The Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, and its executive director Sonal Shah, recently launched the Blockchain Ethical Design Framework, authored by the Beeck Center’s Cara LaPointe and Lara Fishbane.
The purpose of the framework is to ensure the protection of social value throughout the development and implementation of blockchain technologies. The Beeck Center developed the framework to address how the design, application and over-arching strategy of a blockchain implementation can influence how it impacts a society and its members.
By displaying blockchain decisions as ethical ones — in regards to who programs it, how it is programmed, who can gain access to it and what the rules and regulations are — the paper shows how social impact is a result of design decisions early on and reminds organizations an policymakers of their responsibility to use ethical standards when seeking to leverage blockchain technology.
The framework, designed to be “a tool to integrate values and ethics into the blockchain technology design and implementation process,” outlines three multi-step phases to accomplish these goals:
“The first is to establish the foundational definitions regarding desired outcome and approach to achieving that outcome. This includes an assessment of whether blockchain is an appropriate technology for the desired outcome. The second element is using the Framework to design the blockchain. This involves asking critical questions in each of the key ethical consideration issue areas and how particular design choices in each area will affect the desired outcome and the participants. The final element is to iterate and revisit the Framework to reassess the key questions at transition points in a blockchain’s life cycle. We believe that this process of intentional design from the outset and iterative reassessment will ensure that blockchain continues to achieve the desired social impact while predicting and preventing unintended consequences to the maximum extent possible.”