Why Web3 is important for charities

What is charity?

As a concept, ‘charity’ refers to the social contract we all enter into as members of a society. The social contract says that we have a responsibility to contribute towards the betterment of others in society even if we don’t know them.

As a behaviour, ‘charity’ is the fulfilling of that social contract. There are many many ways for individuals to commit private resources to public good. Those resources may be time, money goods, expertise, in fact anything with transactable value. Sure, some people choose to renege on their responsibilities, or even deny the contract exists, but such is the freedom of a democratic society.

As an organisation, a ‘charity’ tries to encourage people to fulfill the social contract in service of a particular cause. The wide variety of charities for the wide variety of causes allows for anyone to contribute towards a cause that matters to them.

What is web3?

Web3 encodes social contracts. It is computable law, or an executable Magna Carta.

Web3 provides a governance layer for the internet. It offers technologies and protocols that allow applications to enable a paradigmatic shift in how the transactable elements of society; money, data, rights & laws, are processed. It offers the possibility of moving from a centralised model, where we rely on an institution such as a bank to govern the exchange of money, to a decentralised system of processing money between people without intermediaries.

Web3 utilises blockchain technology as a tool for distributed consensus, or to put it another way, a means of everyone agreeing on something because everyone can see that it happened. A transfer of ownership of a unit of value is recorded, immutably, in a way that

Why is web3 important for charities?

As with all new technologies, web3 will enable charities do the same things in different ways, such as accept donation, but with cryptocurrencies rather than fiat, and run charity auctions, except with NFTs rather than physical goods. Charities will start with this type of incremental innovation. But, and far more importantly, it will empower them to do different things. Charities will create radical innovation. Charities will create dramatically different ways to achieve their charitable purposes, and enable people to contribute to a cause and fulfill the social contract.

Web3 drastically alters the need for centralised institutions. As Decentralised Autonomous Organisations become better understood, providing a means of moving the bye-laws and decision-making of an organisation into smart contracts, a charitable organisation acting as intermediary to manage the distribution of donations will be replaced with peer-to-peer networks, with governance encoded into a smart contracts, and with the supporter members of the organisation having equal voting rights about how the rules of those smart contracts are written.

This future frees the charity from dependence on other centralised institutions like banks and marketing platforms too. When the next big social network emerges to replace Facebook and Twitter it will be built on the blockchain. As users migrate to a platform that doesn’t trap them by locking-in their data so they can be advertised at, so to will charities move their social marketing and find new ways to connect people to causes.

The labour market of the web3 future won’t have employees. Charities will offer up contract work with the briefing, completion and payment all handled through smart contracts. DACO’s will have no need for large teams across multiple departments, only hiring in developers to create smart contracts that govern the work.

What might a web3-enabled charity sector look like? No one knows yet. But it will come.

Systems-shifting design for charity products and services

I have a hypothesis about product success: users are far less important than we think. How and where a product intersects with other systems is far more important for achieving outcomes.

Human-centred design, the dominant mindset for product design, places the user as the most important consideration, but this, I think, is built on the assumption of the user as separate from the world around them. If we think of the user as just one actor in the network of systems that makes up the product, then this

Rightly or wrongly, charities are often held to a higher ethical standard than commercial enterprises for how they design and build products and services, and I think as the ideas around systems-shifting design take hold we’ll see more charities designing for how to products interact with other systems to affect change and achieve outcomes rather than the user-centred approach for products that seek to change behaviour.

Everything is connected – Design accordingly

We should design products based on what systems they interact with, rather than how they change user’s behaviour.

Every product connects to and interacts with other systems. And when we realise that everything in the world is connected in some way or another, we begin to be able to see how the products we design and build can play a part in changing systems.

β€œIn an unstable complex system, small islands of coherence have the potential to change the whole system.”

– Ilya Progogine.

Rather than producing products that distract, nudge, isolate, we can produce products that intersect meaningfully with other systems to create those islands of coherence.

Against frameworks: a whole person approach to product management

Frameworks are such a part of product management that a google search returns 87,400,000 results. There’s even a website dedicated to product management frameworks.

Frameworks are essentially a shortcut to thinking. Want to prioritise features? There’s a framework for that. Want to create a roadmap? There’s a framework for that. Need to rank customer problems? There’s a framework for that.

Maybe product management depends too much on too many frameworks and abstract concepts and not enough on developing the thinking skills to understand what problem the product manager is trying to solve and create a corresponding and relevant solution.

A whole-person approach to product management would place greater emphasis on developing the more fundamental skills of cognitive, emotional, and social skills. It would encompass aspects of the identity of the product manager and how that affects their ability to do their job well. The whole person approach to learning has been shown to be effective in family businesses, MBA programs, and in care settings, and could be applied to product management learning and development.

Product managers product managing product management

There are a only a very few roles within an organisation where the skills of that role enable the holder to apply them to the role. People who work in HR or Finance can’t apply the thinking of their specialisms to how their role works in an organisation. Of course, it’s beneficial for all roles or teams to appreciate what problem they solve for their organisation, but very few of them get to shape how they solve that problem. The role they play is well shaped and clearly defined. Maybe we could expect Sales people to sell their role within an organisation, and maybe we could expect Designers to design how their role fits in the organisation. And maybe Product manager can product manage their role in an organisation.

They can attempt to understand the problems the organisation is trying to solve by having product managers and shape how their role solves that problem. Is essence, the role becomes a product that enables a value exchange between the product manager or product team and the organisation.

I wonder if product teams that take a product management approach to how they operate within the organisation might be more successful. Rather than adopting a fixed approach they can set hypotheses about what might work better and then run experiments to prove or disprove it. They can use prototype processes to test and validate ideas about how to work. And once they have a process that looks promising, iterate on it as the working environment changes.

Product managers should product manage product management.

What’s the difference between product manager, project manager and delivery manager?

Product manager, project manager and delivery manager each play a different role on a modern agile development team, but share a focus on achieving the outcome of the work.

Overlapping focus for product managers, project managers and delivery managers

What do product managers do?

Product managers focus on:

  • Vision – Understand the problems the product aims to solve, who has those problems, and why they are worth solving.
  • Strategy – Present how the product will solve the problem, and how solving the problems will achieve organisational objectives and meet user needs.
  • Alignment – Ensure the product vision and strategy are aligned with organisational objectives and stakeholders expectations, and that the team are aligned on the problem and the solution.
  • Prioritisation – Decide which the parts of the solution achieve the most for the organisation and the users.
  • Value – Understand the value users will get from using the product and where they might lack value they expect.
  • Cost – Balance the cost of building the product with the expected return on investment over the life time of the product.

What do project managers do?

Project managers focus on:

  • Planning – Coordinate all aspects of the project to meet the project goals.
  • Cost – Monitor and report on the cost of the project.
  • Time – Understand the schedule of work and monitor progress.
  • Governance – Ensure the project follows organisational control procedures.
  • Resourcing & dependencies – Monitor project resources and escalate dependencies.
  • Risks & issues – Monitor and resolve risks and issues that may impact the success of the project.

What do delivery managers do?

Delivery managers focus on:

  • Time – Decide how the development team best uses the time available.
  • Value – Understand what value the user should get from the product.
  • Scope – Control the scope of work that the development team work on the ensure the solution is appropriate and proportional to the problem.
  • Quality – Ensure the solution meets quality standards, e.g. accessibility and security.
  • Barriers – Remove barriers and impediments that slow down the development team.
  • Process – Implement, monitor and improve the processes the team uses to manage it’s work.

How do all three work together?

All three overlap with a focus on the outcome. All three roles succeed if the work achieves the outcome it set out to.

The Project Manager and Delivery Manager overlap their focus on time. For the Project Manager

The Product Manager and Project Manager overlap their focus on cost. This includes all investments into the project and product to ensure a positive return is going to be achieved.

The Delivery Manager and the Product Manager share a focus on the value that end user of the solution will receive. For the Delivery Manager, value is closely connected to scope of the work as defining and building the wrong product or feature risks reducing the value it provides.

Although each role has different aspects to focus on, good teams don’t work in isolation and support each other to succeed.

Using the ‘S’ word: What we mean when we talk about scaling

I hear people talk about scaling products and services and I wonder if we all understand what scaling means in the same way.

The word ‘scaling’ has a lot of baggage within the tech world, from implying an end goal of millions of users to , but used on it’s own is as meaningless as it is loaded.

‘To scale’ only makes sense if its actually phrased ‘to scale by a factor of x’. So, if x equals 2 then the exponential growth goes: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc. This is a very different growth pattern from how many products and services actually grow.

If we expect a product or service to grow linearly, that it 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc., then there might be less ambiguity by talking more accurately about it as linear growth and avoiding any confusion from using the ‘s’ word.