top of page

Key talks from the Cardano Summit with a focus on social, economic and environmental issues

Image credit and art by Jan Drenovec,

Here at Sustainable ADA, inspired by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, we have put together a first of its kind shortlist of 17 talks out of a total of 117 from the Cardano Summit 2021.

Using a sustainability analytical lens, Cole and I attended an array of talks that explored wide ranging issues such as social impact, community, governance, utility and adoption.

We've drawn up the following list below, to help connect people, and save the curious thinker and busy individual some time in finding the key talks that address the sustainability agenda and climate emergency we find ourselves in.

We hope that by accessing these talks, you will find that despite the many wicked problems afflicting our world, there is still much to have hope for, with change agents working to build a better world, today.


17 Sustainable Development Talks from the Cardano Summit 2021:

Click the talks below to go straight to that part of the list:

1. Wall Street & the UN Sustainable Development Goals

2. Building brighter futures in Rwanda with Blockchain

3. Blockchain for climate, environment and social impact

4. Cardano Foundation & SDGs: Giving Identities to the unidentified

5. Keynote: Decentralization for advancement in Africa

6. World Mobile – Stronger connected

7. Planting a blockchain forest with the Cardano community

8. Keynote: IOHK building a better future for all

9. Keynote: Culture, governance, and leading the way with Cardano

10. Welcome to Cardano Summit 2021: Live Opening Keynote

11. Education – How Cardano blockchain education benefits societies and individuals

12. The importance of education for blockchain adoption

13. NFT and new livelihoods for the creative economy and more

14. Are NFTs the future of creative pursuit?

15. Governance of the blockchain revolution: Introducing the DCF

16. Exploring models for creating a Cardano 'nation'

17. The Power of Catalyst



1. Wall Street & the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Former Wall Street veteran Input Output Chief Financial Officer Jeff Pollack joins ‘technology alchemist’ Dr Mihaela Ulieru to discuss whether we can achieve real-world social impact and return on investment at the same time? Watch here.

Image by Tumisu

Key takeaways and quotes:

“We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our children.” - Dr Mihaela quoting an ancient proverb

“I think it’s still an open issue, how do we do meritocracy right?’ - Dr Mihaela

Community driven solutions, innovation and entrepreneurism is shifting the power centres away from centralised places and decentralised models of financing projects.

A redesign and rethink of measures of income and success is necessary.

“I think there’s a theme and I think it’s technology provides the tools to marry capital and need and so I think that technology is empowering the individual to actually act…” - Jeff Pollack


2. Building brighter futures in Rwanda with Blockchain

Eva Oberholzer, Chief Growth Officer at Cardano Foundation, Maggie Korde, Country Director Rwanda and Burundi, share what Save the Children has learned so far in its partnership with Cardano Foundation. Watch here.

Image from Cardano Foundation

Key takeaways and quotes:

The KUMWE Hub is a women led, African based impact innovation hub. Shaking up traditional aid delivery. Supporting children in the most impactful ways. Putting power back in local hands. Investing in businesses that benefit children.

“Blockchain allows the tracking of programmable finance to see where the money goes when aid is given to a disaster stricken area, what the money is spent on and therefore why the money was needed. The woman living on a dollar a day in a rural area. The displaced child refugee. How can blockchain impact and empower them in positive ways through the Cardano and Save the Children partnership?” - Eva Oberholzer

“The ethics of donating with a currency that is not necessarily recognised like traditional finance, fiat currency, cash. These are the challenges when deploying blockchain technology and using digital assets. Should charities be holding such assets and is it seen as gambling with donors' donations when the price can fluctuate?”

“With the highest rate of child malnutrition in the world, where thousands are regularly displaced due to climate change related flooding...Burundi is experiencing crises that few know about due to it being one of the most underreported crises in the world. Where better than for Cardano and Save the Children to focus their efforts, where the need is great and the opportunity is can all of this be helped with the use of Cardano’s blockchain technology and digital asset technology?”

“Cash to females, the heads of the households have been proven to lead to better outcomes for children’s nutrition and educational outcomes. How do we enable social mobility for working volunteers from these affected communities and areas to employ them and give them a stipend when they are often unbanked?” - Maggie Korde


3. Blockchain for climate, environment and social impact

What can blockchain do to accelerate the shift towards an environmentally driven economy? Here we explore and discuss four projects positioned to harness social innovation to address the climate crisis. Watch here.

Image credit

Key takeaways and quotes:

“The hottest potato in the room...we will be talking about climate, environment and social impact. We know that global warming is an existential threat but we have been warned by climate scientists for a long time. To paraphrase Carl Sagan in his genius and brilliance, he compared climate scientists to Cassandra in Greek mythology. Cassandra was endowed with the gift of prophecy by Apollo. However, she was also cursed because she refused her advances, she was cursed so that nobody believed her. So Carl Sagan thought that climate scientists had Cassandra’s fate. They were warning us and nobody believed them, and here we are. Year after year the hottest can technology help the transition to an environmentally friendly economy and increase our hopes that this is still possible in the 12th hour.” - Dr Mihaela

How can blockchain incentivise plastic recycling by tracking and in this way solve a huge problem in India where Ferdin Sylvester, Project Officer India Plastic Recycling at UNDP is based, and move away from a wasteful, linear economy to a circular economy system “where something that is waste is brought back into the system, and this way we use less raw materials and is less strain on the earth as a whole.”

James Spence from the Libra Project, a renewable energy company, shares his thoughts on redefining impact investing and how they will tackle one of their biggest problems; funding renewable energy projects.

Ian Choo, Founder and CEO of Ekofolio, a mission driven fin-tech company who have made it their mission to make forest assets tradeable and liquid using blockchain technology, shares more about the tokenization of natural assets in order to incentivise their replenishment.

“Fundamentally we should stop seeing nature as a pool of resources to exploit but as a home that we live in and invest in. The same way that you would invest a whole lot of money to take care of your home because it is something that you live in, I think that much more capital in this world should end off making nature, the home we live in, a far better place for us and the future generations. I find it particularly strange that in a world of excess capital, that so little of it, less than 0.1% of it probably find its way into nature and nature backed investments, and I founded Ekofolio to basically correct this mismatch in the general scheme of things...Nature and nature backed assets is a field that decentralised finance can really lead traditional finance as I don’t think the answers are going to be coming from traditional finance.” - Ian Choo

Rafaella Orelli from Offsetra , explores how we can measure the carbon footprint of blockchains and educate people and future generations. How do we deal with blockchain backlashes due to a lack of understanding or education?

“How do we deal with the meta-crisis? We are in this situation as we don’t have the solution because investors do not trust the new technologies like blockchain as they do not trust the new companies and we are in the middle of a meta crisis. One thing which is relevant here is the meta-crisis is a wicked problem. That means we cannot literally point to the causes. So what we can point to is the so called generator functions which are interdependent...exponential tech can be for good but not necessarily. It can just amplify the bad situation that we are in now, like the current financing systems are doing. We do not invest in what we should invest, we invest in things which are polluting more, which are destroying the environment more.” - Dr Mihaela

Dr Mihaela’s key takeaways:

“Each of us has to do their part. We need accountability. For our actions. For whatever we do in the world. For our companies, how we position them in order to be environmentally friendly. Always keep an eye on the measures of environmental friendliness.

We need new models of impact investing that are departing from the greenwash, as you have seen with the Libra project and Ekofolio. They are doing their part in that.

We need education. We really need measures for carbon offsetting. We need to be accountable by metrics, by measurements.

We need also a shift in behaviour. The shift in behaviour comes of course with education and it will be toward accountability that we all strive for. Blockchains have to be properly designed not to destroy the environment more but to support the work of these entrepreneurs which are actually pushing to shift the world’s economy towards environmental friendliness...let’s take the lessons and apply them. There is no time to wait.”


4. Cardano Foundation & SDGs: Giving Identities to the unidentified

AID:Tech and the Cardano Foundation come together to support sustainable development. Watch here.

Key takeaways and quotes:

Niall Dennehy spoke about how they can harness blockchain technology to help bring the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs together. AID:Tech is an international award winning Blockchain company backed by Temasek, (Singapore's Sovereign Wealth). The AID:Tech senior leadership team is composed of experienced technology executives from the World Bank, Cambridge University, and the World Economic Forum.

They are using blockchain technology, specifically the Cardano blockchain to bring together the SDG’s. AID:Tech is focused on SDG 16.9 Provide legal identity to all, including birth registration by 2030. AID:Tech has created an app called Trace Donate. Which enables donations to be sent completely, transparently, and efficiently over the blockchain using Digital ID.

Trace Donate:

  • Creates unprecedented transparency for donors

  • Donors are provided with a personalized donation dashboard

  • They can trace how donations are being spent. Including the breakdown of assets

  • Trace also by amount Donated vs. Spent

  • Visual representation

“What we see with Cardano we notice you get more data for less, and there are really innovative solutions which enable you to expand the applications, and build in some programmable transparency.”
“Because we have built an interoperable Digital Identity protocol, is that Cardano works with multiple DID protocols and our method which we have built ourselves can easily, and rapidly be ported, and expanded to Cardano.” - Niall Dennehy

AID:Tech also has created PharmAccess, a mother and child registration platform. By partnering with Pharm they can help improve maternal care in Tanzania. This is connected to SDG 3.2, ‘End preventable deaths of newborns, and reduce neonatal newborns.’


5. Keynote: Decentralization for advancement in Africa

John O’Connor, IO’s Head of Africa Operations shares more about Cardano’s plans to enhance systems in Africa by building on ‘RealFi' and local collaboration. Watch here.

Key takeaway and quotes:

John O'Connor speaks about enhancing systems in Africa through RelFi, and what this means for the different states of Africa.

“One of the challenges NGOs face is how to incentivize good long-term actions. One of the things blockchain is good for is incentivizing strategies. Decentralization and lack of ownership don’t really become a problem until it is a problem.”

Distributed Finance for Safety

"This idea of trying to build a decentralized financial network, it’s really just to stop the worst from happening. The worst from happening is that decentralized systems fail, and are manipulated and shut down by central authorities. For us, the idea of decentralization is about building safeguards, by creating a network that is cheap, fair, and easy for anyone to access."

IOHK, and the Cardano Foundation believe “the next set of innovations will be the fastest adopted within the African continent.” The Ethiopian deal with the Ministry of Education was to produce 5 million decentralized IDs for the education system. The system will track the education system’s students’ performance, for the Ministry of Education to allocate its resources across the continent.

The significance of this deal - “It was the first nation-state blockchain adoption deal of its kind, 5 million users puts it squarely in one of the biggest deals we have done this year, and this gives us a lot of credibility to now go and start working with other governments and stakeholders to implement our technology more broadly across the world.”

Realfi for Real Growth

“Realfi is the concept that what we are doing is connecting cryptocurrency liquidity to real-world economic value. Take some of the value and liquidity available in networks like Cardano and start making it easier for that value to be invested into loans and credit opportunities for real people in the real world. In practical terms, realfi means lower interest rates comparable by borrowers and a higher yield for the investors.”
“We have an opportunity here to connect high-yielding loan opportunities in markets which have a deficit in capital and liquidity with markets which have large amounts of liquidity and people searching for yield.”
“So really Realfi is about trying to make the world a smaller place and connecting up capital opportunities with those people who have it. Enabling digital identity we broaden the part of capital which people can apply to and ultimately reduce the interest rate that people pay.”

Governance for Participation

Within a couple of years IOHK plans to have a voting blockchain solution. Looking to start testing it out for real-world application, and elections.

“What we are doing now, we have launched our global catalyst fund. The world's largest decentralized fund sitting with over 1 billion dollars of value which is distributed through a voting system which our community participates in.”
“We're starting to work on this idea of internet and distributed voting systems. We hope to see that evolve and start to impact real world elections in the coming years.”


6. World Mobile – Stronger connected

World Mobile partners with IO to create a more sustainable future, with everyone connected. How do we connect people, bringing economic identity, digital identity and financial inclusion to all that don’t have it? Watch here and learn from stories in Tanzania and Zanzibar to see how we are stronger connected.

Image credit

Key takeaways and quotes:

World Mobile partners with IO to create a more sustainable future, with everyone connected. They are trying to connect everyone, everywhere. “With nearly 4 billion people left offline. digital exclusion is a significant problem”. World mobile plans to help solve this problem to create a more sustainable world for all, connecting the unconnected.

“The World Bank and United Nations by 2030 want to have the world connected. I believe that together we can do this quicker.” - Mickey Watkins Founder and CEO World Mobile
“Africa is full of so much talent. We should be able to share that with the world.” - Aisha Saadi - DJ Hijabu
“Our vision as a company is to build the systems of the world for everyone, everywhere. No system needs more revolution or change or iteration than I’d say the telecoms space. It’s very occified and broken. It has really delivered the ubiquitous experience where no matter where I go I have connectivity.” - Charles Hoskinson, Input Output CEO
“As a company, World Mobile will be implementing as much green energy as we can through the network. We’re also going to be implementing circularity concepts. We already source second life batteries. The energy grid in Africa is never going to reach the last mile. In order to build a kilometre of electricity line, imagine you’re spending thousands and thousands of dollars for every hundred meters, for a customer that’s going to be spending $10, $20 a year. So these distributed energy generation and storage solutions are so important when it comes to connecting up this market to a new world...without the power you can’t bring the connection. Without the connection you can’t bring the goods and services. We’re going to be able to facilitate financial inclusion through loans, through crop insurance, through all sorts of goods and services that are available out there in the world who just don’t have access to these customers, and that’s what we’re trying to fix." - Andrew Soper, COO and Co-Founder World Mobile


7. Planting a blockchain forest with the Cardano community

Cardano steps towards a carbon-positive future in a new partnership with Veritree. Watch here.

Image credit

Key takeaways and quotes:

“Tree planting, in my opinion, is on