reputation-management

Shane Warne is well-known by lovers of the cricket game all around the world. Yes, he even almost married Elizabeth Hurley. Warnie – as we call him in Australia – has had a colourful career largely due to the many scandals that have occurred off the cricket pitch. However whether it was sexting, taking banned drugs, or corruption Warnie has managed to keep his personal brand and reputation intact. He is an Aussie sporting legend after all.

Early this year, before secretly slipping out of Australia, bound for South Africa to star in a reality show aptly titled “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” (and picking up $2M for his efforts) Warnie shut down his charity, the Shane Warne Foundation, because it was the subject of a probe into its finances by the consumer watchdog here in Australia.

You see the Foundation had not been exactly truthful about the amount of its donations raised that were going to its supported charities. Well, technically they were open about the charities the Foundation supported, however, when the consumer watchdog started peeling back the layers, it found that between 2011 and 2013, only 16 cents out of every dollar raised was handed over to charities, increasing to 24 cents in every dollar between 2014 and 2015. There were many other breaches of trust that were found by the consumer watch dog, from annual reports for many years that were missing or incomplete to questionable administration practices.

So what’s with all the fuss you say? So what if Warnie shut down his Foundation amidst such speculation. He is a high profile sports person, and here in Australia, we love our sporting heroes more than we care for our civic leaders, innovators, scientists, researchers, teachers, thinkers, change-makers, and artists. It is the “Aussie way” after all. His reputation will remain intact because his management team hired some smart PR people to do exactly that. Lucky Warnie.

But I want you to consider this for a moment.

What if it was 2025 and this scenario played out exactly as it has happened in 2016? Would Warnie’s reputation have recovered? I’d hazard a guess and say probably not.

Okay, hard to think that this would actually happen. After all, he did publicly point the finger at his mum for his consumption of a banned substance (with reputation intact thanks very much and a mum that still talks to him), but stick with me on this.

Imagine it is 2025 and the dark days of centralised organisations owning your data and identity are a thing of the past and your reputation determines your level of engagement within different ecosystems, whether it be professionally (gig economy), socially (attention economy) or personal (share economy). You own your own data which is linked to your digital identity and the way you move through life is based on three elements: verification, trust and reputation.

Yep, Facebook, one of those centralised organisations, is no longer operating as we know it, and you, the Facebook user, (should you still be one), is paid by Facebook in cryptocurrency through micropayments to your digital wallet, linked to your digital identity, to allow advertising into your social feeds, because in this world your attention is an economic proposition for those still in the business of pushing content at you. Oh, and Facebook cannot collect any data about you anymore to be sold off to the highest bidder to monetise your content, behaviour or decision making.

Okay, I digress – I do get a bit excited about the prospect of this future and sometimes wish I could click my fingers and get there now.

Another important bit of the equation in this world is this thing called “blockchain”.

Some of you are already aware of this technology as the fin-tech world is going silly over its possibilities to change the way the banking and finance sector operates because of this concept called a “distributed public ledger” and “smart contracts”. At this point, it would be appropriate to publicly acknowledge Satoshi Nakamoto for inventing Bitcoin on 31 October 2008. Do a search in your favourite search engine and go down the rabbit hole – it is quite a story!

Anyway, whilst the fin-tech VCs and entrepreneurs are going gangbusters over blockchain, it got me thinking about how this technology could disrupt the human side of society to ensure that Foundations like Warnie’s do the right thing, and the public knows for sure that these organisations are doing what they should be without the need of a “middleman” like a consumer watchdog and auditors having to check the books retrospectively, then only to find the damage has already been done.

In other words, what if blockchain technology could actually prevent a future Shane Warne Foundation from publicly imploding and finger pointing because of dodgy decision making and really bad management?  How so, because all transactions would be verified on a distributed public ledger and confirmed by social contracts through trust.  I reckon we need to think about how this scenario can become a reality sooner rather than later.

Imagine how the world could rethink institutional governance when it comes to the decentralised distribution of international aid, or how Foundations of the future could connect people and causes together in more meaningful and open ways because the idea of core elements of verification, trust and reputation is earned through one’s actions and not because of one’s status.

Lucky for me the good people at Backfeed are working on a social operating system for such scenarios to become that reality. According to co founder Matan Field the future is whereby one’s identity will be defined by actions: “you are what you do”.

So, could blockchain have saved Warnie’s reputation?

Katrina Donaghy

Idea Integrator | Storyteller