Finance

The Diversity, Equity And Inclusion Potential Of NFTs

As NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) gain popularity as a way of owning digital assets and joining tokenized communities, it’s becoming clear that this use of the blockchain could drive more than just innovation in technology and ownership structures. There are signs that this new way of creating and collecting art could also drive advances in diversity, equity and inclusion in historically inequitable spaces. 

I talked to some experts and leaders in the space to better understand these implications. 

Representation  

Traditional art spaces are notorious for being homogenous, with US museum collections consisting of 85% white and 87% male artists. Through NFTs, a more diverse range of artists are able to gain exposure without having to go through traditional gatekeepers. 

Sian Morson is the founder and editor of TheBlkChain, a platform whose mission is to amplify the work of women, BIPOC and LGBTQ artists and collectors in the NFT space. “NFTs are providing an opportunity for diverse artists to make a living from their art,” she shared. “They are reaching collectors and are showing and sharing their work in ways that didn’t exist previously. These artists–particularly artists of color–are being empowered in ways like never before.”

This historical exclusion has also impacted neurodiverse artists. ARTXV is an NFT collective centered on neurodiversity. “Our main mission is to show everyone the beauty of neurodiversity in the art world and to accelerate the economic independence of these artists,” founder Ava Halvai shared. “All the artists have incredible stories and a range of neurodiversities such as autism, ADHD and synesthesia which directly and positively impact their work, creating art from a whole new unique perspective of the world.”

“Representation in NFTs comes from education and appreciation,” said Harold Hughes, founder & CEO of Bandwagon and thought leader in the NFT space. “When more artists are aware of the opportunities available in NFTs and more people have the chance to appreciate their work, there will be even more diversity in this space.”

Belonging 

Because of that historical lack of representation in the art space, along with a general lack of connection due to the pandemic, it can often be difficult for people that hold underrepresented identities to feel a strong sense of belonging. 

“NFTs have provided a sense of belonging and a close knit community to many people that have entered this fast growing space,” Lisa Mayer, CEO of My Social Canvas and founder of Boss Beauties, an NFT collection that portrays a diverse range of strong women, shared. “For instance we recently hosted a five day summit and then a series of International Day of the Girl conversations for the Boss Beauties community, filled with inspirational speakers and leaders. During these virtual events, our community gathered on Discord to discuss key learnings and takeaways from the speakers.” 

Communities that are formed around NFTs aren’t limited to identities, but also shared experiences and interests. Jasmine Maietta is the founder of round21, a creative platform for a multicultural collective of athletes & artists. “Gaming has been a predominant way we connect in both the digital and real world, and bringing a sense of identity to what people play drives greater inclusivity and connection,” she said. “In our upcoming Flow Fest, we are really excited to tell some of these stories, bring this first metaverse basketball series to the world and pull together a community of collectors and athletes.” 

Hughes agreed with this dynamic. “While communities have previously been formed surrounding content creators, we’re now seeing communities being formed surrounding content. When people buy an NFT as a token to join a community, those folks feel like ‘we all appreciate the same thing,’ and that creates a strong intersection of culture and assets.”

Redistribution of Wealth

Perhaps the most impactful potential for NFTs is the opportunity to create more equitable access to wealth. People who haven’t had the opportunities to invest or sell their art in traditional spaces now have access.  

“The blockchain provides a unique opportunity for investors of all cultures and backgrounds to close the wealth gap through ownership and collection of NFTs and cryptocurrencies,” said Sterling Smith, the founder of BlackFreelancer, a global community for Black creatives to showcase their work, get hired and passively invest in crypto currencies. “I see more people who look like me investing and creating in this space, and I think this will yield a more diverse class of individuals that are in the driver’s seat of innovation and wealth equity in the future.” 

Not only can NFTs directly impact wealth distribution for creators and investors, but many projects are also contributing part of their proceeds to organizations that represent their identities and values. With so much money being generated by NFT projects, this charitable angle helps further distribute wealth. 


NFTs are still a new space, and there is certainly potential for inequitable outcomes as people with higher net worth have access to invest higher amounts early on. But this newness also puts early adopters on a more level playing field. The more diversity there is in the early NFT space, the more potential there will be for historically marginalized communities to close socio-economic gaps. In a world full of systemic oppression, that would be the most innovative outcome of all.


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