by SF Team, 3 March 2018
Fellows intake March 2018
Our Honorary Steward, Sunil Abraham, has chosen two exceptional candidates who offer a creative, innovative and open vision for a better world in two distinct areas: the future of the global bioeconomy, and alternative, community-driven currencies. Sunil is a social entrepreneur and policy expert, who combines a wealth of experience on funding selection panels with a keen and thoughtful appreciation of our own approach.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Sunil for his input over the course of his Stewardship. He brought a fresh perspective that both complemented and challenged our own thinking, and has selected Jenny and Karla on the basis they will do the same.
We offer a huge welcome to Jenny and Karla and look forward to learning as much from them as we hope they will gain from their Fellowship journey.
Introducing: Karla Córdoba-Brenes
Background: A social entrepreneur with a drive to create positive, sustainable change through open technology
Idea: BeSpiral: Decentralised digital currency modelling for social good
We tend to frown on monopolies in business, yet accept life under the rules and direction of the biggest monopoly of all: the banking system. How many of us truly know what money is? How is it created, and why? Whether you use the euro, dollar or rand, it’s all part of the same story, narrated and controlled from the top down by banks and financial institutions.
This self-serving system incentivises unsustainable outcomes and inequality. There is a focus on economic value and disregard for the environmental, social and cultural challenges we face.
But the world is warming up to the idea of alternative and complementary monetary systems. Cryptocurrencies are firmly established, and there are over 4,000 active complementary currencies worldwide, with rules determined solely by the people who use them.
Could alternative currencies enable viable solutions to many of today’s societal challenges? Can we avoid restrictions and manipulation from central banks and other financial organisations by redefining our concept of what money is - and what it can be used for? Will an open approach to complementary currencies make it easier for communities to create forms of exchange that are locally sustainable, equitable and beneficial?
Karla Córdoba-Brenes has a background in communications, conservation and sustainability, and believes alternative currencies have a role to play in creating a better world.
Throughout her Fellowship, Karla and the BeSpiral team will work with blockchain technology to create a free, open platform that allows individuals and communities to design, launch and maintain a digital currency. The platform will host resources, offer open source tools, and encourage communication and collectivism between groups all over the world.
The idea is that local currency exchanges based on open, decentralised systems will help communities define the objectives and rules of money to suit their shared needs. “We can create a diverse and resilient system of our own, depending on our particular goal or purpose,” Karla explains. “For example, you could use a currency to reward people for recycling, which they can go and spend in local businesses.”
“But it takes one or two years to create these currencies,” she continues. “With BeSpiral, we want to reduce the timeline to make something functional.”
Karla Córdoba-Brenes: “Over the course of my Fellowship, I hope to share a different vision about cryptocurrencies. Crypto is currently using the same old speculative values and systems, but it has greater possibilities and can do so much more. The Foundation is offering us an opportunity to experiment and build communities around this idea.
“I love the Shuttleworth Foundation philosophy - the idea of openness and sharing knowledge. We need exponential solutions for problems we have in the environment and conservation, and I’m looking forward to talking over ideas with other Fellows from interesting fields.”
“This idea is potentially transformative for communities - particularly those that lack resources. We believe Karla’s BeSpiral project could add real value to local economies, everywhere, by allowing the community to determine what is value in the first place.
If successful, it will give the world a range of complementary currencies built on top of the Blockchain for multiple purposes, driven by a number of private as well as public players. We could learn a lot from the currency experiments people do when a platform makes it easy to do so.”
Sunil Abraham, Honorary Steward:
“Karla has really done her homework and has a spark in her eyes. Her expression of the local value exchange is refreshing - alternative currencies need connection.”
Introducing: Jenny Molloy
Background: A molecular biologist, academic and activist with a focus and passion for openness in science
Idea: Exploring an open framework for an equitable bioeconomy
Honorary Steward, Sunil Abraham:
“Jenny is the right person with the right skills at the right time to do this important work. She will make a difference.”
Biotechnology is the integration of biological systems with technology to create or develop products and applications. It has a critical role to play as we strive for sustainability and enhanced human welfare. But while governments move towards biotech alternatives in pharmaceutical production, agriculture and manufacturing, the future of the emerging bioeconomy is unclear.
The biotech research industry’s current dial is set firmly to ‘patent everything’ and large companies - with little interest in tackling unprofitable global issues - own much of the IP.
There are clear ramifications. Scientists from low-to-middle income countries have limited access to the tools and resources needed to research and solve local problems. Community labs struggle to afford expensive licenses. And startup companies with bold, fresh ideas frustratedly navigate complex IP landscapes.
We’re at a pivotal moment. Do we accept that big business will keep everything locked down behind closed doors, or is there room for open science to create a bioeconomy that works for everyone? And can openness lead to biotech innovation in areas that will benefit all of our communities and ensure we have legal access to to the core IP underpinning real progress?
Jenny Molloy is a keen and long-time advocate of open science. She is using her Fellowship to explore the context in which openness could help us progress towards a more equitable distribution of biotechnology.
“I really want to see how open can work with biology,” explains Jenny. “The ‘big vision’ is to show policymakers that openness can make a difference, and encourage them to build open thinking into their innovation policies.
“But I also have a background in research,” she continues. “It’s good to have a vision but I can’t ignore the reality of actually ‘doing biology.’ Grassroots scientists can’t get the tools they need for research, so I will also be working out those distributional problems people have with access to particular enzymes - the really basic reagents used in biological analysis.”
Jenny Molloy: “I’m really looking forward to the Fellowship. It feels like the time is right and it’s a natural fit. I’m excited to dive back into research and looking forward to having the headspace I need to really explore this idea.
“I know there’s a lot of crossover with the other Fellow projects, and it will be fascinating to get into a room and start interacting with other interesting minds.”
“This field is fast-growing but still emerging. Right now, we have a unique opportunity to set the course of development towards openness and access for all. This will require intervention at multiple points - research and development, policy, practice and economics. It’s a huge task, with many fast evolving parts.
“Jenny has a proven track record of addressing problems from multiple angles, bringing seemingly disparate communities together around a shared objective, and inspiring support for openness in science. But we offer Jenny support as she can go even further - she has the potential to make an important and valuable contribution to openness in the biotech economy, and we believe she will realise her goals.”