On October 11th we celebrate International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s theme “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce” could not be more timely or apropos. At 1 billion strong, today’s girls are a reservoir of opportunity and hope. In Africa, the youth workforce is set to double. Yet, their future is often uncertain or bleak, and young women face additional challenges in realizing their potential. Youth are at least twice as likely to be unemployed than adults and many who are employed are in insecure or vulnerable jobs, working for low pay, no benefits, and limited opportunity. A strategic focus on empowering girls is especially warranted. While girls around the world are experiencing more schooling and improved learning outcomes, they still face a rockier path to a sustainable livelihood. In lower income countries especially, young women are less likely to enter the workforce and find the transition to work or starting a business uniquely challenging. Cultural and social norms, early marriage and pregnancy (each year 12 million girls are married before the age of 18) disrupts and impedes educational attainment, limiting girls’ ability to build skills for their future. The scope of the youth unemployment crisis and gender gap creates an even greater opportunity for change. Preparing girls to thrive as leaders and entrepreneurs will unlock a powerful resource for sustainable development by combating inequity and inequality across the African continent. At Educate!, we know that if young people, and girls especially, are prepared with the skills to succeed in today and tomorrow’s dynamic economy, they will not only drive prosperity for themselves, but for their families and communities as well. Educate! focuses on building the skills that we have learned matter most; including grit, resilience, teamwork, communication, social responsibility, business planning, project management, bookkeeping, and market research. Importantly, how students are taught these skills is as critical as what they are taught. Educate! shifts learning pedagogy from rote memorization to experiential learning and from the theoretical to the practical, providing girls (and boys!) with a more engaging, relevant, valuable and applicable education. Rigorous evaluation of Educate!’s experiential model shows higher incomes and more successful small businesses for its graduates—with outsized results among its female Scholars. In Uganda, young female graduates saw a 120% increase in income, were 152% more likely to own their own business, and were 208% more likely to lead a community project compared to their peers in a control group. Educate!’s significant impact on girls is not by sheer luck. For nearly a decade we have worked directly with secondary school students and teachers, prioritizing learning challenges, and designing and operating our programs to overcome them. We believe five factors contribute to success in preparing and empowering girls with the skills to succeed:
  1. Continuous gender focus and accountability: Explicit gender-sensitivity at every step—from mission setting through project design, implementation and evaluation—is needed ensure maximum impact on both girls and boys. Identifying key metrics and tools and using them for setting baselines, ongoing monitoring, and periodic evaluation is particularly critical both for seeing where you are succeeding and where you can improve, with guide posts showing the direction to take for greater impact.
  2. Promote girls’ aspirations: Inclusive curriculum and pedagogy with integrated gender equal content that empowers young women play an important role. For example, Educate! course case studies include female entrepreneurs and women in professional leadership positions so that girls can see and envision themselves in success stories.
  3. Mentor the Mentors: Mentors play an important role in many initiatives but they may not necessarily have the knowledge they need to support boys and girls equally. Educate! Mentors complete a comprehensive gender training to ensure they can effectively facilitate gender-responsive programming and be sensitive to the unique obstacles girls face.
  4. Train the Trainers: Teachers, administrators and other educators often lack tools for empowering boys and girls equally and supporting girls in overcoming gender barriers in the classroom. Educate! works with educators and administrators to train them on gender issues and practices including awareness, equity, and stereotypes faced by students.
  5. Walk the Talk: Organizations that seek to promote gender equality, women’s leadership and empowerment, need to practice it internally. Nine of Educate!’s top 11 positions are occupied by women. We also prioritize gender balance and representation in our youth-facing positions. In Rwanda, for example, because secondary school teachers there are overwhelmingly men, we hired 100% women as Youth Leaders to balance the role models students have.
This peak youth generation has potential we can’t afford to waste. Educating and empowering young women and girls through targeted, intentional effort is one of the best tools we have. On this International Day of the Girl, we hope others will join us in reaffirming their commitments, taking action and sharing their lessons.  About the authors: Boris Bulayev is CEO and Co-Founder, Educate! and Dr. Nicole Goldin is Board Director, Educate!, an award-winning non-profit social enterprise in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.