The Currency of Compassion at the Texas Bitcoin Conference
Giving was in the air at the Texas Bitcoin Conference. The groundbreaking event was held at the Circuit of the Americas Race Track in Austin, Texas on March 5th and 6th. Attendees had the opportunity to network with nonprofit vendors and speakers, listen to a panel on Bitcoin philanthropy, and contribute to Bitcoin organizations through a charity luncheon. In perfect time for South by Southwest fever, conference attendees were able to rock out at the Bitcoincert fundraiser or catch a screening of a documentary style reality show which was produced in part with Bitcoin donations by a local 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. The nonprofits represented were diverse and unique and told a story of a community that genuinely cares about doing good. After attending this event, one could not help but be convinced that the Bitcoin movement loves to provide mutual aid.
When I arrived at the Texas Bitcoin Conference to help set up our vendor booth, I immediately noticed that the Capitol Area of Texas Food Bank had a presence at the event. This well established local Austin nonprofit is one of the latest charitable organizations to start accepting Bitcoin, and according to My Fox Austin, they are the first food bank in the United States to accept the cryptocurrency as a donation.
This particular nonprofit serves over 8,000 people per week and provides the distribution of groceries to over 300 partner agencies. For over 31 years this agency has been helping hungry families in Central Texas, but they have not grown stagnant. My Fox Austin reports that a spokesperson from CATFB stated, “We haven’t ever been afraid to try new and innovative things and we thought ‘if this is something that people can engage in to help fight hunger, then we want to make it easy and we want to make it possible’”. The Capitol Area of Texas Food Bank is leading the way in the nonprofit sector by showing others that an old dog can learn new tricks!
I wasn’t able to attend the Charity Panel hosted by my friend M. K. Lords of Bitcoin Not Bombs, but she reports the discussion was inspiring. On the panel were Davi Barker of Bitcoin Not Bombs, Teresa Warmke of Fr33 Aid, Jason King of Sean’s Outpost Homeless Outreach, Rassah of Bitcoin100, and Angela Keaton of AntiWar.com. Megan asked the panelists what inspired them to start their nonprofit, what challenges or benefits they have received taking bitcoin, and what projects they have planned for the future. Megan told me her favorite part of the panel was hearing Jason King describe the founding of Sean’s Outpost. I found a highlight of the panel discussion online and transcribed what he said here:
“It’s named after Sean Dugas who was my best friend. He was murdered in 2012 over a theft of Magic the Gathering cards. I wasn’t living in the same town as him at the time and my wife and I found out he died on CNN. We struggled for months after this loss, trying to figure out what to do to keep his memory alive. Another homeless outreach in Pensacola was shutting its doors and the person who ran it was friends with Sean. We decided we could honor him by keeping those meals going.”
Jason pointed out that we are all one life travesty or accident away from becoming homeless and finding ourselves struggling to get by. Part of the outreach conducted by Sean’s Outpost is providing a safe haven for people who find themselves without a home through a new project called Satoshi Forest. Homelessness has been made effectively illegal in Pensacola, FL so Jason and his family decided that feeding those in need was not enough, they are now paving the way for homeless outreach by utilizing bitcoin to provide a safe place for those in need to regroup without the added anguish of state-initiated harassment.
M.K. Lords, the host of the charity panel, is from Pensacola and is a part of Sean’s Outpost in addition to Bitcoin Not Bombs, an organization put on the map by their “Hoodies for the Homeless” project. Over 325 hooded sweatshirts were purchased through a unique fundraising campaign where donors purchased a t-shirt for themselves and Bitcoin Not Bombs used the funds to purchase a hoodie for a homeless person. The group plans to make the donation drive an annual event and they are excited to see the numbers grow in 2014.
In addition to their hoodie project, spokesperson Davi Barker told me that Bitcoin Not Bombs has helped several nonprofits get set up to accept Bitcoin donations, hosted a fundraiser to send representatives from their partner nonprofits AntiWar.com, Free State Project and Fr33Aid to the San Jose BitCon, and have participated in the creation of educational materials such as the Bitcoin Start Guide. For a relatively new organization, they are utilizing Bitcoin to achieve quantifiable results in the nonprofit space. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Sparkled throughout the conference were people wearing the BNB signature orange Bitcoin Bomber hoodies and holding the Bitcoin Start Guide. It was obvious to me that the organization was well respected by the conference community.
The charity luncheon was hosted by Sean’s Outpost, sponsored by the Texas Bitcoin Conference, and organized by Bitcoin activist Michelle Seven (@BitcoinBelle). The room sparkled with Bitcoin orange and honored the Austin event location with “Keep Bitcoin Weird” centerpieces (A play on the “Keep Austin Weird” tradition). Each chair was draped with an orange bandana and attendees were encouraged to wear them to show their support for Sean’s Outpost. Speakers Stefan Molyneux and Dr. Robert Murphy were seen wearing their bandanas well into the evening. Pua Pyland (@BitcoinWife) made 200 of her signature Bitcoin cookies which provided a tasty sugary addition to the decor.
The event sat approximately 175 people and honored five organizations: Sean’s Outpost, Fr33Aid, Bitcoin Not Bombs, Antiwar.com and Bitcoin 100. Funds raised at the event were split evenly between the organizations. One generous donor “bought” a bandana from Sean’s Outpost at the cost of 1 bitcoin. Brook Royse-Maller(@Bitcoin Mom), who helped set up the event, stated that the highlight of the event was the overwhelming support given to Lyn Ulbricht. Lyn is the mother of the alleged Silk Road founder, Ross Ulbricht. During the lunch she stood up and the room exploded with applause of support. “I thought it was remarkable that she came to the conference to reach out to the Bitcoin community,” said Brook. Jordan Page played music for the attendees as they enjoyed their meal, giving them a hint of the music to come at the BitCoincert later that evening.
Before packing up our booth and moving to the Coincert, our family put on a screening of Sovereign Living, a reality-based show produced by The Center for Natural Living, a 501(c)3 organization based out of Austin, Texas. The show follows our family as we attempt to get off of all centralized grid systems and to live a more natural and voluntary life. This means centralized healthcare grids, electric grids, food supply grids, and monetary systems! We screened episode four which explores alternative currencies, specifically silver and Bitcoin.
In the episode, viewers follow our family from the homebirth of our second child to the annual Porcupine Freedom Festival held in Lancaster, NH. This event is put on by the Free State Project (another Bitcoin loving nonprofit) and provides lovers of alternative and crypto currencies the opportunity to participate in a 100% open and free market. Last year we had a no FRN challenge (spend no Federal Reserve Notes aka “dollars”) at the event. We were able to buy food, souvenirs and apparel for silver and bitcoin! We even paid our friends to help watch the kids with alternative currencies. The episode features interviews with Erik Vorhees and Dr. Robert Murphy leaves the viewer ready to jump into the Bitcoin world!
Our goal is to take these alternative ideas and present them to mainstream America in a TV ready format. We have been able to create the show, in part, because of generous Bitcoin donations. You can watch episode one for free at www.sovereignliving.tv. Hopefully the screening will come to a conference near you!
The final charity event at the Texas Bitcoin Conference was truly my favorite part – the Bitcoincert! Vendors were allowed to set up and sell their wares at the coincert in exchange for a 25% donation to the nonprofits being supported. Our family moved our vendor booth from the slow moving Conference vendor area and were slammed with business from concert attendees wanting to wear our Come and Take Bit and We Can Do Bit T-shirts. I had a blast dancing to the tunes of Tatiana Moroz and Jordan Page with my children while mingling with other Bitcoin lovers. The real treat of the night was hearing Carolyn Malachi serenade the Conference organizer, Paul Snow. The independent, Grammy-nominated artist expressed a deep wisdom and appreciation for cryptocurrency from the stage and her presence brought the room to its feet.
In addition to the generous support given to philanthropic organizations, a Hackathon took place allowing programmers to work in teams to design innovative uses of the Bitcoin Blockchain. My friend Mike Baysek was on a team that won third place and received $250,000 to help finance the development of their project. Their creation? A decentralized peer to peer transportation platform utilizing GPS technology and the Bitcoin Blockchain. Overall $1.25 million was given to a total of five teams.
When you unite the revolutionary technology that is Bitcoin with the selfless generosity of the Cryptocurrency Movement, you have everything you need to ignite a cultural Renaissance for modern civilization. For those who think Bitcoin is rooted in greed, they need to look no further than the vast multitude of nonprofits and charitable organizations currently occupying this space. I am grateful to have experienced the Texas Bitcoin Conference, which showed me the Bitcoin community is as compassionate as it is innovative.
Here are some details about a few of my favorite organizations that are already changing the world with Bitcoin:
Bitcoin Not Bombs
Mission: We are a launching pad for NGOs and social entrepreneurs who wish to enter into the financial freedom of the Bitcoin economy.
Notable Actions: Hoodies for the Homeless, gave away 150 hoodies to homeless people in addition to hundreds of toothbrushes and meals!
Website: www.seansoutpost.comTwitter: @SeansOutpost
Mission: Pensacola Homeless Outreach, fueled by Bitcoin
Notable Actions: Served 30,000 meals to the homeless in 2013. Launched Satoshi Forest, a nine acre homeless sanctuary. Running across America to raise awareness.
Mission: Fr33 Aid was created to help individuals organize projects that educate people about the value of mutual aid. Our main activity involves providing voluntary first aid and educational services at liberty-related events.
Notable Actions: Disaster relief project in the Philippines raised over $20,000 in BTC. Hundreds of demos on how to use a cardiac defibrillator and perform CPR if someone has a cardiac arrest.
Capitol Area Food Bank of Texas
Mission: The mission of the Capital Area Food Bank is to nourish hungry people and lead the community in ending hunger.
Notable Actions: Food and grocery products to more than 300 Partner Agencies in 21 Central Texas counties. In Fiscal Year 2011-12, CAFB provided more than 22 million pounds of food. The CAFB service area covers 19,064 square miles in Central Texas.
Center for Natural Living
Mission: demonstrate the value of voluntary cooperation and natural living in the areas of sustainability, family, and health by creating educational media and helping families to fulfill their basic needs.
Notable Actions: Community Garden in Austin, TX, Fluoride Filter Give away to families in need, Producing a TV-ready documentary style reality show called Sovereign Living (www.sovereignliving.tv). For full disclosure, my husband John Bush of the SovereignBTC.com podcast is the executive director of this nonprofit!