#OpenBadges – Micro-credentials: what can we learn from micro-credits?

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Are micro-credentials a disruptive innovation, just as micro-credits (micro-loans) were thought to be a few years ago? To answer this question we should first find out what can be qualified as a disruptive innovation? According to Wikipedia:

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

Open Badges are creating a new market, the market of Open Credentials (micro-credentials are just one type of Open Credentials) and establishing a new currency, or more precisely reinvigorating one of the oldest currencies ever: trust.

Trust has many properties. First, it’s free and when offered, it enriches both the giver and the recipient. And when the recipients of trust get richer (with trust), their increased wealth can trickle back to those who initiallyoffered their trust. While it might still need the philosophers’ stone (link) to be transmuted into gold, trust can nevertheless be transformed into real cash as one experiences when applying for a loan. Con artists and banks* also know how to make cash out of trust!

For the poorest, things are different. One of the few assets they cannot be totally deprived of is trust. Thanks to the Nobel Prize winning Grameen Bank (link) founded by Muhammad Yunus, they now have the power to convert trust into micro-loans.

Grameen Bank is owned by the borrowers and it is based on trust. It does not require any collateral from its borrowers. Since the bank does not wish to take any borrower to the court of law in case of non-repayment, it does not require the borrowers to sign any legal instrument.

Were micro-credits transformative?

What lessons could the Open Badge practitioners learn from the Grameen Bank and the many micro-credit organisations that have been spawned since its creation? Can we draw a parallel between micro-credits and micro-credentials in terms of empowerment and potential social transformation? Could Open Badges create the conditions for the emergence of a new economy?

Continue reading

OpenBadges: The Deleterious Effects of Mistaking Security for Trust

What is the relationship between trust and security, security and privacy, privacy and personal data protection? For some time now, I knew that there was something wrong with the so-called trust technologies, but I did not take the time to pin down what the source of the problem was. Apart from rechristening them as distrust technologies, I did not make the effort to explore any further the matter. Here are two excerpts from previous posts:

Is there an escape from an alternative that can only lead to an escalation in the development of distrust technologies? in Why Open Badges Could Kill the Desire to Learn?

One of the most interesting and undervalued features of the Open Badge Infrastructure is trust: I have commented before that there is a risk for the Open Badges’ pretty pictures to become what the proverbial tree is to the forest of trust. I’ve also written that OBI is a native trust infrastructure, while most of the so-called trust architectures would be better described as distrust architectures (in a native trust environment, trust is by default, while distrust is generated by experience; in a distrust environment distrust is by default while trust is generated by experience). in Punished by Open Badges?

Designing Principles for a (dis)Trusted Environment

What brought me to explore further the issue of trust and security was the participation at a workshop organised by the Aspen Institute at SXSWedu 2015. The participants were invited to produce a series of scenarios eliciting the design principles of a trusted [digital] environment. The workshop took place the day following a session on “Designing Principles for a Trusted Environment” during which the winners of the DML Trust Challenge were announced.

While the challenge we were invited to address was the design of a trusted environment what struck me in most of the proposed scenarios was that they did exactly the opposite: they designed an environment where distrust was the founding principle. The designing principles for a distrusted environment were:

If you have a problem with trust the solution is increased control and security measures.

While this principle might sound fine to the superficial reader, the problem is that it reveals a misconception of what trust is about and, consequently, on how to deal with situations where low levels of trust are an issue. While both trust and security are related to safety, they are at the two ends of a spectrum.

While one can take security measures, send security forces, one cannot take trust measures and send trust forces. Security is something you can do to things, trust is something you can only get from within. Mistaking one for the other, trust for security, could (and generally does) have deleterious effects on trust.

Continue reading