As we look at our world, it seems that individual humans are increasingly on the edges and in the margins of the big stories that play out on our scrolling screens. The narratives that captivate and resonate with ordinary folks seem to exist at a scale beyond the reach of any one of us — Those big stories about economies, countries, and companies weave a narrative that can seem dire at times, or too big for an individual human to change in a meaningful way. But this is not the true narrative of the world, nor is it the right way to understand our own potential as humans.
Many who read this blog are inclined to believe that the Ethereum protocol will play a role (maybe even a major one) in that big narrative in the sky. If that is so, then we should ask ourselves: Who are the characters in our story?
We seek to understand Ethereum through the lens of the individual humans that use it as a protocol for coordination. By seeking out the context and nuance of human stories, we can better orient ourselves toward a collective vision of the future, and better prepare ourselves to enact it.
Today, we’d like to introduce five humans with stories to tell, who will be starting their Next Billion Fellowship at the Ethereum Foundation. These individuals are highly qualified, but represent only a small slice of the capable people out there working to solve some of humanity’s deepest coordination problems. We hope that their stories can serve as both a reflection of the true character of the Ethereum community-at-large, and an inspiration for how this open protocol might yet positively impact the lives of billions.
Fellows Cohort #3
Brian Limiardi builds for financial inclusion in Indonesia as co-founder of Copra Finance. While access to personal loans is available through banks, there are many contexts in which the only way to get a loan for business is through informal lenders (read: loan sharks). For folks that choose to work and invoice in cryptocurrency, access to even simple legacy financial tools like personal or small business loans can be an obstacle. For his Fellowship, Brian will focus on researching the needs and realities of the growing demographic of workers and small businesses who use crypto as a primary means of invoicing and bookkeeping.
Devansh Mehta, co-founder of VoiceDeck, is interested in mapping out public good impact space. Impact methodologies and markets for environmental use cases are well-documented mechanisms, but sometimes ‘impact’ wanders into more subjective territory: Investigative journalism, for example, is undoubtedly a public good. How can the real work of journalists be documented and valued in a way that fits into the right funding mechanism? Devansh will work with citizen journalism newsrooms to explore methodologies of impact documentation using the hypercerts standard, with an aim to find a good mechanism of retroactive funding for positive social outcomes.
Masahiro “Masa” Fukuhara wants to spread the spirit of ONGAESHI, (恩返し, “To return a favor”) in the world of education. ONGAESHI DAO is exploring mechanisms of retroactive solidarity payments in education and employment. For his Fellowship, Masa and other ONGAESHI DAO team members will learn from pilot programs in which contributors to the public good of education like funders and teachers are rewarded when businesses hire their students.
Mulenga Kapwepwe is co-founder of the Women’s History Museum of Zambia. There are many African artifacts in museums around the world, but rarely do those items have a tangible connection to the people and communities who created them. For her Fellowship, Mulenga is working with the Zambian web3 community to create a tokenized artifact registry, experimenting with museum revenue sharing for community documentation of art, customs, and crafting methodologies still practiced by the descendants of those items on display in museums around the world. Even if the items won’t return to their places of origin in the near future, it’s a small step toward bridging a gap of ownership that spans centuries.
Valeriia “Ria” Panina is a user experience specialist and an advisor to the Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation. The war in Ukraine has shown that ingenuity and tenacity in human coordination is essential. When understanding the potential of protocols like Ethereum to be useful in such a time, pragmatism is wise. During her Fellowship, Ria will research the real drivers and blockers of adoption of cryptocurrencies and other decentralized applications for ordinary users to map emergent use cases and behaviors in Ukraine.
(dev)Connect with Fellows
Over the next six months, each fellow will drive forward a small project that works toward larger objectives in their story. Fellowship stories will be published over the course of 2023 on this blog, but there are more opportunities to meet and learn about their projects. If you, dear reader, are interested in learning about the fellows and their projects, consider attending devconnect in Istanbul and in particular the Next Billion World Café event, and connect with us in person!
To the many applicants to the Next Billion Fellowship cohort 3 not selected, we thank you for sharing your story with us, and are glad to know that you’re out there tinkering, building, researching, and creating the future of human coordination.