Verifiable Credentials: Mapping to a Generic Policy Terminology

Tim Bouma
2 min readMar 26, 2021


Note: This post is the sole opinion and perspective of the author.

Over the past several months I have been diligently attempting to map the dynamically evolving world of trust frameworks and verifiable credentials into a straightforward and hopefully timeless terminology that can be used for policymaking. The storyboard diagram above is what I’ve come up with so far.

  • Counterparty — for every consequential relationship or transaction there are at a minimum of two parties involved. Regardless of whether the interaction is collaborative, competitive, zero positive sum, they can be considered as counterparties to one another.
  • Claim — is the something that is the matter of concern between the counterparties — it can be financial, tangible, intangible; something in the present, or a promise of something in the future.
  • Offer — a counterparty offers something that usually relates to a Claim.
  • Commit — a counterparty can commit to its Offer.
  • Present — a counterparty can present an Offer (or a Claim).
  • Accept — on the other side, the other counterparty accepts an Offer.
  • Issue — An Offer, once formed, can be issued in whatever form — usually a document or credential that is signed by the counterparty.
  • Hold — An offer can be held. How it is held depends on its embodiment (e.g.., digital, paper, verbal, etc.)
  • Verify — An offer, or more specifically its embodiment can be verified for its origin and integrity.

All of the above is made possible by:

  • Business Trust — how the counterparties decide to trust one another. This is the non-technical aspect of agreements, rules, treaties, legislation, etc.

And underpinned by:

  • Technical Trust: how the counterparties prove to another that their trust has not been compromised. This the technical aspect that includes, cryptographic protocols, data formats, etc.

Why is this useful? When writing policy, you need a succinct model which is clear enough for subsequent interpretation. To do this, you need conceptual buckets to drop things into. Yes, this model is likely to change, but it’s my best and latest crack at it to synthesize the complex world of digital credentials with an abstraction that might be useful to help us align existing solutions while adopting exciting new capabilities.

As always, I am open for comment and constructive feedback. You know where to find me.



Tim Bouma

Based in Ottawa. Does identity stuff. My tweets are my opinion but they can be yours too!