Guest post by: Elizabeth Engel, CEO & Chief Strategist, Spark Consulting 

At its most basic level, blockchain is a ledger-style database.

“Wait a second!” you might say. “There are PLENTY of database options out there. Why do we need ANOTHER one?”

Blockchain allows two people who don’t know or trust each other to exchange value over the internet without the involvement of a third party. It keeps a historical, time-stamped record of transactions involving things that are valuable. Those valuable things can be physical objects (like a diamond or a head of lettuce) or intangible items (like an ebook or electronic music file).

“OK, I still don’t see why associations should care about this technology. Isn’t is basically just applied as cryptocurrency, to enable bad actors to buy illegal stuff anonymously on the dark web?”

Certainly, if you look at media coverage, you would think that’s all there is to blockchain. Quoting Tim Haynes, founder of Signal and Story, Bitcoin consumes 80% of the attention devoted to blockchain, with other cryptocurrencies consuming another 15%. But all the interesting innovation is happening in that additional 5%.

What kind of innovation?

Education: How can we quickly and cheaply verify credentials with 100% certainty?

Engineering: How can we accelerate the complex processes while also reducing risk?

Government: If someone loses her documents or her papers are destroyed, how can she prove who she is?

Law: How do we ensure that contracts are executed correctly, that all parties understand them, and that they remain safe and secure?

Supply Chain: How can we be certain of the provenance of goods while also reducing the time (and associated costs) of getting them from point A to point B?

Real Estate: How can we make it easier to buy and sell property while also ensuring ownership records are correct and current?

These are the kinds of rapidly developing changes that are likely to impact associations, and the professions and industries we serve, in the coming months and years.

To learn more, including what your association needs to do now to prepare your members to take advantage of this disruptive technology, download Blockchain for Associations: Separating the Hype from the Promise, a free, recently-released whitepaper written by Elizabeth Weaver Engel (Spark Consulting) and Shelly Alcorn (Alcorn Associates Management Consulting and Ubiquity University). And keep an out for a free webinar on this topic coming up October 3.

**Note from Teri Carden, Founder of ReviewMyAMS: This whitepaper is by far the best written and most comprehensive theory on blockchain for associations that I've ever seen. This whitepaper makes it easy to understand why associations should be paying close attention to the economic possibilities.