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How Web3 Can Empower Underrepresented Communities

How Web3 Can Empower Underrepresented Communities
By Anja Prosch
Anja Prosch

8 Min

March 17, 2023


I’m returning to this point. First, a little about myself.

In 1988 I started what would become a 32-year career in public services. I was 20 and, without formal qualifications, I already had nearly five years of work experience.

That means I was only 15 years old when I started work, and, yes, in England, it was and still is, illegal to work full-time at that age.

At that point in my life, I was one of the forgotten ones. A teenager, living in a children’s home. Instead of a school, I was given an opportunity to work. And that was the best thing that could have happened to me.

For the next 3 years, whilst still living in a children’s home, I got to travel the breadth of the UK. Then, at short notice, I was invited to Canada to help advise professionals and young people. A great opportunity that posed a small—well, rather big—problem. I was a kid in care, and no one had my birth certificate. After a lot of work in a very short time, at the last minute, we found it. I got my passport and ventured onto my first flight to Toronto, Canada, where I attended a conference … as an adviser.

I couldn’t believe what was happening to me – and, as I said, my life changed forever.

Let’s go back to the missing passport that nearly curtained my opportunity. Who knows where I would be if I had not gotten on that plane? My destiny relied on a piece of paper I didn’t have access. What’s even harder to believe is that in 2022 many are in the same powerless position. This was my first “Aha! moment” with Web3 when I realized how it could revolutionize people’s lives – especially those in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities.

So by 18, following my travels around parts of the globe and working with disadvantaged young people, I launched a charity called The International Youth In Care Network. Our goal was to link youth in care networks across the globe to strengthen our voices and help us learn from each other.

I suppose I could have been called an entrepreneur, using today’s language.

After meeting and working with so many educated and qualified people, I quickly realized that I needed to get educated or I wouldn’t get very far—that’s intimately connected to my second “Aha! moment” of how Web3 revolutionizes people’s lives.

I took myself back to school—in the UK, we call it college if you are over 18 years of age—to get my primary education. Whilst doing this, I continued running the charity pro bono. It wasn’t a paid role. Two years of education and volunteering later, I finally had some basic qualifications under my belt to add to my work experience, so I was ready to get a paid job.

My first full-time job, as a 20-year-old, was Community Worker. No, it was not a Web3 community manager! But there are tons of similarities, especially because of its community focus—“Aha moment” number 3.

Back then, my community worker role had a twofold purpose:

  • Connecting with local people, especially those underrepresented, help them to engage with the broader community, empowering them to be active members.
  • Assisting the community to recognize their diversity of needs and help them find ways to include all their members

I’ve spent my life working with and for people—especially young people—who are disaffected and disadvantaged because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, and class. Perhaps I’ve done this because, for a large part of my life, I have been disadvantaged myself on many levels:

  • I had grown up in an uncaring working-class household; my parents were abusive to my two female siblings and me,
  • I spent 8 years of my life living in the government’s care. In the UK, I was referred to as a looked-after child.
  • I was, and remain, dyslexic. No one had taken care of my education, so no one diagnosed it.
  • I am a woman.
How Web3 Can Empower Underrepresented Communities

After 32 years in the public sector, trying to bring change to children and communities, I stepped into virtual reality. VR engages our thinking, feeling, and behavior, allowing us to learn four times faster. The VR I developed allowed anyone to walk in the footsteps of children victims of criminal or sexual exploitation being harmed by adults. As Maya Angelou famously said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I believe in the transformational impact of an experiential approach because my life experience has shaped the person I am now: an activist and pragmatist—what Kolb’s learning styles would define as a Doer.

Now, the metaverse is offering that impact opportunity with communities. A year ago, I ventured further into Web3 with a team of other does led by Pere Pérez, whom I developed my virtual reality projects with.

Metacampus helps anyone thrive in Web3 by growing their knowledge, helping them master technology tools, and embracing the Web3 culture. At the same time, we are also empowering new start-ups in the Web3 ecosystem, creating a circular system that matches the connected essence of the virtual economy.

A year on, I remain inspired by Web3 every day.

I believe Web3 and its tools can rebalance society: bring more significant equity to the world, give people control over their own lives, and provide all people the opportunity to shape, influence, design, and determine the future through decentralization.

Many are the uses for the tools of Web3, but let me focus on those I mentioned earlier. I think they can have a significant impact:

  • Blockchain and its use for storing information and certifying us, our competence, and our experience.
  • The drive for community engagement, ownership, and decision-making.

Blockchain— as we all know—is an immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets. Those assets can be tangible—a birth certification, a passport, a certificate of education, an endorsement of experience—or intangible—personal memories.

Let’s imagine, for instance, that when a person is born, they get a tangible asset on the Blockchain instead of a paper copy of their birth certificate—unlike my story. This means the individual is in control of their identity. They can secure a passport or a driving license. With a birth certificate on the Blockchain, they can recall it at any point, being protected from the negative behaviors of others. Using the Blockchain to store passports would help mitigate children being trafficked or sexually exploited—as their age and true identity would be on the Blockchain.

The same benefit applies to a working environment. Using the Blockchain to record contracts reduces the likelihood of people being abused by their employers.

Storing information on-chain can help individuals fleeing persecution or war. For instance, a migrant with no proof of identity in the new country. A simple deposit of information onto a blockchain would mean the person’s identity and, therefore, their rights are protected. Not only would this empower the person, but it would also help society because they can immediately engage in their community, economically and socially.

This brings me to how the Blockchain allows people to capture their achievements in a secure record that cannot be altered. For instance, often young people who experience disadvantage and disaffection don’t perform well in an education environment but may be outstanding in other areas such as gaming and coding or have a high level of social skills and emotional intelligence. This performance can be captured on an immutable ledger and open up the job market to them—as prospective employers can check their performance record on the Blockchain.

Experience being rewarded as highly as education lets us address some existing inequalities. This brings me to my final point: community.

34 years ago, I worked as a community worker. What I see and experience in Web3 today is very similar to what I saw back then. People want to belong. From my experience in Web3, I notice that people, individuals from all sectors—art, finance, tech, film, social, entertainment, and so on—want to be community members. Society is coming full circle: in the ’60s and ’70s, we were community orientated; in the late ’80s, 90, and early 2000’s, we shifted and focused on individuals; now, there is a movement back to a community focussed.

The new community is not defined by geographic or family boundaries. There are no borders and boundaries in Web3. Communities are built around something more meaningful that preserves their individual identity: interests, skills, and knowledge. A similar relationship is being established with companies, which is key for Web2 companies transitioning to Web3. Individuals no longer want to be viewed as customers. They want to be seen and treated as community members. As such, they want to contribute to the decisions of companies they support.

In short, and going back to the title of this article, Web3 is for the people by the people. Twelve months ago, I entered Web3 as a 53-year-old woman with no tech experience and was questioning myself daily. Today, literally thousands of hours of learning later, I am even more inspired and assertive in my opinion that the tools of Web3 are designed to secure technology and cultural revolution.