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Hey everyone,

I'm collaborating with a few friends to set up an MVP of impact certificates on the Ethereum blockchain. We've got the architecture mapped out, so it's implementation and integration with existing platforms that's next for us.

The linked post is more of an introduction to ICs to the blockchain community, so I expect there's little that's new for people here. In short, though, our plan is to set up a web application that will allow:

  • Project creators to issue out ICs to other people.
  • Funders to donate to existing IC holders.
  • A marketplace to trade ICs.
  • A catalog to browse ICs for existing projects.

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on how useful they'd find such a tool, or what features they wish existed (but aren't on our list).




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What's the case for doing these IC's on the blockchain instead of through some other means? It's been a while since I thought about this, but I remember thinking that it would work best via signed physical objects, i.e. relics. Someone does something great for the world, you take a symbolic object that was part of the thing and print the relevant certificate on it somewhere, and get them to sign it... This is good because it makes the certificates way more valuable and more likely to retain value. They can be put in a museum, for example, and be actually interesting to look at instead of just being pieces of paper (or worse, electronic paper!). Also humans have been doing pretty much exactly this for millenia with relics of saints and historical antiques and museums etc., so it'll seem less weird and get more buy-in from a broader range of people.

The short list of reasons is:

  • We both have fairly extensive blockchain dev experience
  • There's a lot of new capital and value creation in the blockchain space, and people are looking to fund public good projects. The community there is quite receptive to new market paradigms.
  • Transfers on Ethereum are fast and fungible with many other assets.

I think having a symbolic object could also be cool as well (and definitely welcome other projects looking to do them!), but the problem we're more focused on is:

  • Letting project creators issue them at scale and let them be highly divisible.
  • Allowing funders to retroactively fund IC holders.

Both of the above two things are much harder to keep track of with a physical object.

The second point there seems like the one that's actually relevant. It strikes me as unlikely that doing this with blockchain is less work than with conventional payment systems even if the developers have done blockchain things before, and conventional payment systems are even faster and more fungible with other assets than Ethereum. I'm reading the second point there as suggesting something like, you're hoping that funding for this will come in substantial part from people who are blockchain enthusiasts rather than EAs, and who therefore wouldn't be interested if it used conventional payment infrastructure?

(I agree that the "relics" idea is, at best, solving a different problem.)

You're right that I expect there is a large group of both people and money who I expect to be interested in this because it's on the blockchain which forms part of my reasoning. It also allows for better interoperability with existing Ethereum assets, which helps if you thinking making ICs liquid is important (which I do).

What I instead meant by the second point, however, is that moving funding to existing IC holders seems like it would be harder to do with traditional finance methods and easier with blockchain tech.

I haven't worked enough with traditional finance protocols, but it seems like the process of querying all holders of the IC and then making payments to all of them could be more costly and complex, even when using something popular like Stripe.

Thanks! I get the divisibility thing, but why is it harder to retroactively fund IC holders with physical objects? Can't you just buy the object and add it to your collection? Isn't this basically how art works already -- Museums pay millions for a painting from long-dead artists, so smaller collectors pay hundreds of thousands, and individual rich people pay tens of thousands.

Having electronic tabulation means that you can allow transfers to happen quickly, and you can also disburse funds more quickly to holders of the ICs.

I would imagine that keeping a consistent record of who holds a physical item would take longer to verify and maintain.

These problems seem like they've been solved satisfactorily by museums and the associated industries, though.

I agree that they probably have a good system in place for electronic tabulation, but museums generally don't trade art at high speeds across many, many actors.

And it seems desirable to have ICs trade at volume and speed, which I think museums probably don't have the specialized infra for, but blockchain does.

I'm keen to see more experiments with impact certificates. Do you have funders interested in using it?

I've been chatting with someone else who's been looking for an MVP of ICs to match some private funders and project creators.

We've also been in talks to collaborate with Gitcoin, a popular quadratic funding platform on Ethereum.


this looks really amazing. I'd love for this to happen! can I buy an ic for the creation of this system? 😛

Would the price of an impact certificate be determined by the impact the organization is generating, so it is like buying impact stocks? A maximum number of impact certificates should be specified upon the first certificates’ issuance to prevent the possibility of infinite certificate value dilution, which could disincentivize investments. Buyers should invest in organizations of high expected impact/cost. Organizations would seek to increase their impact/cost ratio to sell certificates at higher value. This would incentivize growth (appealing investors) and innovation (selling certificates at a higher price).

The impact units can be proxies to wellbeing-adjusted life years, such as counterfactual education achieved, healthcare affected, animal welfare determinants implemented, etc. It should be ok to have a few units, just like several currencies.

This would constitute a market solution to systemic change. For example, when education increase becomes more affordable, the price of an education impact certificate increases (higher productivity of an organization). Then, investors may be interested in purchasing healthcare certificates (which are not experiencing a price surge) while waiting for the price of education certificates to fall due to increased supply.

I think that this will be extremely useful for systemic change, can be profitable to investors apt in impact prediction, and can benefit entrepreneurs skilled in impact cost reduction.


I also thought of certificates which would pay a premium if a public benefit threshold is met. This could also use the EA broader community prediction capacity in a profitable way. The certificate premium would have to be set so that:

[Issuer’s expected loss] Certificate price*Certificate premium %*Probability of the threshold with this premium incentive being met


[Issuer’s expected profit] Certificate price*Financial return on investment from the time of issue to the time of evaluation


[Additional public benefit] Expected public benefit of issuing the certificate additional to a no certificate incentive scenario

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