It is easy to define a particular product with a country in simplistic ways: like Swiss cheese with Switzerland, Scotch whisky with Scotland and pure olive oil with Spain, for example. But in today’s world, countries are producing a wide array of products and services that have unique cultural and social characteristics.

Presenting the national story or message in a cohesive manner is a challenging task. Switzerland’s most recent ‘Swiss Touch’ campaign is a lesson in effective public and global diplomacy. The communications campaign aptly depicts a host of complex and varied topics ranging from drones, 3D printing, performing arts, sports, cyber security. This effort is ‘at the heart of the public diplomacy’ in the U.S., explains Sarah Shafik, project manager of Swiss Touch.

Using two identical tables known as the ‘Swiss Touch’ tables as vehicles for discussion, the campaign bodies the ‘duality of contemporary Switzerland as a nation that embodies tradition and is a fertile ground for innovation. This sets the stage for a ‘neutral ground for free discussion.’

These tables are made of aged wood from the old Hörnlihütte at the foot of the Matterhorn. Skilled Swiss product designers handcrafted the tables with sustainable material from the Swiss ash tree.

The "Swiss Touch" Tables in action.

Built with quintessential Swiss innovative methods, the tables serve as a medium to both tell the Swiss story as well as a meaningful and stimulating conversation. The tables can project images and live stream content enabling the wood surface to act as a touch screen, thereby encouraging interaction from users both online and offline.

The first conversation actually took place in the commanding but frigid heights of the famous winter skiing resort of Zermatt, near the Matterhorn. It was a revealing conversation about Climate Change with input from people like Gerald Biner, CEO Air Zermatt and Major Thomas Zeltner, Commandant Adjoint of the Patrouille des Glaciers, who are witnessing the effects of this phenomenon first hand on their business and daily lives.

In the United States, the campaign launched from the iconic surroundings near the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. People from different walks of life came to the Swiss Touch table to converse with H.E. Ambassador Martin Dahinden.

H.E. Ambassador Martin Dahinden

The tables travel across the United States for events organized by the network of Swiss Diplomats, meeting and discussing various topics with experts in different fields. Sometimes these events are hosted by quasi-governmental organizations like SwissNex.

From March to June, in San Francisco the campaign showcases ‘Swiss Touch Builds a House.’ This effort provides ‘a visual journey through research on the digital transformation of architecture and construction.’

Assisting in this effort are “Swiss Ambassadors,” such as famous tennis players like Stan Warinka and Belinda Bencic, as well experts in other fields—such as Christophe Guberan, Industrial Designer and Developer of 3D printing technology, Amanda Mascarelli, Science Journalist and Managing Editor, SAPIENS, Kerstin Vignarr of the UN Institute of Disarmament Research, and Eva Galperin, Director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

There are tremendous ideas explored and discussed at these events throughout the United States. For instance, Swiss Touch joined the Center for Civil and Human Rights along with the Swiss Consulate General and the UN to discuss the idea of building sustainable cities in Atlanta. ‘Empowering Young Voices in Foreign Policy’ in New York City brought together key stakeholders to discuss how to inspire the next generation. ‘Humanitarian Protection in the Digital Age’ in San Francisco and ‘Innovation and Humanitarian Aid’ in New York City covered some of the most topical issues of our society today.

Keeping up with Digital Information’, a unique event at the National Archives in Washington, DC addressed the ‘challenge of storing, preserving and securing mountains of record—both digital and physical.” To explore ideas on how to build smart communities in the future, the Swiss Touch campaign brought together experts from ETH Zurich, the DC Office of Planning, and the National Planning Commission at the iconic National Building Museum.

Though the series of events is centered on the Swiss Touch tables, the information provided is timely, useful, and often very entertaining. It is an ingenious way to reintroduce Switzerland to the U.S. (and the world)—a country that ranks high in so many categories from top ranked universities to the happiness index of its citizens (not to mention the list of Nobel Prize winners and technical innovation).

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
C. Naseer Ahmad
C. Naseer Ahmad is a contributor to Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.