How Crypto, Bitcoin, and Blockchain support Humanitarian Aid

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

Digital assets, in form of cryptocurrencies, were developed as an abstract concept of investments, trade and transactions. The integration of these currencies, within the crypto space, in global financial institutions and acknowledged physical institutions of finance, in developed (and some developing) nations, has been supported by a fusion in the evolution of global technology.

This notable evolution has resulted in the innovation of several enterprises, industries and an increment in employable service, all of which are intertwined with the various aspects of crypto space. This extensive innovation aside, there is one aspect in the incorporation of crypto space to mainstream organizations which has not been explored extensively -humanitarian aid. Unbeknown to most, crypto space has become an accessible outlet to humanitarian organizations for the advancement in provision of aid to countries and societies of outreaches.

While most people often confuse Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and blockchain, there is a distinction between the two, although they work interrelatedly. It is easy to note the importance of DLT in the provision of humanitarian aid, but when it comes to infusing this technology alongside crypto space in humanitarian service of NGOs, there is a disconnect.

This was extensively explained during the conversation on this TF Blockchain podcast episode, anchored by Carrie Bracy in the TF Portland chapter, where Ric Shreves, Director of Emerging Technology and Alpen Sheth, Senior Technologist (blockchain) from Mercy Corps, engage in a conversation on the evolution and uncommon, yet highly influential, relationship between DLT, Crypto space and humanitarian aid.

Ric Shreves who has worked with Mercy Corps for four years, as the director of Emerging Technology, provided background information on how the Non-Profit Organization became a frontier in the introduction of crypto currency, the crypto space and digital assets to third world and other developing countries where they provide humanitarian service and aid. In the range of conversation, Ric identified the basic challenges Mercy Corps faced at the initial stages of incorporating crypto space.

As a Non-Profit Organization, Mercy Corps, is heavily reliant on donations and sponsorships. Most donors are interested in developing already established technology -not investing in emerging technology. Mercy Corps is very keen on innovations but financial restrictions would have impounded their research and progress in crypto space. Fortunately, they got in partnership with CISCO for their programme on tech for humanitarians. This gave Mercy Corps the necessary financial security to proceed with research into DLT and Crypto space as an emerging technology.

Incorporating this research into practice was the next daunting step. Mercy Corps provides aid to over 40 countries who face natural disasters, social and environmental catastrophes and support for refugees in these countries. By May 2017, there was a publication from Ric Shreves for Mercy Corps on ‘A Revolution in Trust’ which served as the beam for their acceptance as leading innovators and early movers in crypto space with humanitarian services.

The necessity for this evolutionary move was the fact that, most philanthropists and donors (individuals and organizations) in developed countries were already aware of, and using cryptocurrencies for transactions. Incorporating it into humanitarian services would appeal directly to their developmental instincts and encourage contributions. Also, the introduction of this financial technology into countries that were recipient of support from the Non-Profit Organization, would encourage further education and development into finance and technology.

Alpen Sheth took up the mantle and provided explanation on the practical implementation of cryptocurrencies and the crypto space through the introduction of StableCoin. Stakeholders were made to see the value of having digital assets, in comparison with physical assets. Donors, Beneficiaries and participants understand that coins can be transferred as digital assets to be tied with something of direct physical value. That way, systems applicable for transferring funds were improved and money could be sent and received easily. Liquidity providers in beneficiary countries were incorporated and a stable market for exchange was established.

The discussion progressed by emphasizing that stable coins, as a digital assets interface, would be highly beneficial for providing direct support and provision of resources, as opposed to just handing out cash, to beneficiaries. This method is trackable, suitable, auditable and efficiently manageable so there would be no discrepancies in the handover of funds from physical locations. It has led to a recoup on investments, business models and commercial imperatives which enlist the interest and engagement of sponsors and donors.

It is rather apparent that this evolution is slowly becoming integrated across board in governments and organizations, with the recent development in UNICEF as at October 2019, when it was announcedthat UNICEF would now be able to accept and disburse donations around the world in cryptocurrencies, through its cyptocurrency fund manager -making it the first United Nations Organization to conduct transactions through Cryptocurrencies.

Additionally, there is the Cryptocurrency Act 2020, which is a new bill being proposed in the United States. If it is successfully approved and implemented, it would be a revolution for the regulation of crypto space transactions globally, and the incorporation of cryptocurrency in financial institutions across the world. These evolutions are shaping the foundation of a future where digital assets and cryptocurrencies are at the forefront of finance in the world.

The podcast session was brought to a close with questions on the last mile activation for this initiative. Ric and Alpen explained how the system in implementation are designed to track manipulation, market assessment and provide modality through analytics, and highlight the extent of relevance through humanitarian logistics. The closing question on this podcast, as provided by Alpen Sheth was, ‘How do you see yourself, playing a role in this development?’

Listen to the full podcast, with special nuggets of information, on our media page.

Don’t forget, you can also join or start a blockchain chapter in your city.


#TF5 TF Blockchain Conference - Seattle - March 19, 2020

Join us in Seattle on March 19, 2020 as we host #TF5 TF Blockchain Conference, our 5th blockchain, bitcoin, and cryptocurrency conference. We'll have top speakers, influencers, investors, executives, and entrepreneurs discussing the latest in this innovative technology.

Confirmed top speakers are: Christian Hasker, Rahul Sood, Peter Taylor, Kristy-Leigh Minehan, Kurt Wedgwood, Ashley Harrell, Dr. Setrag Khoshaian, Farbood Nivi, Ric Shreves, Kate Mitselmakher, Steven McKie, Rizwan Patel, Paul Gambill, and Derrick Foote.

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