Bitcoin Society CEO: Why digital currency is a tool for global good

Bitcoin Society CEO: Why digital currency is a tool for global good

Blockchain Awards (1)

(CoinDesk) The weekend before last week’s Bitcoin2014 conference in Amsterdam,
22-year-old Matthew Kenahan had a choice to make – one that he said was
“probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make”.

Here
was his dilemma: attend graduation after slogging for four hard years
to get his degree in International Business and Marketing, or skip it to
attend the Bitcoin2014 conference, where he and the organization he heads, the Bitcoin Society, were nominated for a Blockchain Award or ‘Blockie’.
“I
had my 91-year-old grandmother travelling up from Mississippi [to my
graduation],” he told CoinDesk. He eventually chose Amsterdam, and was
rewarded with not only winning the award for ‘Most Impactful Charity’, but also for ‘Bitcoin Champion’ after Andreas Antonopoulos was unable to accept the prize due to a conflict of interest.

Tool for charity

Obviously,
Kenahan’s ‘problem’ is a lighthearted tale, and nothing like the hard
choices faced by people who are living hand-to-mouth in many regions of
the world.
In fact, he sees bitcoin as a tool for helping the less
well-off and, under his leadership, the Bitcoin Society has sought to
explore the charitable uses of bitcoin and to promote a positive image of bitcoin in contrast to its association with the drugs trade.
“The
main idea behind this is to show people that you can use cryptocurrency
for something other than Silk Road. We’re creating a global community,
we’re trying to connect people,” Kenahan explained
As befits a prize for charitable work, Kenahan pledged to donate his 1BTC winnings to the Women’s Annex Foundation, which aims to build women’s digital literacy and increase access to the Internet. He tweeted confirmation of the donation that same day.
For Kenahan, that transparency in donations is appealing from an accountability point of view:

“[Bitcoin]
allows you to create a unique address, for a very specific cause […]
we see both the incoming and outgoing transactions, and we can see that
it’s used for a very specific cause.”

Those charitable uses of bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, are already apparent from a human rights organization that works in Sri Lanka to homeless outreach shelter Sean’s Outpost in the US.
Perhaps more famously, dogecoin has become a veritable charity fundraising machine, including the $50,000 Doge4Water campaign.

Image problem

More
generally, the Bitcoin Society is devoted to challenging what Kenahan
calls “misinformation” in reporting on bitcoin and to improving perceptions of bitcoin.
“One
of the biggest issues with bitcoin, and one of the things that
hindering the development of our community, is we have this fundamental
image problem that oftentimes stems from misinformation or slanderous
articles,” he argued.

Future plans

As part of that
challenge, the Bitcoin Society is planning a number of projects over the
next year, including a new website called bitcoincourses.org, which
will help to educate people about bitcoin, and a textbook buy-back
scheme for US students.
“Instead of selling your textbook back to
the bookstore … and getting grossly underpaid,” he said, “what we would
do is redeem that textbook for bitcoin. That provides a low-risk – it’s
money you’ve already spent – way to get involved into a community that
has more and more legitimacy every day.”
Currently, Kenahan has
big plans for expanding the Bitcoin Society team and is recruiting
representatives from his alma mater Washington University.
“We’re going to be set up in Shanghai, New York, India, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago,” he said.
For
this self-funded bitcoin champion – Kenahan said he previously traded
in the bitcoin markets – 2014 is proving to be a very exciting year
indeed.

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