(Bit)Coining It

Remember when talk of a looming digital currency was all the fashion?

Flashback to 2009, the big global recession had hit, banks were failing and consumers weren’t sure if their savings accounts would be there in the morning. This unease sparked the launch of Bitcoin, an encrypted digital currency that promised to revolutionize the world economy by ending hard cash, releasing money free from the meddling hands of government regulators and the clutches of rapacious bankers.

The currency caught everyone’s interest, becoming the star of the financial pages, and its worth soared, reaching a high of $1,200 per Bitcoin in 2013. But like all economic fads, these digital dineros faded from the headlines. Beset by electronic exchange breakdowns, theft, the closure of Silk Road (the online drug-trading portal that relied on Bitcoins) and efforts by governments to regulate them out of existence, the currency is not only stalled in value but seems suddenly passé, except, of course, among residents of the geeksphere.

When they recently failed to realize an expected spike in value from Greeks affected by bank withdrawal restrictions, former Bitcoin-backers were left scratching their heads, offering conflicting arguments for why the currency is stuck in the $250 range. Now, giant fashion retailer H&M is turning the idea of a digital currency on its head, removing it from the shadowy and spasmodic world of online exchanges and employing it as a positive force.

As part of its Global Program for Education, the H&M Conscious Foundation is now issuing Unicoins, a digital currency “dedicated to good.” When a child uploads a drawing of what he or she wants to be when they grow up to unicoins.org, they’ll receive a Unicoin in exchange, a “currency” whose unchanging value is set at one notebook and one pencil. These invaluable tools of learning will be given to UNICEF and distributed to children in the developing world who lack access to early education, giving these youngsters “the best possible start in life.”

Digital currencies may come and go but charitable acts never seem to go out of fashion. Get the grandkids drawing.