How Okay Bears used digital art to support earthquake survivors
Okay Bears, an online community selling digital art to support important causes, has auctioned off a special artwork to assist earthquake survivors in Türkiye and Syria.
Okay Bears sells its bear illustrations as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – digital collectors’ items that cannot be replicated. Within two days of the earthquakes, which struck near the Türkiye-Syria border on 6 February, the Okay Bears team created and sold a bear designed to look like a UNHCR field worker.
Peter Gould, our Islamic Philanthropy Ambassador and Chief Communications Officer at Okay Bears, spoke to us about using NFTs for a good cause.
Before we get into Okay Bears, can you explain how you got involved with Australia for UNHCR and became one of our Ambassadors?
When I was working as a designer in Dubai, I got to know some of the UNHCR team working in the region. So many of the world’s refugee populations are located around the Middle East, and I was moved by the team’s extraordinary work and operations there.
I came back to my home in Sydney three years ago and quickly reached out to the Australia for UNHCR team. After I helped with a few Islamic Philanthropy projects, I was kindly asked to be more officially involved as an Ambassador.
Since then, it’s been about sharing the great work of UNHCR and looking for different opportunities to fundraise. I’m always looking for new ways to connect with audiences, so it felt obvious to get Okay Bears’ NFTs involved in fundraising after the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria.
For most of who don’t know, can you explain NFTs and how Okay Bears uses them?
An NFT (non-fungible token) is a new type of digital asset which can’t be copied.
Okay Bears launched in 2022 with a vision to inspire hope through art and code. We create digital artworks and collectables as NFTs, and sell them to our online community to support important causes.
We are constantly exploring innovative ways to use this new technology for good causes, like awareness campaigns and partnering with charities to raise funds.
What did Okay Bears do when the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria struck?
When the team at Okay Bears saw the devastating news of earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, we wanted to act fast and galvanise our community, many of whom are based in Türkiye and around the region.
Our immediate idea was to do an NFT auction using a custom UNHCR-branded bear. NFT auctions are new but, because of our great relationship with Australia for UNHCR, they trusted us and were happy to go ahead.
Within two days of the earthquakes we ran the auction. We also created a secondary digital artwork featuring a bear in the quake rubble that people could purchase, with funds going to Australia for UNHCR.
These two activities combined raised over $23,000, something we’re very grateful for. It saw a huge amount of online engagement and support for people affected by the earthquakes, and brought many people from different backgrounds together.
What would you say to other like-minded organisations in tech and design who want to use NFTs as a platform for good?
Digital collectibles are part of an emerging trend that has immense potential to bring people together and create meaningful impact. This fundraiser gave our global community a unique and colourful way to voice their support and raise urgently needed funds.
In addition to the auction and artworks for sale, we gave our members a new feature so they could add UNHCR helmets to their existing bears and share these across their social platforms. It helped us break through the noise, raising awareness of Australia for UNHCR’s important work and strengthening our online community.