14 OG ReFi Pioneers πŸ’šΒ πŸ™Œ

Hi Regens πŸ‘‹ Monty Merlin here alongside Humberto from UrbΓ‘nika.

With Regenerative Finance (ReFi) set to continue exploding this year, it's important to look back and remember some of the pioneering organisations who helped to lay its foundations. This article is by no means an exhaustive list, but a selection of some of our personal favourite high-impact projects that are still the pushing movement forward today.

Let us know what you think at @ReFiDAOist and if you enjoyed it, make sure to subscribe, or even collect this article as an NFT and support our work! For more regular updates, check out the ReFi DAO Blog for our weekly newsletter Roundups, project Deep Dives, Event Retrospectives, ReFi Radar, Community Stories and more.

But first, let's dive in... πŸ•³οΈπŸ‡

Sowing the seeds of ReFi
Sowing the seeds of ReFi


Regenerative Finance (ReFi) has the potential to revolutionize the way we define, manage, and employ the technology of money to be in service of people and the planet. This movement is being pioneered by an amazing set of innovators and entrepreneurs dedicated to creating a better world. With the help of some powerful emerging tools in Web3, they are shaping the future of finance as a system that drives positive externalities rather than negative, regeneration, as opposed to degeneration and extractivism.

If you want to learn more about what ReFi is and some of its core tenants, you can check out this article from John Ellison below πŸ‘‡

For an up-to-date recap of this ecosystem and its history, you can also check out the ReFi Roundup 2022 πŸ‘‡

Now, extending on this work, we have identified 14 organizations we feel have been instrumental in laying some of the foundations for ReFi. In this article, we will provide a snapshot of their history, the problems they're solving, and the solutions they offer right now.

ReFi Pioneers 🌱

But first… What is our framework for how we decided on our selection for the ReFi pioneers? The 14 projects listed were chosen by the following criteria:

  • They developed or put into practice foundational constructs for the movement we see today

  • They have founders who are thought leaders and early pioneers of regenerative finance

  • They have made a sizeable and tangible impact and are still doing their thing today.

Please also note:

  • This article only covers projects launched before 2022 - see our ReFi Roundup 2022 for a dive into some of the emerging pioneers of the last year...

  • Dates provided in the below map are for key moments in the project's history, founding moments are offered in each project review.

  • We appreciate we may have missed some projects that you think should feature, let us know or tweet at us at @ReFiDAOist!

  • This will be a living document and we will seek to update as appropriate!

With that said, let's dive into our top selection πŸ₯

1. Giveth πŸ’Έ

What if giving gave back? Using web3 to evolve philanthropy | Lauren Medium
What if giving gave back? Using web3 to evolve philanthropy | Lauren Medium

What? πŸ’₯ A decentralized charity protocol that has reimagined donations by providing rewards to donors and gamifying fundraising.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2017 by Griff Green and a team of code wizards.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 Lots of things, that's why they are called the Giveth Galaxy! Here are some of our favourites:

  • GIVBacks: Giveth has revolutionized donation by providing a cashback-like system. This means every time you donate to a verified project, you'll get up to 75% back in GIV tokens. This return is called GIVbacks and they are given to you across a 5-year period.

  • GIVBoost: Now people can support a project without spending money 🀯. How? Easy. Stake into a project you like, the yield generated goes to the project and you keep the stake!

  • TRACE: Traces specify how the project is using its donations to achieve the goals of the overarching Campaigns. It provides a framework to keep projects accountable for the support they receive.

How? 🧭 Learn, apply, and join the evolution of giving:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

2) Regen Network πŸ‘©πŸ½β€πŸŒΎ

What? πŸ’₯ A stack of tools and infrastructure to incentivize ecosystem regeneration through the creation of digital carbon and ecological credits - investors and buyers can access a growing pipeline of premier-quality ecological impact projects. ✨ 🌱

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2017 by Gregory Landua and an awesome team of regens.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 Regen Network incentivizes regenerative land use practices, restores ecosystems and helps in reversing climate change.

  • They serve as the β€˜Layer 0’ upon which other projects and protocols may build upon and harness to execute their own climate-focused business models.

  • They facilitate the development of new methodologies related to regenerative practices.

  • Regen Marketplace & Registry allows Earth stewards to sell their ecosystem services directly to buyers around the world.

How? 🧭 Turn ecosystem services into eco-credits:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

3) Gitcoin πŸ”­

What? πŸ’₯ A protocol for discovering, validating, and funding the world's leading web3 & public goods projects.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2017 by Kevin Owocki and Scott Moore

Why Pioneer? 🌱 Gitcoin started as a centralized platform allowing open-source developers to monetize their work and access economic incentives. Since then they have evolved their mission to become an all-inclusive public goods funding powerhouse and relaunched as a decentralized organisation - The Gitcoin DAO. Some top achievements include:

  • Gitcoin Grants: Fundraise for projects and entire ecosystems with the magic of Quadratic Funding. So far this has enabled $72.8M in funding for public goods projects!

  • Gitcoin Passport: Sybil-resistant methodology that includes several ID verification stamps and a trust score to filter humans from bots πŸ€–

  • Hackathons and Bounties: Power-community for any initiative to find and reward talent as needed with 312K monthly active developers.

How? 🧭 Support open-source & public goods:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

4) EthicHub πŸŒ±πŸ’°

What? πŸ’₯ The first #ReFi protocol connecting people & unbanked smallholder farmers globally using Web3. EthicHub is a global platform that connects lenders and borrowers from around the world to access ethical capital.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2017 by Jori, Gabriela, and a team of regens.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 They were the first blockchain-based platform that allowed lenders to invest in projects and businesses that have a positive impact on people and the environment. Beyond being one of the first here, they also pioneered:

  • Breaking down tech barriers. Ethichub uses a human interface to get to the smallholder farmers, so no need for the borrower to understand or know the intricacies of web3.

  • Providing risk-managed lending with a compensation pool that automatically pays lenders their yield if a borrower does not pay in time.

  • LatinoAmerica ReFi 🌎πŸ₯°

How? 🧭 Become part of a global community of lenders and borrowers that access ethical capital by adopting EthicHub:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

5) Commons Stack πŸ€πŸ½β›“

What? πŸ’₯ Open-source Web3 toolkits to help commons-based communities sustain shared wealth through incentive alignment, continuous funding and community governance. Commons Stack enables any impact group to deploy their own regenerative microeconomies.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2019 by Jeff, Jess, Dr. Z + the Giveth and BlockScience teams.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 They have an open-source library with interoperable web3 modules that put effective new tools in the hands of communities. These components are divided in Governance, Accountability, Funding, and Feedback to enable regen communities to raise and allocate shared funds, make transparent decisions, and monitor their progress in supporting the Commons.

How? 🧭 Become a builder of the Commons or learn how to apply it in your regen initiative:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

6) Energy Web βš‘οΈπŸ•ΈοΈ

What? πŸ’₯ Open-source Web3 technologies for traceable energy, and tamper-proof asset management, data exchange, and decarbonization pledges.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2017 by Ana Trbovich and a stellar team of energy, P2P markets, and aerospacial industries.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 They package multiple Web3 components – public blockchains, self-sovereign identities, and decentralized architectures– into comprehensive, enterprise-grade solutions that energy companies use to reduce costs, improve efficiency and security, or build entirely new businesses. Some outstanding facts:

  • In 2019 they already had 100 energy companies testing their web3 solutions.

  • It's a non-profit facilitating energy companies and cities transition into clean and distributed energy systems.

  • They provide among other services, onboarding, consultation, training, and deployment of Web3 tech into energy companies. Also they are offer green proofs for electricity generation, sustainable aviation fuel, and renewable bitcoin mining certifications.

How? 🧭 Facilitate decarbonization and the energy internet:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

7) Celo πŸ“±β›“

What? πŸ’₯ The first mobile-native and carbon-negative EVM-compatible blockchain.

Wen? πŸ“… Celo was co-founded in 2017 by Rene Reinsberg and Marek Olszewski

Why Pioneer? 🌱 Celo built an SDG-oriented ecosystem that allows anyone with a phone and internet to access financial services without the need for a bank or other financial institutions.

Other noteworthy points include:

  • A ReFi-native ecosystem of 1000+ projects from 150+ countries

  • 5 mission-aligned collectives dedicated to creating a more prosperous world.

How? 🧭 Learn and advocate for mobile-first web3 regen initiatives:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

8. Kolektivo 🌱

What? πŸ’₯ A collection of institutional technologies for communities to launch, finance, and govern their own local regenerative economies and community currencies at scale.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2020 by Luuke, Pat, and their respective teams at Kolektivo Labs and Curve Labs.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 Kolektivo proposes to reflect the value of natural capital and ecosystem services provided by the natural world through a token engineering approach, i.e. social and ecological sciences meet computational sciences to enable cyberphysical coordination.

Three outstanding features:

  • The first fully decentralized and permissionless protocol for deploying Regenerative Finance at the local economy level.

  • The creation of local currencies that are interconnected, interoperable, interchangeable, and are designed to support and incentivize the protection and regeneration of ecosystems.

  • The Kolektivo MVP: a cyber-physical community economy in CuraΓ§ao. See it in action at the recent Kolektivo Festival! πŸ‘‡

How? 🧭 Learn about ReFi in the local space and apply for transitioning your community into ReFi:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

9) Open Forest Protocol 🌳

What? πŸ’₯ A scalable open platform that allows forest projects of any size, from around world, to Measure, Report, and Verify (MRV) their forestation data and access financing for nature-based climate solutions.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2020 by Aureline Grange, Frederic Fournier and Michael Kelly.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 OFP is one of the leading organizations at the frontier of scaling nature-based solutions. Here are some of it’s key features:

  • Any forestation projects around the world, both big and small, have access to their digital platform and MRV tools that can help to unlock carbon financing.

  • A growing diverse community of environmentally-focused organizations act as validators to secure the network and ensure forest monitoring data is legitimate.

  • All of OFP is open-source and decentralized, meaning new solutions to address climate change can be built quickly using OFP as the foundation.

How? 🧭

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

10) OASA πŸŒ±πŸ›–

What? πŸ’₯ A web3 conservation network that empowers land-based DAOs with tools to create regenerative communities.

Wen? πŸ“… OASA was founded in 2018 by Sam Delesque and a fluid team of regens.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 OASA has been pivotal in the development of new Web3 tools for local land-based DAOs with a particular focus on regenerative practices on its lands through its Principles for Regeneration and Land Stewardship. Some of our favourite developments include:

  • Proof of Presence (PoP): a measure of a member’s physical presence on the Project that can be used as a governance primitive - Project DAOs may elect to give higher voting weight to Members based on their PoP score for example...

  • From Ownership to Stewardship: Token holders gain utility and governance rights, while land ownership titles are held indirectly as an association. This shifts from a model based purely on ownership rights, to a model prioritising community and stewardship.

  • Acquiring the lands for the launch of the first ReFi powered regenerative village in 2020 - Traditional Dream Factory

How? 🧭 Learn more, join, or start your own regen village:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

11) Climate Collective πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘¦

What? πŸ’₯ A coalition of investors, non-profits, scientists and other stakeholders, supporting builders of ReFi to unlock innovative and verifiable climate action at scale.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2021 by Celo.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 The Climate Collective is focused on enabling trusted markets for high-quality, digital environmental assets that empower people and the planet to thrive, and they have brought together a brilliant array of stakeholders and experts for this mission. Some features include:

  • Grant funding. They offer grants to accelerate regenerative web3 applications.

  • Web3 Climate Map. They've mapped products, protocols, liquidity sources, DAOs, and other relevant relations in the ReFi climate ecosystem.

How? 🧭 Join the movement, apply for a grant, or collaborate on developing ReFi analytics:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

12) KlimaDAO πŸŒͺ️ ⛳️

What? πŸ’₯ Web3 technologies that enable coordination and mass participation within the carbon markets, with an aim to accelerate the price appreciation of carbon assets and drive additional finance toward low-carbon technologies.

Wen? πŸ“… Founded in 2021 by Chaz Schmidt, Takeshi Nojima, Archimedes and a team of Web3 ReFi hackers.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 KlimaDAO spearheaded powerful marketing and token-economic incentive mechanisms to on-board millions of tonnes of carbon on-chain - currently 17,725,086 Carbon Tonnes are locked in their treasury at time of writing. Some other key features:

How? 🧭 Help drive adoption of tokenized carbon credits:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

13) Toucan Protocol 🧩

What? πŸ’₯ A blockchain protocol for turning carbon credits into programmable money legos (tokens). Toucan aims to improve infrastructure for environmental assets by helping to solve key market issues: fragmentation, inefficiency, a lack of uniform data, and limited access.

Wen? πŸ“… Born out of an Ethereum project called CO2Ken (See-Oh-ToucanπŸ˜‰), Toucan Protocol was founded in 2021 by RaphaΓ«l Haupt and James Farrell of Curve Labs.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 Toucan is facilitating the financial rails to bring a trillion dollars flow to the best climate solutions. Some outstanding facts include:

  • 50+ projects are already leveraging Toucan’s tokenized carbon credits as a building block for their climate-positive products and protocols.

  • 20M+ tonnes of CO2 have been bridged on-chain, and 50K+ of these have already been retired for good πŸ™Œ

How? 🧭 Compensate your carbon footprint or facilitate the adoption of tokenized carbon credits within your project:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

14) Plastiks ♻️

What? πŸ’₯ Connecting waste recovery projects with people & organisations looking to make a difference. Their plastic credit marketplace contributes to 5 SDGs by integrating plastic clean ups into the sales funnel.

Wen? πŸ“… Plastiks is a product of Nozama who were founded back in early 2019.

Why Pioneer? 🌱 Unlike other platforms focused on plastic compensation, Plastiks.io connects recovery projects worldwide with companies and individuals. Some interesting facts include:

  • The Plastiks platform allows Single-use packaging brands to offset their waste, enabling them to comply with the EU single use packaging tracking regulation.

  • The offsetting of Plastik’s tokens sponsors the recovery of plastic waste around the globe. All plastic recovered is tracked through blockchain technology and is ensured to never end up in a landfill.

How? 🧭 Enable local impact, globally:

Where? πŸ‘‡πŸ½

What next?

We are super grateful to all the pioneering projects here and the amazing teams of people behind them who helped to lead the way for the diverse ReFi ecosystem we see today. At the same time, last year saw an explosion of new projects entering the scene to blaze new trails in the ever-evolving world of ReFi. You can check out our article covering that below πŸ‘‡

Did you agree with our picks? Did we miss any? Who will be the next generation of pioneers? Let us know @ReFiDAOist 🐦 If you enjoyed this article, make sure to subscribe, or even collect this article as a historic NFT and support our work + for more regular updates, check out the ReFi DAO Blog for our weekly newsletter Roundups, project Deep Dives, Event Retrospectives, ReFi Radar, Community Stories and more.

From the UrbΓ‘nika team and Monty, our deepest thanks to you, reader, for dedicating your valuable time into learning, experimenting, building, and using regenerative practices. Together WAGMI. LFGrow πŸŒ±πŸš€

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