In this piece, Trinity Morphy takes inspiration from a recent event to look at why originality has been so difficult to attain in the Web3 impact space and how a phenomenon called the Medici Effect can get us back on track.

I had the privilege of attending a Green Pill Nigeria Impact Tour event two weeks ago. In his talk, Izzy, the lead at Green Pill Nigeria, pointed out the troubling trend of imitation in the impact space. Each cycle, he said, seems to be filled with recycled project ideas. It has become customary for Project XYZ to emerge with a seemingly novel concept, only to be quickly followed by Project ABC, essentially a copycat with a new bell or whistle.

This lack of originality, especially in Web3 impact, is not just a hurdle, it's a roadblock. For instance, other effective ways exist to utilise impact NFTs apart from sequestering carbon or planting new trees. Yet, we keep seeing new projects based on the same idea but with a more exciting description.

How can we actively encourage a shift from simple recycling to genuine originality? The Medici Effect - that the most innovative ideas happen when you combine concepts from different fields - offers insight. By looking beyond the impact field, we can unlock the potential for more impactful solutions.

Why we recycle ideas and why originality is so important

  • Reduced risk and familiarity - Humans naturally gravitate towards familiarity. Replicating a successful project offers security by minimising the uncertainty of venturing into something completely new. It's like following a well-worn path instead of forging one through the wilderness.
  • Access to funding - Investors and funding institutions are more likely to back sectors with a proven track record of projects. A copycat project can point to the success of the original and argue that it can replicate that success with its own twist.
  • Bandwagon effect - When a project becomes popular, others aim to capitalise on the hype and user base. On the surface, launching a copycat project appears easier, as does the marketing that goes with it.
  • Avoiding mistakes - A successful project has already learned what works and what doesn't. Emulation enables new projects to sidestep those pitfalls and concentrate on innovation.

Originality is crucial to tackling our social and ecological problems. It allows us to see things differently, question assumptions, and uncover new possibilities. This fresh perspective can lead to new solutions we wouldn't have considered otherwise. It empowers us to challenge outdated or dysfunctional systems and propose solutions that address their shortcomings from the ground up. Original thinking enables us to recognise the potential in underutilised resources and address problems at their roots, not simply treat their symptoms.

Easier said than done, of course. We need to look to the Medici Effect for a roadmap.

The Medici Effect and Web3 impact

The Medici Effect states that the most original and extraordinary ideas occur when you combine concepts from different fields, disciplines, or cultures. It was discovered by Frans Johansson and shared in a book of the same name. A majority of the ideas in this section are borrowed from the book and modified to fit Web3 impact

Some examples of great products that have stemmed from the Medici Effect include Silvi (reforestation + Web3), M3tering Protocol (renewable energy distribution + Web3), Gitcoin (fundraising + Web3), and Toucan Protocol (voluntary carbon markets + Web3).

Here's how we can get better at using the Medici Effect to our advantage.

Dismantle the barrier between Web3 and other fields

First, we must be willing to break the associative barriers that exist between Web3 and other fields. How do we do this? Through exposure to a diverse set of cultures. Culture, in this context, extends beyond geographic boundaries to encompass ethnic, class, professional, and organisational differences. By immersing ourselves in these diverse backgrounds, we can unlock a more open and questioning mindset and challenge our assumptions.

We also need to embrace broad self-education. Traditional education often compartmentalises knowledge, but self-directed exploration across disciplines expands what's possible. Without it, our thinking is limited and we inadvertently stifle creativity. Self-education empowers us to discover unexpected connections and envision how concepts in other fields can combine to create groundbreaking Web3 impact solutions.

Combine random concepts

Intersectional ideas are groundbreaking because the concepts involved are so different and the combinations so unusual that no one would have thought them possible. Take the inspiration for this article as an example. It happened after I came across an X account named Cozomo de Medici. I wasn't thinking about Web3 impact or the Medici Effect. That's how random combinations work. You have no control over it. It just comes. Rather than leaving "luck" to do the work, we can continuously stimulate our brains to keep producing these random combinations. How do we achieve this?

  • Nurturing our curiosity - By obsessing over new ideas, approaches, and perspectives, we enhance our brain's ability to blend random concepts. In the foreword of Exploring MycoFi, Scott Morris pointed to Emmett Jeff's relentless fascination with mushrooms and mycelial networks and how it led to the creation of MycoFi - a novel crypto-economic model inspired by the structure of mycelial networks.
  • Interacting with diverse groups of people - Engage a diverse group of people and we will be presented with a diverse set of perspectives. Interacting with such groups can spark unexpected connections. For example, a conversation between a Web3 enthusiast and a custodian of tradition might lead to an idea to preserve cultural heritage using blockchain.

These are what create the conditions for the next phase.

Ignite and evaluate an explosion of ideas

The strongest correlation between quality and quantity of ideas is, in fact, the number of ideas. Do you know how many ideas you can get by simply combining concepts from environmental science with Web3 concepts? A LOT. That is why it irks me when I see so many projects centering on carbon credit tokenisation when there are so many ideas yet to be explored. The question here is: once these ideas start flooding in, how do we handle them?

Firstly, capture as many ideas as we can. Keep track of all the ideas our brains generate and set a target to reach before evaluating their feasibility. Secondly, we need to take our time evaluating because our minds will quickly judge the value of an idea by comparing it to what is already known to work. It's important that we evaluate each idea as sincerely as the next, whether its gamifying traditional classroom learning or eradicating open defecation in underserved communities.

Coming up with great ideas does not guarantee innovation, however. We must make those ideas happen.

Make intersectional ideas happen

The paradox of innovation at the intersection of fields is rooted in the symbiotic relationship between ideas and failures: the more ideas we explore, the higher the rate of failure. Far from being a negative consequence, failures are a vital part of the innovation journey. We learn and grow through them so that we can do better the next time. Not acting for fear of failure robs us of this crucial phase.

Daring to try ideas opens us to a world of invaluable insights that help us refine our approach, identify weaknesses, and ultimately discover the path to a truly groundbreaking solution. In my interview with Christwin of Switch Electric and M3tering Protocol, he shared a fascinating story about the early days of his solution. The first model they tried unexpectedly incentivised the consumer to overload the solar infrastructure, leading to severe component wear and tear and attracting steep maintenance costs. This was a significant failure, but it led to research that brought about the idea of building M3tering Protocol on blockchain to track consumption and ensure transparency.

Since failures are inevitable, we can allocate specific resources for testing each new idea and minimising the potential for catastrophic failure. This allows for rapid iteration, where we can learn from each attempt, refine our approach, and move on to the next experiment with valuable insights. Don't forget to document everything along the way and share the results within the team. This knowledge base becomes a valuable resource for future projects because it prevents the same mistakes and accelerates future breakthroughs. We saw this in the transition from Gitcoin 1.0 and Gitcoin 2.0.

We also need to stay motivated along the way because the path to ingenuity is rarely linear. There will be setbacks and failures that make us question our actions. Staying motivated requires keeping the long-term vision in mind and focusing on the positive impact our work can bring to the world. We need to celebrate all wins big and small, whether it's successfully completing a pilot project, achieving a user engagement milestone, or receiving positive feedback from a target community. This reinforces our belief and helps us pushing forward despite the inevitable setbacks.


The Web3 impact space has potential to change the way we tackle the world's most pressing challenges. We're not getting there, however, if we keep recycling the same old ideas. Originality is the key if we are to truly unleash Web3 impact. We must look beyond our own siloes, break down barriers, and ignite curiosity across a variety of fields to spark the kind of breakthrough ideas that will move the needle.

And when those ideas do come, we must not shy away from failure and its valuable lessons. Nature exemplifies this beautifully - a butterfly's struggle to escape its chrysalis is anything but pleasant. Still, this phase is necessary for the butterfly to strengthen its muscles, expand its wings, and ultimately fly. Embrace the journey, celebrate even the smallest wins, and surround yourself with a supportive network. Together, we can embrace the power of the Medici Effect to create a better future for ourselves and the planet.

This article represents the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of CARBON Copy.