For inquiries & opportunities, get in touch at hello [at] rebeccamqamelo [dot] com
Short third-person bio
Rebecca Mqamelo is a South African technologist, designer and entrepreneur who finds joy in supporting communities harness their shared abundance. She’s helped cities prototype their own currency, led blockchain-based mutual aid programs, run participatory budgeting initiatives, designed fellowships, built products, published research, written things & made art. Previously she was Co-founder and Head of Product at city3, a civic technology startup based in Oakland, California; Head of Growth at Zerion, a web3 wallet and investing app; and Social Impact Research Lead and Product Designer at the Grassroots Economics Foundation in Kenya, where she led the world’s first randomized control trial on community-owned cryptocurrency as a form of universal basic income. She weaves a transdisciplinary background in data science, economics, architecture & community organizing and thrives in collaborative environments where design research, systems thinking and rapid prototyping are the primary modes of operation. She grew up in Mthatha, South Africa, studied at Minerva University and is currently based in Washington, DC.
Much longer personal bio
Mine is a story of merging worlds. I grew up in South Africa and spent my childhood moving between the potholed streets of Mthatha, the capital of a former Apartheid homeland, and a village called Enkalweni, my family’s rural home.
When I was 13, I packed off for boarding school and discovered my passion for oratory. I represented South Africa in debate and public speaking and my high school years were subsequently a blur of international debate competitions. I went on to study economics and computational science at Minerva University, an institution that turns tertiary education on its head with flipped online classes, experiential learning, and semesters located in a different global city.
In Buenos Aires, I witnessed the paradox that rich public life can coexist with the constant threat of economic meltdown, owing to an urban culture that centers life in community. In Seoul, I wrestled with the fact that my institution’s presence was a major gentrifying force, transforming the neighborhood’s economy overnight with 150 bright-eyed and dollar-earning international students in a community of mostly elderly Koreans.
In this chaotic interplay between culture, economy and the built environment, my work became a practice of reimagining economic alternatives rooted in community resilience. Since then I have led research, developed new methodologies and built systems for communities to manage their own wealth.
But it's also been a practice of integrating liminality in all its forms. I'm a biracial woman who learned to love the sometimes difficult and sometimes magical spaces found between worlds of culture, religion and place. I've learned to embrace the fact that whatever hat I wear – artist, economist, systems designer, daughter, friend – the worlds I create invariably emerge from this wonderful place of in-betweeness.