“Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us” – Jerry Garcia
At Token Ibis, we’re short on many things, but ambition is not one of them. To recap, our goal as an organization is the following:
Create a future in which the U.S. Federal government supports a national digital charity currency for distribution to all adult citizens. This platform will handle most of the 400 billion dollars flowing into the social profit sector to achieve the following goals:
- Democratize the right to participate in social progress.
- Improve the efficiency of philanthropic money.
- Facilitate a new altruistic economy of socially beneficial exchanges.
Eight-year U.S. Presidental administrations have accomplished less. So how can one Albuquerque startup nonprofit make a difference? What role can we play, and why should you care? Our stance is this: if you want to change the world, you can either be talented or lucky. We believe that we are in the right place at the right time, and now, so are you.
Universal Basic Philanthropy may not take the world by storm tomorrow, but that is precisely why it is so important to start today. We are standing at the beginning of something big. Every success, every inch of progress that we earn now will lead to immeasurable impact someday down the road. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and this is how we intend to start.
Growing an Idea
No single idea ever changed the world. Instead, movements are about building new ways of thinking, weeding out bad ideas, and adapting to current times. UBP is no different. What past research can we study to understand the challenge? How can ibis open new possibilities? What pitfalls will policymakers and nonprofits face at large scales of UBP?
These are all questions that demand answers. Someday, we hope that high-qualified experiments from different backgrounds will work hard to tackle these questions. Until then, the responsibility is on us. Every new idea we write down today represents the first time in history that anyone has ever documented that thought on paper. UBP is a gold mine of discoveries, and we should all start digging now.
Over the coming months, much of our work as an organization will be to release new blog posts and resources to explore all of these ideas. Do you have thoughts of your own? Great! We are always looking for volunteer writers and help with spreading awareness through social media, internet forums like Reddit, and advertising through Google ad grants. Although we want to find the perfect words, we care even more about reaching the right people. The right people includes funders and nonprofit leaders, but also everyday people who care about making a difference. UBP is meant to belong to the community, and it will take all of us to get the movement off the ground.
Proving it Works
Many movements have good ideas, but ideas are cheap. Maybe the best part of Universal Basic Philanthropy is that we can do more than talk; we can get started today. Up until now, we’ve been talking about grand visions and utopian futures. These goals are essential to understand. In practice, we don’t need government involvement to prove most of the benefits. Instead, we can do something like this:
- Connect Funders: Raise private money from philanthropists and everyday people, asking them to give through Token Ibis instead.
- Connect Nonprofits: Build relationships with local nonprofits and evaluators to collaborate and help build awareness about UBP.
- Connect Communities: Find a community of closely interacting individuals to use UBP. We think the ideal test subjects are local high school and college students.
- Build a Platform: Connect funders, nonprofits, and communities through the Token Ibis digital payment app.
- (Non) Profit
Our objective is to kickstart the world’s first experiments to prove that UBP works on a small scale. Suppose that we select an introductory college class with a class size of 200. At the beginning of the year, we would register each student for an account on the Token Ibis app. Using money from our funders, we would credit each student with, say, $40 per month of Ibis. The donation options would consist of a carefully managed list of nonprofits that have been evaluated by reputable organizations like United Way.
Compared to the long-term vision of UBP, the setup simulates the role of “the government” with money that comes from a general pool of funders. It’s a plan that requires a bit of fundraising leg-work from Token Ibis, but the user doesn’t see a difference.
Another critical piece to note is our emphasis on the social component around the app. If you’ve had a chance to take a look at our demo, you’ll notice that we feature a section on news and events. The core mission of Token Ibis is to study the way people use charitable money. However, we would also like to know how this money, in turn, changes the way they interact with each other and with the nonprofit sector as a whole.
Over time, we hope to set up many similar experiments at larger scales. These may include more sophisticated randomized trials designed to answer the following types of questions:
- Does money tend to flow from students who are less “engaged” with nonprofits to more engaged students?
- Do students who donate with UBP, rather than their own money, respond to more fact-based fundraising campaigns?
- Does UBP lead students to become more involved in volunteerism?
- Does UBP lead students to become more informed about local social issues?
These are the most relevant research questions in the context of UBP. However, in terms of understanding how people think about social issues, this is only the tip of the iceberg. By creating a single platform to bring together all stakeholders, Token Ibis provides a brand new way for researchers to study the core psychology and economics of charitable giving.
Some charities care for the most vulnerable populations in society. Others truly save lives. No doubt, every organization believes at one point or another that their particular job is the most important line of work in the world. At Token Ibis, we write blogs and manage a payment application. And we feel the same way.
The work that we do isn’t about any single cause or social issue; it’s about a chance to change the system itself. Every day, approximately 300 nonprofits around the US close their doors1. Some deserve it, others might not. Our mission is to create a future where the right kind of money flows to the right kinds of causes. If our work can bring about this future a year, a week, or a day sooner, then we can ensure the survival of thousands of worthy nonprofits. We can change the lives of millions of vulnerable people while empowering millions more. What else can be more important?
Our motivation is the hope that someday, everyone will share the beliefs that we hold right now. Token Ibis may or may not be around when that day comes. In the end, it doesn’t matter. There is no competition in this space, only progress. So join the movement! Contribute when and what you can. Whether we take over the nonprofit sector or perish as a footnote on Wikipedia, history is being made right now, and this is our chance to make a difference.