part from cryptocurrency, no other blockchain application has captured people's attention quite like NFT. For many, NFT memes, sports memorabilia, or digital art are the gateway to the Web3 universe.
As with any hyped-up asset, NFTs have become a way to "make bank." Market tracker DappRadar found NFT sales reached $25 billion in 2021.1
But there's much more to NTFs than assigned value.
Nick Chan, the co-founder of NFT marketplace Refinable, says, "NFTs and the tech that surrounds it are amazing for powering transactions and for ensuring the authenticity of assets – digital or physical."2
What are NFTs, and how are they tied to activism?
NFTs are essentially digital files created on the blockchain, meaning no two files are identical.
Hence, their name — non-fungible tokens.
The blockchain technology underscoring NFTs makes them digitally unique. Ownership of an NFT is transferred when it’s sold, and those records are publicly verifiable. Not only can creators sell their work directly, profit more, and get royalties, but by using NFTs, creators can also access a global market. A report from investment firm Galaxy Digital found that till October 2022, Ethereum-based NFT creators have been paid $1.8 billion in royalties.8
Of late, NTFs have taken on an added significance — a tool for social good. Globally acclaimed artist and activist Maliha Abidi created the Women Rise NFT collection to advocate for gender equality and girls' education. The money from the NFT sales will be used to build the first metaverse school for 258 million children who don’t have access to education. Women Rise has already donated $16,000 to the Malala Fund.
NFT as the Entry Point to Social Activism in Web3
Social activism cannot happen in isolation; it requires people to work together towards common goals. Perhaps that’s why NFTs have become an important tool in activism.
Their relative ease of use makes NFTs approachable, while the blockchain technology supporting them ensures transparency and promotes trust among a community working collaboratively.
James Sun, the founder of mintNFT, says of NFTs, “we’re hoping that the public can see how simple it is to onboard non-crypto users and how this technology can be leveraged to benefit valuable causes.”3
mintNFT participated in the SEEINJUSTICE series held in 2021 in response to the Black Lives Matter protests with the goal to connect artists to social justice causes and inspire a larger community to get involved in activism.
The company created a collection of 9,000+ NTFs integrated with creation videos into the smart contracts, giving the community another level of authenticity and lowering the barrier to entry.
How important are Web3 technologies like NFTs for social activism?
NFTs are unique, authentic, and transparent. When working with a large group, these features can be crucial in building trust and maintaining accountability throughout a distributed community.
Web3 platforms are also decentralized, meaning decisions are not made by a central leader. All groups have rules, and some members have governance tokens. Yet, every person in the group has an equal say in how the community votes on decisions and acts.
Nadya Tolokonnikova, founder of the feminist protest and performance group Pussy Riot, says, “It’s so important for activists not to look away from new technology, and even if some things are scary, just go there and confront it.”4
Nadya continues, “big transformations can happen when the right groups of people get together. [And] the combination of ethics and technology holds immense power, one with which we can create a great new future.”
It’s in this intersection of activism, ethics, and technology that tools like NFT can play a crucial role.
Crossing the Phygital Realms with NFTs
Another key feature of the NFT is its ability to connect the digital world with the physical. Through the means of a digital twin, a virtual representation of an object, almost anything in the physical world can be turned into an NFT.
Because of how NFTs establish ownership and authenticity, they are becoming crucial in the way organizations approach sustainability, corporate responsibility, and eco-governance.
Blockchain-enabled circular fashion platform Spin by Lablaco collaborated with Fondazione Sozzani to create NFTs from the luxury vintage collection of Vogue Italy’s legendary Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani. All the funds raised from this phygital NFT collection will support genomics research at Harvard Medical School.
Co-founder of Lablaco Lorenzo Albrighi says their main goal is to “bring added value to the physical world and to empower creatives to thrive in the Web3.”5
In May 2021, artist and activist Khaled Jarrar turned soil from Palestine into NFTs and sold them. The work titled If I don’t steal your home someone else will steal it (2021) was meant to draw attention to the desertification of agricultural land in Israel-occupied Palestine as well as the land itself.
Jarrar said, “Gazing at the landscape that is shrinking daily by annexation, I chose to mark the hypocrisy of Israeli occupation and its unending spectrum of social, economic, and ecological apartheid by NFTing the soil. I’m selling little plots of Palestine that, for the first time in the last century, unequivocally belongs to whomever buys it. Non-fungible.”6
The NFT Art & Fundraiser Model
For artists, activists, and nonprofits, NFTs are fundraising tools to drive social impact. Artists contribute their work, which is auctioned off, with proceeds supporting a specific cause or nonprofit. Many artists and businesses contributed to the Unchain.Fund that supports humanitarian aid in Ukraine during the Russian invasion.
The SEEINJUSTICE art exhibition followed this model. ConfrontART, a non-profit working towards diversity and education in the arts, collaborated with mintNFT to create inspirational public art displays and raised money through the NFT auctions, which was donated to three nonprofits: We Are Floyd Org, The Breonna Taylor Foundation, and The John and Lilian Miles Lewis Foundation.
The global activist collective Monograma collaborated with legendary digital artist Coldie to create Ubaraja to raise awareness of climate change, particularly for two Amazonian tribes whose lives are under threat from deforestation and expedited climate change.
The collective’s founder Hervé Delhumeau says, “What began as an exploration of the technical aspects of blockchain technology has become a vehicle for social and environmental activism. It’s a hugely powerful example of how artists are using new media to create meaningful change in the world.”7
Rabble is Creating a New Model for Social Activism in Web3
We admire artists, activists and nonprofits working together to raise awareness of social injustices.
Nadya Tolokonnikova said, “what if someone who creates NFTs, donates 20-30% of the sales to causes they are passionate about? I feel this can change so much.” Hervé Delhumeau said, “Our goal is to make people think about [climate crisis] in a new way, and then maybe they will want to take action.”
But in this model of Web3 social activism, the focus is entirely on fundraising; the thing of value is the NFT itself. The work takes second place. And the people who work towards social change get very little reward for their work and knowledge. We want to rectify that.
Rabble is turning the value of NFTs in social activism on its head. Everyone who joins Rabble groups can mint an NFT, but its value depends on the work the person does. Once the social work is verified on our blockchain-enabled platform, the value of the NFT increases, and members earn more rewards.
Find a cause you’re passionate about and join the corresponding group, bring others on board, and work together to make a difference in your community. If you can’t find an existing group to join, create one based on your passions; we have the tools to set you up. Meet like-minded people who are working towards the same goals. Work together and get rewarded.
Whether you identify as an activist or not, you can participate in making impactful social change in your community. And, if we’re being honest, it will take all of us working together to bring about social and climate justice. Join us at @rabbleio to learn more about how we can work collectively to make the world a better place while earning rewards for our work.