How Can Crypto Empower Marginalized Communities and Reshape the Financial Landscape?
In this season 3, episode 9, Samantha Yap and Sheila Warren delve into the transformative power of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Sheila Warren is the CEO of the Crypto Council for Innovation (CCI), a global alliance formed to showcase the transformative potential of crypto.
They explore the concept of money as a meme and emphasise the importance of understanding the fundamental technology behind cryptocurrencies. They discuss how fintech and cryptocurrencies have revolutionized money, providing efficient payments and investment opportunities while addressing historical financial exclusion.
Sheila’s Journey into Crypto
Sheila, a lawyer with a background in tech philanthropy and civic tech, shares her path into the blockchain and crypto space. Her interest in technology began with a focus on data storage and economics, inspired by an incident involving sensitive information about activists.
As she delved deeper into the technology, she realised the revolutionary potential of blockchain in financial services. Sheila’s initial foray into crypto involved reading white papers, starting with Satoshi and Ethereum, and exploring various potential use cases. For her, crypto represents a paradigm shift in the concept of money.
Money as a Meme and Evolving Adoption
Sheila highlights that money derives its value from the faith people have in it, whether backed by governments or not. This intricate financial system relies on a belief in the assigned value of currency, making it a fascinating and complex aspect of our society and economy. Fintech, including cryptocurrencies, has transformed the financial landscape. Sheila emphasises that crypto adoption goes beyond the Western world, with marginalised communities and underserved regions embracing it more. Sheila delves into the historical context of financial exclusion, particularly affecting women and people of colour, explaining why these communities find crypto attractive, highlighting the potential to empower those left behind by traditional financial systems.
Financial Inclusion with Crypto and Overlooked Narratives
Sheila explores remittances, being a classic example of its cost-saving benefits for small-dollar payments abroad. Despite its significance, she acknowledges that this use case may not be considered “sexy” in the world of high finance, which often garners more attention. Nevertheless, she emphasizes the importance of bridging gaps and providing financial access to underserved communities, showcasing the positive impact of cryptocurrencies.
However, Sheila finds it perplexing that media and PR tend to overlook compelling and relatable stories in favour of complex financial tools and high finance. This oversight, she suggests, might stem from a lack of empathy and compassion for marginalized groups, reflecting broader societal issues. Despite the abundance of emotionally resonant narratives, they often fail to receive the same level of attention and excitement as other crypto-related topics.
Crypto Council for Innovation (CCI)
The CCI was formed by individuals concerned about the lack of nuance in the dialogue around crypto, especially in Washington D.C. Sheila, the inaugural CEO, joined CCI in February 2022, driven by the belief that policy will be the most crucial issue in crypto over the next few years. The organisation aims to promote a better understanding of the value and potential of crypto, advocating for responsible regulations that foster innovation while protecting consumers. Sheila expresses hope that crypto will continue to thrive as a global innovation opportunity and looks forward to making a positive impact through CCI’s work.
Diverse Research and Perspectives Through Education
CCI’s work is centred around education and research to inform policymakers and regulators worldwide about the value and potential of crypto. They focus on various projects, including ethnographic research on the use of crypto by minority communities, revealing that these communities find crypto compelling due to historical exclusion from traditional financial systems. They also researched energy use and Bitcoin mining, finding potential for carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative practices. The goal is to highlight the nuanced nature of the crypto space and provide evidence-based insights to counter the dismissive attitudes seen in some parts of the United States.
Find out more about CCI here
Follow Sheila Warren on Twitter here
Follow Samantha on Twitter here