bigger donors’ contributions with the spread of community members’ preferences.
- Teams could also toggle their wallets between majority takes all approaches to proportional & semi-proportional allocation systems.
Imagine if money from a new NFT project was funneled into an impact wallet automatically through sales royalties. NFT communities simply allocate a percentage of all sales to an impact wallet in their smart contract, and the community then gets to decide how the funds are allocated. Individuals could propose NGOs or philanthropies, or even propose their own impact-oriented projects/startups and see how the community reacts.
Web3 is a fascinating place to do research. It approaches product development from a more philosophical lense, and there is an inherent sense of optimism that building tools at such a foundational level has the chance to affect our culture of consumption and capitalism in the long run. This belief that building things in web3 might have a great impact is what propelled me to initially examine the more purely impact-focused ventures here, but there were some other pillars I began exploring as well that I’m excited to share. Stay tuned!
To be continued…