Saeed Valadbaygi is a top global influencer in FinTech, Blockchain, Big Data, Risk, and innovation. He is also an activist, editor, technologist, and analyst with a history of working with labor organizations, humanitarian causes, and citizen media projects. With a transdisciplinary background in industrial engineering, cognitive science, data science, and political science, he worked with various organizations worldwide to build solutions for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) problems. As the CEO and founder, he launched Datacracy in 2015 to provide the first sustainability intelligence ecosystem for data standardization in digital urbanism and smart city applications. He also worked as the solution architect for AxonWork, a blockchain-based enterprise solution focusing on the future of the work. As an investigative reporter on human rights, citizen journalism, and corruption, his work appeared on international media outlets. As the editor in chief, he produced a dozen magazines, broadcast media, and digital platforms for global and local organizations focusing on the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) spectrum. Currently, he is the executive director of the Global Centre for Risk and Innovation (GCRI), a distributed resource and decentralized network committed to accelerating public participation in research, policymaking, and development programs. He also sits on the Advisory Board of the AI Forum, the leading independent research and information source for the worldwide artificial intelligence community. His most recent projects focus on "greenwashing" issues and ESG standardization through participatory mechanisms enabling a true path toward sustainable financing and impact investing.
Saeed recently featured in Onalytica's Who's Who in Fintech? report.
How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?
My work combines system thinking, critical thinking, and problem-solving elements for practical system innovation and sustainable development. From humanitarian projects to enterprise design and institution building, my journey is motivated through pluralistic and human-centered narratives. And I owe most of it to my experience in investigative journalism and covering movements through the lens of citizen media. Together, with a fantastic group of people in my team, I have been exploring the underpinnings of political systems affecting the quality of life and whether those responsible for monitoring risks to residents, communities, and workers have acted in the public interest. The projects I got involved in have spanned worldwide and addressed some of the most urgent environmental, social, and governance challenges. After introducing The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals in 2016 by the United Nations General Assembly, I launched my first technology project called Datacracy. It was the first global sustainability intelligence ecosystem aiming at enabling enterprises and governments around the world to reach their global sustainability goals using the SDGs framework.
Parallel to the conceptualization and technical development of Datacracy, I started a more comprehensive social campaign and network building around exponential technologies. I also proactively engaged in various civil society and grassroots initiatives which ultimately paved the way for establishing The Global Centre for Risk and Innovation (GCRI) in 2018. In my role as the executive director of the GCRI, I continue to work with scientists, researchers, policy-makers, and activists around the world to tackle complex environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. GCRI is a non-profit organization in Canada and acts as global civil society’s focal point for coordinating catastrophic risk reduction through civic technology, science policy, and participatory mechanisms such as quadruple helix and quadratic funding. It provides a consensus platform for cooperation, decentralization, and optimal regulatory architecture necessary to the proliferation of more resilient, sustainable, and regenerative systems.
What sub topics are you most passionate about?
Community ownership, impact investing, digital democracy, and decentralized finance are the topics I’m most interested in at the moment. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent yet decentralized, providing ESG solutions is imperative to address local and transnational socio-economic issues. To enable the sustainable development of FinTech, we need to facilitate practical pathways to sustainable and resilient market economies. In today’s world, creating a positive impact means more transparency and accountability across all disciplines of the financial industry, including across secondary markets. I’m most passionate about working with people at the frontline of the future and learning new ways of improving the quality of life for all.
Who influences you within these topics?
I’m fascinated by the works of so many great people that it would be an injustice to name one or a few. Part of my everyday life is to feed my creative imagination with the fantastic work of leaders in decentralized web, investigative journalism, and climate science.
What challenges are brands facing in this space?
It is safe to say that sustainability claims without a robust verification system make ESG disclosure a mere PR act. Since 2010, investor demand for better ESG disclosure has grown dramatically. Consequently, questions arise about whether existing systems adequately inform the public about the risks and opportunities. With gaining momentum in recent years, ESG affairs provide a platform as the foundation of trust and accountability in society. Under these episodes, everyone needs help to adapt to industry shifts, regulatory changes, and market disruptions. As a result, there’s a global demand for greater transparency around the nonfinancial performance of organizations.
There are shreds of evidence that morally questionable companies, divested by ESG investors, find creative ways to maximize even greater return using the current system designed by frontiers of stakeholder capitalism. In the absence of knowledge-enabled verification systems, we continue to hear stories from the investment community that there is no common understanding of what ESG means and how to measure impact. ESG reporting may seem daunting; however, it can play an essential role in resilience building, green transition, and impact investing to support a fair, responsible, and sustainable future.
What do you think the future holds in this space?
The future is more responsive, collective, and decentralized from information and accessibility perspectives. Consequently, we can expect a significant shift in standard settings- from static, and ineffective frameworks to fact-based, open, and verifiable systems. While trust-based personalized solutions continue to make headlines across FinTech, InsurTech, RegTech and WealthTech industries, the verification systems that can overhaul trust systems and dominate the next decade of financial markets with underlying technologies.
What brands are leading the way in this space?
Brands such as WEF, MSCI, PRI, CDB, SASB, TCFD, and VRF play an active role in shaping the industry. GCRI aims to co-create verification systems as the base layer of trust to complete the existing ecosystem, enabling greater transparency, assurance, and accountability.