In the last decade, we have seen a massive boom in technology, which has created and replaced jobs, revolutionized the way we receive information, and changed the way we communicate with others. Despite these changes, the educational model—with few exceptions—has remained relatively static. For the most part, students are situated in 20th century classrooms and stuck with 19th century tools and models that simply won’t prepare them for the 21st century workforce. It’s undeniable, our world is becoming increasingly more globalized, and with the current educational model, students will not have the skills necessary to navigate the global market. To overcome some of these challenges, there have been small pockets of innovation and change in the education sector. However, the projects are not scalable and under-resourced. And while governments and citizens alike want to do the right thing when it comes to education, it’s proven to be difficult to make change happen on a large scale. Educator and entrepreneur Chris Whittle is looking to tackle some of these challenges with Whittle School & Studios. As Chairman and CEO, Chris believes education is stuck in the past, and hopes to modernize and revolutionize it by creating a global network of schools. In 2019, the first of many schools will open—one in Washington, DC and one in Shenzhen, China. Each campus will serve about 2,500 students ages 3-18, with boarding options as well. Students will have the opportunity to engage in a global community with a uniform curriculum across all campuses. The curriculum will focus on preparing students for the upcoming challenges of the 21st century, with project-based learning, personalized education, language immersion programs, and opportunities to study abroad at the other global campuses. Surprisingly, while undertaking such a massive project in reimagining education, the biggest barrier has been people’s mindsets. In a conversation with Whittle, he pointed out that in most other sectors, “old is a negative, and new is a benefit. In the world of school, it’s the reverse, in that old is viewed as a positive.” When it comes to education, it is challenging to change people’s mindset, and it’s difficult for people (especially parents) to visualize what a modern school should look like. “Part of the reason that’s true” according to Whittle, “is that parents haven’t seen new done right.” The effort of modernizing education takes more than educators and thought leaders—it takes a team of people, from engineers and carpenters, to architects and designers to create an environment that caters to the modern student’s needs. While touring the Washington, DC campus, it was apparent that an enormous amount of work has gone into creating the school. The 650,000 square foot building had previously been home to Intelsat since the 1980s. Now the building is undergoing construction and renovation to transform it into a contemporary campus. In the conceptualization and construction of the schools, technology has been a major factor. The classrooms will be completely modernized, and students will have the contemporary tools necessary to learn in a modern and global environment. Further down the line, technology will also play a role in creating a robust counseling system for the students—a system where counselors will be able to better understand every student’s individual needs and interests by having a substantial database to rely on. This counseling system is a part of a bigger philosophy of the Whittle School, which is that quality faculty is the key to quality education. Recently at the Meridian Global Leadership Summit, Whittle pointed out that “every piece of research about education shows that there’s one thing that matters more than anything else in terms of the quality of a school, [which] is the quality of a faculty. And that if you get that right virtually everything else tends to fall in place.” When asked about his role was in the changing landscape of education, Whittle reflected on his experience being in the education sector for more than 50 years. He said, “seeing cycles, actually seeing ebbs and flows of reform, seeing fads come and go, seeing how things didn’t work—the perspective is important. And I think the biggest thing I bring to this is humility. What I mean by that is I have a sense of how hard this is.” Whittle made a connection between education reform and mountain climbing. As someone who has done some mountain climbing in his day, he reflected, “one of the things about guides—when they’ve been up a mountain, they respect the mountain. So, I have a lot of respect for how hard this is, and therefore it helps me organize where we need to put extra oxygen.” Reimagining education is indeed a mountain that is not easy to climb. But Whittle Schools & Studios strives to be a breakthrough in redesigning a modern and global education that will prepare students to successfully navigate the 21st century.

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
Hannah Bergstrom
Hannah Bergstrom is a Diplomatic Courier Correspondent and Brand Ambassador for the Learning Economy.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.