Metyis took on a challenge together with Pro Senectute beider Basel, a local charitable foundation in the north of Switzerland and launched the NFT collection "Swiss Crypto Marvels" in October 2022 with significant success. Yearly online donations of the foundation increased by 300% in under two months and the campaign has achieved coverage in a dozen contributions by nine distinct media outlets across Switzerland to promote the foundation’s mission.

Proceeds from the climate-neutral NFT collection were used to fund digital literacy projects that empower older people to embrace technology. This presented an ideal opportunity to explore the world of NFTs while supporting a nonprofit’s cause.

An inclusive metaverse that reeinvisions digital revolution’s next stages

The metaverse is a broad term that encapsulates the next step of the internet. It is a virtual space that merges physical and digital worlds into one “phygital” environment, combining components of social media, gaming, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The metaverse is the infrastructure on which “lifelike” virtual worlds, including cinemas, malls, and casinos, stand; it is a new territory where creativity is given free rein without the constraints of the physical world. Speculations go as far as claiming that this new cyberspace will disrupt how we work, spend our free time and build relationships. Companies like Meta, Microsoft and Apple are investing billions in infrastructure and technology to capture this market. 

This emerging tool has vast potential to be a force for positive change. Understanding the implications of this digital revolution can empower non-profits to embed inclusivity into the internet’s next iterations. People with lower levels of digital literacy would benefit enormously from guidance as they enter online spaces and utilise technology. Hands-on coaching can enhance their quality of life and safeguard these populations from marginalisation. 

Together with Pro Senectute beider Basel, a local charitable foundation in the north of Switzerland dedicated to the well-being of older people, we took on this challenge with three main objectives in mind:  

  1. Raising funds for projects that empower older people with understanding and proficient use of digital applications. 

  2. Shaping disruptive social and technological developments proactively and promoting community across generations. 

  3. Providing proof that even local non-profit organisations can have a real impact through blockchain technologies, specifically in the metaverse realm. 

Pioneering non-profit metaverse activity with an NFT collection and acquiring land in two virtual worlds

Pro Senectute beider Basel is a local Swiss charitable foundation that provides a wide range of services to ensure that older people in the Basel region can live active and self-determined lives for as long as possible. Apart from supporting older people to utilise assistive devices, conduct household maintenance, and organise sports and recreational activities, the NGO aims to improve their digital literacy and promote the beneficial use of digital tools and applications. 

In one of the projects, the "Digital Café", older people receive support in using their mobile phones or iPads at six different locations without charge. These knowledge-sharing sessions provide practical guidance for all those who want to learn to be digitally independent and navigate online spaces. The initiative was well received, with over 30.000 people in Basel City and Basel County currently accessing the NGO's many services.

Pro Senectute beider Basel has always been aware of the importance of proactively shaping technological developments, and in 2022, as the metaverse became a hot topic, they sought support in defining opportunities to create impact associated with the metaverse and the NFT space. In a cooperative partnership, we identified two main use cases:

1. Launching an NFT collection to raise funds for projects that empower elderly people to understand and use digital applications, such as the donation-based “Digital Café” service. 

2. Acquiring land in the metaverse is a cornerstone in the long-term vision for creating a virtual centre in the metaverse and ensuring that older people have a voice when facing impactful disruption. 

Raising funds for community projects with exclusive NFTs based on Swiss landscapes and architecture

Blockchain technology has radically changed the view of digital objects. On the one hand, blockchain enables the necessary scarcity; on the other hand, it facilitates secure transactions of digital units without intermediaries. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are cryptographic certificates that represent unique assets. They can be entirely digital assets or tokenised versions of physical assets. As NFTs are non-exchangeable, they can serve as proof of authenticity and ownership in a digital context. Fungible means that the individual units of an asset are interchangeable and essentially indistinguishable from each other. This is why cryptocurrencies are referred to as "fungible tokens", as people can exchange each unit for any equivalent individual unit.

NFTs are essential building blocks of a new blockchain-based digital economy. Different projects are experimenting with NFTs in various use cases, including games, digital identities, licences, digital properties, real estate in virtual worlds and art; one of the most popular uses of NFTs. The invention of NFTs has paved the way for a new type of ownership that is not limited to the physical world and benefits the digital art market and other digital collectables. To date, non-fungible tokens worth over $1 billion have been traded.

Based on this innovative technology, Pro Senectute beider Basel set out to create an NFT collection that would act as a positive force by providing funds for projects that empower older people using digital applications while simultaneously being climate-neutral. As a result, Pro Senectute beider Basel launched its NFT collection, “Swiss Crypto Marvels”, on 10th October 2022 at 10 am on the non-profit’s website. "Swiss Crypto Marvels" is a unique and exclusive collection of 4444 NFTs comprised of different Swiss landscapes ranging four degrees of scarcity.

The «Swiss Crypto Marvels» are a co-creation. The NFTs were created based on the landscape pictures of renowned Swiss influencer Marcus Händel (@visitswitzerland), who presents award-winning travel inspiration for adventurers and Switzerland enthusiasts on Instagram and whose Instagram page counts over 800’000 followers. Marcus stated, "For me, it is a very special project and I am pleased that Pro Senectute beider Basel, as an organisation for the elderly, is pushing such an innovative topic”.

Based on these wonderful pictures, our design team developed the idea of combining an image from nature with a dreamlike object that points to our digital future. To create the «Swiss Crypto Marvels», our design team collected topographical data that was transferred to the digital world using terrain modelling tools. With the collection, our designers aimed to expand the image of the landscape and stimulate the imagination of the viewer. The final result aimed to connect continuity with change through futuristic objects.  

Actions towards climate neutral NFT campaigns 

As a charitable organisation geared toward creating an impact on society, one key element of this NFT campaign has been environmental consciousness. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain applications are known for their significant energy use and CO2 emissions. Headlines such as “Bitcoin uses more electricity annually than the whole of Argentina” caused a stir, even before the energy crisis provoked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. However, to ensure the climate-neutrality of the NFT campaign, we took two main actions: 

1. Choosing the most environmentally friendly blockchain

We chose the Polygon blockchain that is considered one of the most environmentally friendly blockchains because it is based on the "proof of stake" principle. This means that transactions are not verified by energy-intensive computing power and thus, the energy consumption is significantly lower than for ”proof-of work” blockchains.

According to Digiconomist, an organisation that exposes the unintended consequences of digital applications, the emissions of a single “proof-of-stake”-based blockchain transaction such as Polygon or Ethereum after its merge in 2022 amount to 10 grams of CO2. This is equivalent to the carbon footprint of 22 VISA transactions or 2 hours of watching Youtube. Taking into account the required blockchain transactions for this NFT collection, this corresponds to the CO2 emissions that one average Swiss person produces in a little over one day. Therefore, by using the Polygon blockchain CO2 emissions are reduced by more than 99%.

2. Partnering with myclimate to offset carbon emissions

To further reduce its environmental impact, Pro Senectute beider Basel is offsetting these emissions in cooperation with the renowned Swiss climate protection organisation myclimate so that the NFT campaign «Swiss Crypto Marvels» can be carried out in a climate-neutral way.

Proactively shaping technological developments by establishing a branch in the metaverse

Since Mark Zuckerberg renamed his company "Meta" at the end of 2021, the topic has been on everyone's lips. However, the idea of a virtual world is by no means new. The metaverse concept was described as early as 1992 in the novel Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson, and the platform “Second Life” provided first experiences in the early 2000s. It is only 20 years later that we are getting closer to the concept of a virtual world in which people move and interact with each other and with objects as 3D avatars and later as photorealistic holograms. This is made possible through hardware, networking power, strong computing power and technological advancements such as graphics power, virtual reality and augmented reality. 

Today, several metaverses already exist or are being developed; the two most well-known are Decentraland and The Sandbox. These worlds are built on the Ethereum blockchain and allow users to purchase property, trade NFTs, build homes, and interact with other users.  

Internationally, a few well-known companies and state institutions have opened branches in the metaverse. However, in Switzerland, by end of 2022 the number of prominent companies and organisations venturing into this new space was very small.

Pioneering positive impact in the metaverse and beyond  

With the opening of metaverse branches in Decentraland (coordinates: -38,120 & -38,121) and The Sandbox (coordinates: -34,-124), Pro Senectute beider Basel aims to set an example as a pioneering non-profit that encourages the older generation to navigate technological advances with autonomy. Older people, including those with disabilities, have the opportunity to have experiences in the metaverse that would be beyond their reach in real life. Secondly, with a metaverse presence, Pro Senectute beider Basel aims to position its services among people entering the respective age segment soon. The metaverse presence should complement the charity’s activities in the real world. 

Stepping into the metaverse is the beginning of a long-term vision. In the future, a virtual centre could deliver courses to older people while promoting integration, reducing social isolation, and enabling learning opportunities. There will be many opportunities to utilise the metaverse to uplift vulnerable populations, bridge cultural divides, and achieve a positive impact. Forward-thinking nonprofits like Pro Senectute beider Basel are setting a shining example of how metaverse ventures can influence the greater good. 

Based on the NFT collection “Swiss Crypto Marvels” and the establishment of a presence in Decentraland and The Sandbox, Pro Senectutebeider Basel and Metyis successfully ventured into the metaverse and set the foundation for using this digital revolution as a force for good – both in the digital and in the physical realms. 

About the authors behind the article

Dominic Olonetzky is a Partner at Metyis with extensive experience in customer-centric and technology-driven business models as well as high-growth strategies. Aaron Selig is a Strategy and Execution Manager at Metyis with a multidisciplinary background and international experience in public affairs, communications and management consulting. They are both part of our Zurich office.