Today we're living in times wherein we have unparalleled access to information and its subsequent dissemination, which vastly increases the potential for rapid social change.

However, modern political interaction is often characterized by plain indifference along with a general lack of interest in information sharing across varying viewpoints as well as the indulgence in performative allyship leading to no tangible impact.

Additionally, social media is wildly notorious for its unethical use of data and centralized algorithms that censor or suppress certain voices while promoting content which its beneficiaries can profit off of. Activism in countries witnessing a rise in polarised governments has also been met with strict action being taken against the ones who dare question the status quo and hence it becomes imperative for platforms to avoid data breaches at all costs.

With Reform the Norm we advocate to break the norm and then reform it, one step at a time and we do so by incentivizing civic engagement on our decentralized open-for-all platform.

What it does

Reform the Norm, built on the Ethereum Blockchain provides a decentralized platform for our users to Educate, Listen, Share and Act; covering social movements across issues and across countries.

1) Decentralizing the network gives people back their power by ensuring that there is no censorship or partiality towards a certain kind of content and the user information remains safe from any kind of breach.

2) We provide incentives to our users who actively raise their voices and contribute to the betterment of society by rewarding them with RTN tokens (ERC-20). Protocol followed ~

  • 100 RTN tokens awarded to the user on registering
  • 5 RTN tokens awarded to the user for creating a post and 1 additional RTN token awarded per issue tackled in the post
  • Users can "tip" other users' posts and the creator of the post would be awarded 2 RTN tokens per tip
  • Users can "share" other users' posts and both the creator and the sharer would be awarded 1 RTN token each

3) Users are given the provision of adding trigger warning tags for posts that have a high number of trigger words. We do so to forewarn other users who might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other anxiety disorders and would prefer to avoid specific content that might trigger intense physiological and psychological symptoms.

4) Lastly users can specify which issues their post tackles and exactly where in the world is it affecting people. We sort information by "Specific Issues" and "Places" and provide links to our users that would allow them to learn more about the topic, play their part, and donate so that tangible impact occurs along with just social awareness and change.

How we built it

  • We started off with designing the prototype with Figma, then built the front-end with HTML, CSS & Javascript.
  • The RTN tokens were made using the ERC-20 standard in solidity.
  • The decentralized back-end was built into the Ethereum Blockchain with Solidity smart contracts, image hosting in IPFS, and local development and testing with Truffle and Ganache.
  • We used the Alchemy API for deploying to the Ropsten TestNet and transaction debugging, and Web3 for integrating our solidity smart contracts with the front-end.
  • We used Python for annotating trigger warnings and also implemented the code in Javascript.

Challenges we ran into

Blockchain is such a fast-moving technology that most of the resources out there are deprecated to some extent! This makes it a hard technology to learn in such a reduced time frame. We sometimes felt we spent more hours trying to debug a single transaction than in designing and building the rest of the project. We also really wanted to add the incentive provision with our own cryptocurrency into our main smart contract and then deploy our application, but we ran out of time!

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Formulating a proof-of-concept for something like Reform the Norm that has the potential to bring about rapid, tangible change in society.
  • Learning an entirely new technology, Blockchain, and figuring out a tech stack including new languages, frameworks, and APIs for our project.
  • Collaborating while working on three wildly different timezones and coming from wildly different backgrounds, both cultural and technical!

What we learned

We learned the intricacies of the web 3.0 space and how the future needs to be decentralized in order for the world wide web to be an all-inclusive ethical space like it was initially meant to be. We also learned about the Ethereum blockchain and the IPFS which when combined give us a fully decentralized web application. All of us wrote code in Solidity which is the language used to write Ethereum smart contracts for the very first time. We also read up about different kinds of standard tokens like the ERC-20 and ERC-721 and made our own cryptocurrency called "RTN" on the Ropsten TestNet!

What's next for Reform The Norm

We intend to work a little more on:

  • Optimising reach across varying viewpoints by applying graph algorithms on Ethereum nodes
  • Integrating NLP into our smart contract to tag trigger words and issues correctly from the server-side
  • Coming up with a more effective protocol for incentive provision
  • Integrating a fake news detection API to counter the spreading of misinformation

And finally, if all goes well we might release a whitepaper for an ICO (initial coin offering) for Reform the Norm's own cryptocurrency "RTN" and deploy our smart contract on the Ethereum MainNet.


We at Reform the Norm believe that the world's current socio-political crisis calls for each one of us to actively raise our voice and collectively advocate for social justice. Various countries have witnessed huge political movements gaining traction via social media as the voices of the marginalized, which have historically been violently suppressed are finally attaining their well-deserved level platform.

1) However, activism in the digital age even though raises rapid awareness and pressurizes the ones in power to take quick action, doesn't come without its downsides. There have been several instances wherein social media has been misused by polarised governments for all sorts of unethical actions from inciting riots to online surveillance of citizens. It has also been noted how certain governments have targetted, falsely charged, and subsequently incarcerated activists from marginalized factions since they're the ones who're the most vulnerable in a socio-political climate against their free-willed existence. Hence, when it comes to raising awareness about the wrongs being done by the people in power we need to make sure that people and their personal information is kept safe.

The internet today is broken by design. We see wealth, power, and influence placed in the hands of a limited few tech giants. Markets, institutions, and trust relationships have been transposed to this new platform, with the density, power, and incumbents changed, but with the same old dynamics. Centralization is not socially tenable long-term. Enter Web 3.0.

Web 3.0 is an inclusive set of protocols to provide building blocks for application makers. These building blocks take the place of traditional web technologies but present a whole new way of creating applications. Decentralized applications or DApps have their backend code (smart contracts) running on a decentralized network and not a centralized server. A smart contract is like a set of rules that live on-chain for all to see and run exactly according to those rules. Once DApps are deployed on the Ethereum network you can't change them. DApps can be decentralized because they are controlled by the logic written into the contract, not an individual or a company.

Acknowledging how the future needs to be decentralized in order for the world wide web to be an all-inclusive ethical space like it was initially meant to be, we decided to make our web-application promoting civic engagement decentralized by building it on the Ethereum blockchain. Doing so ensures that our user's data is kept safe from any kind of breach and it also makes sure that the algorithms behind the working of our DApp are transparent and fair.

2) Even though decentralizing our application ensures that the server-side is completely ethical and censorship-resistant we still might have a couple of problems when it comes to sharing information about social causes, them being -

a. Creation of echo-chambers among people holding similar viewpoints leading to no tangible impact

We have added the provision of sharing posts and incentivized it both for the creator and the sharer so that users are motivated to share content from people outside of their social circle and introduce the issue to their circle.

To bring about tangible on-ground change we have sorted the content on the basis of issues and places and created pages for each. These pages contain a full database of ways for our users to contribute. They can listen and learn, play their part by volunteering, signing petitions, showing up for protests and they can finally send in their donations to organizations working for the cause.

b. Information regarding systemic and systematic oppression might trigger users with PTSD and other anxiety disorders

We have hence given creators of the content the provision to add trigger warning tags so that we can mark content that contains triggering information.

Future ~ We further intend to work on this part by including NLP algorithms into our smart contracts which would automatically generate trigger warning tags.

c. Spreading of Misinformation

Since our platform would be open-for-all for it to be truly democratic, there is a risk of people spreading misinformation which could lead to mass panic or further polarization of opinions.

Future ~ We intend to counter this by integrating the Fake News Detection API into our smart contract and generating a warning for other users if the information shared is false.

d. Privileged users co-opting the struggles of the marginalized

With every movement, there comes a wave of performative allyship wherein the privileged take away the voices of the marginalized and co-opt their entire struggle.

Future ~ Taking in more user information (race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, disability, caste, class, etc.) and giving a higher platform to the marginalized factions directly being affected by the issue being talked about.


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