Should your birthplace determine your future? At the Diplomatic Courier and Ubuntu Education Fund, we know it should not, but we see that too often it does. The poor tend to stay poor. In the townships of South Africa where Ubuntu works, as well as in many places around the world, too many eager, intelligent children have no opportunity to go to school, to dream great dreams, and to work towards them. We all need roots to grow, but human beings are not trees: our roots should strengthen us, not hold us down. The children of the townships of South Africa play under the same sun as the children in the penthouses of Park Avenue. Children everywhere deserve the same chances, and opportunities to learn and grow. And if they get those chances, they are likely to succeed.

The Should Your Birthplace Determine Your Future? photo exhibit came about when children enrolled in Ubuntu’s Early Childhood Development program were asked about their dreams and hopes for their futures. The young childhood aspirations that they told are brought to life by Tim Hans in these photographs, taken in front of their homes. In these images, we vividly see the stark contrast between the impoverished community in which these children live, and their high hopes for a future bursting with opportunity. We fundamentally believe that each child’s dreams should become reality depending not on where they are from, but on what is inside them.

Ubuntu Education Fund is a non-profit organization providing world-class health and education support to the orphaned and vulnerable children of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Ubuntu's mission is simple, all encompassing, yet radical: to help raise 2000 township children by providing what all children deserve-everything. By integrating into the community and taking a comprehensive and holistic approach, Ubuntu ensures that children in Port Elizabeth receive support from ‘cradle to career.’ By providing children and each of their family members with world-class health care, long-term education support, and household counseling, Ubuntu ensures that each child has the ability to grow into a healthy and successful adult. For 14 years, Ubuntu has worked to create an environment where people in Port Elizabeth have all the resources needed to achieve their personal and professional goals, breaking the cycle of poverty for generations to come.

Tim Hans grew up with a love for people and making things happen. He and Ubuntu Education Fund founder, Jacob Lief, are both graduates of the American School in London—the school that facilitated Hans’ first trip to Port Elizabeth in 2007. Hans’ passion was recognized by Lief, who invited him down the following year, further growing his interest in the Ubuntu philosophy. After earning his B.F.A. in Photography and Imaging from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California, Hans was eager to contribute his talents in any way possible. His work with Ubuntu is heavily influenced by Edward Curtis, a highly regarded photographer of Native Americans in the early 1900s. During his visits to Port Elizabeth, and the surrounding townships, Hans was awestruck by the deep personal connections within the community as well as the high level of happiness of the residents despite a lack of material goods. The positive attitudes of those whom he met in South Africa remain a continuous inspiration, not just artistically, but in his every interaction. Along with his skateboard and a camera, Hans carries this sensibility with him—while in fleeting moments of mutual fascination, he captures the people and places that give our existence character.

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This gallery was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier's September/October 2013 print edition, and in an exhibit at the National Press Club in August 2013.

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
Tim Hans
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.