Posts with the tag
“Blockchain”

Responses to Populism in a Digitally-Enabled Era: A New Sector Innovation Report

24th April 2019 by Vicky Tongue

This piece was originally published on InterAction’s blog on 18/04/19

Are you working to push back against populist narratives and tendencies? Have you got a new way of doing things that you would like to share with a wide civil society audience?We are looking for case studies for our new innovation report for the civil society sector.

The rise of populist governments and movements has become a key influencer of public opinion, including towards international and national civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights actors. This discourse is often binary and leads the public to ‘choose’ one side or the other. Social media further fuels such divisions by enabling ‘echo chambers’ of inaccurate stories which, in turn, are covered by mainstream media.

In this context, civil society actors and organisations remain vulnerable to deliberate misinformation and disinformation campaigns and other forms of politically-motivated targeting in different countries. This includes international CSOs, including the Muslim-based foundations in the United States supported so effectively by InterAction’s Together Project, or humanitarian ICSOs assisting refugees in Europe.

International CSOs are also increasingly confronted with accusations of elitism or lacking legitimacy in representing grassroots interests, and some recent ethical and reputational challenges have also provided individuals and groups opposed to progressive and liberal ideas a further opportunity to challenge the missions and values of organised civil society.

The need for continued learning on alternative narratives and solidarity

At our Innovator’s Forum in February, two outcomes identified by our diverse group of civil society representatives, were the need to both build new narrative and solidarity and collective risk management capacities for our sector. There is a growing body of invaluable resources, such as Dejusticia’s playbook for human rights actors, and the Guide to Hope-based Communications, and InterAction’s Disinformation Toolkit, which are inspiring and empowering CSOs to act and innovate in response to the complex challenges arising from political populism and polarisation.

The International Civil Society Centre and our innovation partner JustLabs want to add a further contribution to this knowledge base for our sector this year, with our new report on ‘Responses to Populism in a Digitally-Enabled Era’. We want to highlight the most promising innovations to tackle populist tendencies, build shared solidarity and promote new emerging narratives and public engagement around civic priorities, space and action. In particular, we want to find the most exciting and effective initiatives in the following three areas:

  1. Reflecting the ‘license to operate’: Innovative and adaptive steps to reshape ICSO’s operational legitimacy, advance accountability towards communities, and strengthen resilience towards challenges of perceived elitism, privilege, or disconnection from grassroots interests.
  2. Re-framing the narrative: examples of powerful narratives and positive visions aiming to reopen spaces for constructive dialogue on social change and democratic actions. This includes compelling new communication, outreach and engagement approaches/campaigns which connect with new public audiences.
  3. Countering attacks on civil society: examples of robust mechanisms, mobilisation and collaboration tactics and strategies which have been developed to counter attacks on humanistic values, civic rights and civil actors and to hold repressive actors to account.

Crowdsourcing case studies

The Report will analyse the emerging effectiveness of these different approaches, and identify key enabling factors which have supported the design and implementation of innovation. It will also highlight innovation case studies from a range of international and national CSOs and countries/contexts, including examples identified through a crowdsourcing approach. This is where you come in.  

We want to hear from ICSOs who have been innovating in this area before 31 May 2019. We will confirm and co-develop ten case studies from international and national CSOs for in-depth profiling. Providing information on your innovation work will provide access to valuable opportunities to the increase visibility and recognition of what you have been doing across a wide and diverse sector audience.

The final report will launched at the Centre’s annual sector flagship conference Global Perspectives, in Addis Ababa from 30 October, which will brings together leaders from civil society, politics and business, with a focus on the legitimacy of civil society. The final case study submitters will be invited to showcase their innovative work as part of the report launch.

To let us know about your innovation, please visit https://www.surveymonkey.de/r/PGDF6MN or contact Vicky Tongue for more information. We hope to hear from you soon!

Vicky Tongue

Head of Futures and Innovation

International Civil Society Centre

Vicky Tongue is the International Civil Society Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation, leading our core initiatives on future trends, horizon scanning and civil society innovation. Vicky has more than 15 years’ senior programme management with several leading UK-based ISCOs, including Marie Stopes International, Article 19, CAFOD, ODI and Save the Children.


Developing a Blockchain Collaboration Model for Social Good

18th April 2019 by Andrea Christie

On 19–20th March, I was honoured to represent Blockchain Philanthropy Foundation (BPF) as the Chief Education Manager at the Blockchain For Social Impact Summit in New York, held by the Rockefeller Foundation. As a 2-Day conference co-hosted by the International Civil Society Centre and MercyCorps, its key purpose was to facilitate early thought-leadership discussion amongst blockchain entrepreneurs and leaders who are currently using this technology to create social impact. This meant establishing our interest in creating a global network where we could safely share our key industry learnings, ideas and resources, as well as create a set of universal standards that will help guide sustainable and ethical blockchain developments well into the future.

This exclusive invite-only event brought together 40 delegates from the civil society, financial, academic, government, technological and consulting industries. Organisations presented included Oxfam, Save the Children, UNICEF, the United Nations, IBM, Microsoft, University of Edinburgh, Accenture, ConsenSys and, of course, BPF. It was an incredible feeling to be sitting in the same room as so many leaders who wanted to plan for the future of blockchain technology.


Here are some of my key learnings and reflections from this conference:

There is a Need for a Blockchain Paradigm Shift

The first conference topic introduced the concept of the “blockchain paradigm shift”. Whereas organisations have generally adopted a tactical approach to focus on improving the technical efficiency of systems through blockchain technology, this conference signals the start of a new movement where diverse, socially-minded leaders are banding together to form future strategies on a more holistic and constitutional level.

And yet, how can we best collaborate in practice? And how can we ensure that these conversations will produce valuable and sustainable frameworks for future collaboration?

With a mission to develop a collaboration model that would help members of the blockchain community maximise their social impact, this summit sought to discuss these ideas and create cross-sectorial feedback loops. These activities stressed the importance of working together within the blockchain community to not only learn from each other, but also support each other in educating external parties and pushing legislation that will allow healthy experimentation within the blockchain for social impact economy.

Current Barriers to Blockchain Adoption

A main theme that continued to appear over the 2 days was the problems that we commonly faced as blockchain innovators and leaders. Firstly, we agreed that education awareness was a primary issue that threatened to prohibit our entrepreneurial progress. More specifically, it made it difficult for us, as organisation leaders, to get the necessary approval and funding to roll out our projects.

This directly ties in with another huge challenge — collaborating with policy-makers and regulators in developing clear guidelines on blockchain use. From my personal experience, our state government here in Melbourne is extremely supportive towards social entrepreneurship in the blockchain space. In addition, our regulatory offices such as the ATO are very helpful in answering organisational questions and in clearing up any cryptocurrency tax-related issues. However, upon discussing the various problems that other organisations faced, it soon became evident that many other governments around the world don’t share this same crypto-friendly approach. Consequently, many of the delegates mentioned that they would ideally like more assistance from regulators in clarifying legal compliance policies. It is important that we find ways to collaborate with policy-makers in creating economic safe zones (i.e. “sand boxes”) where we could safely experiment with social impact projects without penalty, before rolling these out into broader society.

On reflection, this has made me appreciate Melbourne’s crypto-friendly policy approach so much more. In fact, this might explain why Melbourne currently has such a strong fintech and blockchain social entrepreneurial community, with many successful pilots being based in Melbourne.

Blockchain Misconceptions Still Fuel Distrust in Blockchain Solutions

There were also a number of misconceptions that we, as organisational managers, faced as a collective. Particularly, there seemed to be a huge unease amongst charities in adopting blockchain regarding disintermediation. In other words, many feared that there would be a huge downsizing phenomenon, whereby many of their employees and volunteers would lose their jobs, or their entire operations would be made redundant due to technology. In some ways, this is not necessarily untrue, but this problem may need to be reframed. For example, when Oxfam International recently deployed a cryptocurrency donation solution in the Pacific region, they reported a huge reduction in intermediary steps that they would normally have to undertake to collect, distribute and send donations to the beneficiary. By increasing organisational leanness, this structural change ultimately led to greater social impact being delivered to victims.Additionally, this created new and exciting jobs for people in the education, consulting, research and technological spaces. As such, the main lesson to take away from this experience is to embrace this technology as a tool for developing new jobs and social impact outcomes for the future.


I was highly surprised (or extremely pleased, I should say!) by the high calibre of presentations. Coming from an academic research background, it was truly inspiring to recognise so many pioneers in the field — authors whom I had read extensively while researching material for my own PhD thesis back in Melbourne on “crypto governance solutions for charities”. One of these authors was Rhodri Davies from the Charities Aid Foundation, who had written some well-known articles on the history of charitable gift-giving and how blockchain is a relevant piece of the missing puzzle.

At this conference, I was given the fantastic opportunity to hear some of these revolutionary ideas in person, like the contemporary debate on blockchain vs. “human-based institutions” (what Davies defined as governing mechanisms that oversee, manage and control our societal interactions, including the humanitarian sector’s various donation distribution activities). Normally, we rely on third-party authorities, such as banks and regulatory or government bodies to create a transparent and trusting environment in which donors, beneficiaries, charity managers, contractors and regulators can work together on our charitable projects. Yet with this new introduction of automated technology, would this create new and daring challenges for us all? And would this solve some of our heavily entrenched societal problems, such as no longer mistrusting one another when we attempt to create social impact together? All in all, these questions made me think about the incredible change that’s yet to come. And hearing this straight from the academic who developed the underlying theory was certainly a rewarding experience.

I also learnt that creating a universal set of guidelines on a global, cross-sectoral level can be really challenging. While everyone present at the conference voiced a huge appetite for continuing these important thought-leadership discussions well into the future, it took a majority of the two days simply to identify our main unified goals moving forwards as a collective network. It was inspiring to hear about so many social impact projects around the world that have used blockchain technology with success. We were all willing to share our pilot failures, learnings and challenges in a safe and supportive environment, which I believe is an essential ingredient moving forwards in this highly dynamic, evolving and uncertain technological space. I was immensely proud to represent BPF at this world exclusive conference and am looking forward to keeping you updated on our follow-up conferences in the very near future.

Andrea Christie

Chief Education Manager

Blockchain Philanthropy Foundation

Andrea Christie is currently the Chief Education Manager at the Blockchain Philanthropy Foundation, where she provides educational courses to NGOs, philanthropists and civil societal leaders on harnessing new technologial innovations for UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) delivery. In academia, she is pursuing a PhD in Nonprofit Economics, with a passion for investigating distributed ledger technologies (e.g blockchain) as economic infrastructures for promoting trust in charitable giving. Through her research, she hopes to provide governing bodies with more informed knowledge on how best to treat these architectures when developing new policy and compliance regulations.


6 Good Resources on Blockchain for Social Good

18th March 2019 by Thomas Howie
International Civil Society Centre Strategy - events - Highschool children working together

From 19 – 20 March 2019, the Centre will hold its Blockchain For Social Good Summit in New York. We want to share 6 important and relevant readings with you on the potential of blockchain.

1. Blockchain for social impact moving beyond the hype – This report encompasses analysis of 193 organisations, initiatives, and projects that are leveraging blockchain to drive social impact.

2. Blockchain ethical design framework for social impact – This paper addresses why intentionality of design matters, identifies the key questions that should be asked and provides a framework to approach the use of blockchain, especially as it relates to social impact.

3. Seven design principles for using blockchain for social impact – seven design principles that can guide individuals or organisations considering the use of blockchain for social impact. We call these the Genesis principles, and they are outlined at the end of this article.

4. Blockchain for International Development: Using a Learning Agenda to Address Knowledge Gaps – Find out how MERL practitioners gauge the value of blockchain technology for development programming.

5. A Revolution in Trust: Distributed Ledger Technology in Relief &
Development
–  This article explains how blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT)  is poised to revolutionise our industries and the benefits of trusting them.

6. Block by Block – This report compares nine distributed ledger platforms on nearly 30 metrics related to the capabilities and the health of each project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thomas Howie

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Thomas joined the Centre in June 2017 as the Communications Coordinator. He is responsible for developing and implementing the Centre’s global communication strategy, as well as the Disrupt & Innovate platform – a place for civil society professionals and activists to discuss current innovations and future trends in the civil society sector. Prior to the Centre, Thomas worked for 5 years in the European Parliament firstly as the Digital and Social Media Coordinator for the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, and then, after the 2014 European elections, for Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen as Head of Communications, where he worked on issues such as the EU-US trade deal, issues around Brexit and as a specialist on the Petitions Committee. Thomas graduated from Bristol University with BSci in Geographical Sciences and holds an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, where he completed research into the role of civil society in the post war peace settlement in northern Uganda.


We failed with the Internet, will we fail with Blockchain?

6th February 2018 by Duncan Cook
Connected servers

Chapter 1: The Internet 

Today I read a journal article about the charity sector reaching a ‘digital tipping point’. My immediate thought was, “It’s 2018 and we have to ask ourselves is the civil society sector only now talking about a ‘digital tipping point’”.

The introduction of the internet and its plethora of services, knowledge sharing and mass communications has changed humanity for good and for bad. 

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say the charity sector missed the opportunity to truly use this new and exciting platform for good, yes there are some good exceptions. However, in general, we missed a big opportunity, instead, we let the commercial world dominate the direction and were left simply as consumers of those services and platforms.  

Why did we miss it?

In all honesty, we didn’t stand a chance;  

  • Our appetite for risk is low
  • We have limited funds 
  • We let others lead (i.e. we need that case study before we leap) 

Chapter 2: Blockchain 

Blockchain is in a real hype cycle, just like the internet back in 1999. And just like then, it has grown into a bubble. It will burst, however, and out of the other side, large companies will rise to take the lead, as was the case with the internet. We should be very concerned about that prospect. Blockchain has great potential. For example, there is a chance that the majority of money flows will shift to run on blockchains as cryptocurrencies. This would make it the biggest change in financial power, ever.   

Blockchain offers much more potential beyond simply currencies and assets, for example, there are big opportunities in voting operations, legal services (e.g. notary) and confirming your identity. There exist new opportunities and new hope, but the potential of this hope can only be fulfilled by good actors.  

This time we need you to be involved, not looking on from the sidelines waiting for others to lead, we need you to lead, we need you to seize the opportunity, take the risk and help shape it. If you don’t, then just like with the internet, you’ll leave a void that others will fill. 

Will we miss out on Blockchain? 

Well, the reasons we missed out on the internet are still true today;

  • Our appetite for risk is low
  • Limited funds are available
  • We let others lead and take that leap of faith

The first two reasons are solvable. If CSOs and Charities work together with partners to utilise and explore the opportunity, the risk is shared and funds are multiplied allowing us to move from simply talking and watching to taking real action. 

The big question for me is will you lead and help shape this space for good or follow and let others decide who wins and who loses? 

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Duncan Cook

CEO

3 SIDED CUBE

As Head of 3 SIDED CUBE Duncan founded the global digital agency to ‘Build Tech For Good’. A leader inspired by impact and not by numbers he has pushed for the team to create award-winning life-saving apps for clients including RNLI, IFRC and Mind. His vision to change the way people donate blood saw The American Red Cross revolutionise the donation process into a digital system that has created over $70million of revenue. Recognised for his drive to improve global disaster preparedness he was invited to The White House to present the agency’s work on the world’s largest alerting app which saves millions of lives in areas affected by tornados, earthquakes and other natural disasters every day


How are Blockchain and Big Data currently being used in the civil society sector?

30th January 2018 by Thomas Howie
International Civil Society Centre - A woman working on a laptop

The International Civil Society Centre is hosting its second Innovators Forum on 27-28 February 2018. The Forum will explore the benefits and possible uses of Blockchain and Big Data in the civil society sector. Before the Forum, guest authors will dive into specific examples or innovations around digitalisation and digital technology, in this week’s blog we want to give a brief overview of the main terms and some examples of their uses.

Many CSOs around the world have realised the potential linked to both Blockchain and Big Data and are currently experimenting with how these technologies can support their work.

BIG DATA – WHAT IS THAT?

The term Big Data refers to extremely large datasets that can be analysed for trends and correlations by connecting different data on a large scale. Due to the size and complexity of the data sets used, new links and patterns can be uncovered. This means that problems that were previously not possible – or simply too complex! – to explain can now be tackled. Most CSOs work with Big Data to improve knowledge about marginalised or ignored groups of people and to identify better ways to serve them. Here are three examples of how:

COLLECTING BIG DATA

Plan International is leading the way in developing a digital birth registration tool. Its aim is to help register the millions of undocumented births around the world to lay the groundwork for better health care, education and access to other government services. The system draws on mobile phone technology to reach people and places that governments fail to document, mostly due to the lack of resources.

USING BIG DATA

Caroline Buckee, a Harvard University epidemiologist, used the data of 15 million mobile phones in Kenya to demonstrate how human travel patterns contribute to the spread of malaria. Based on this data, she helped pinpoint where best to focus government efforts to control malaria.

CONNECTING THE DOTS OF BIG DATA

The Centre-hosted project Leave No One Behind is combining smaller data sets to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using evidence collected by ICSOs in four pilot countries, the goal is to identify the drivers of exclusion in local contexts, and support joint advocacy that will encourage governments to be accountable for their SDG promises.

BLOCKCHAIN – WHAT IS THAT?

Blockchain is a network technology can complete any kind of transactions or verification processes in a transparent way. It is a distributed ledger that everyone can view. Thus a transaction, sending a data block (hence the name), is viewable to all and not reversible or modifiable, making Blockchain transparent and accountable.

Many CSOs and social entrepreneurs are using Blockchain technology to increase the efficiency of their operations or increase accountability around the social issues they aim to tackle. Here are a few small examples:

TRANSFERRING FUNDS FASTER AND CHEAPER

Disberse facilitated the transfer of donations to a school in Swaziland using Blockchain-based technology, saving £375 in international bank transfer fees. The United Nations World Food Programme distributed cryptocurrency-based vouchers to 10,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.

INCREASING ACCOUNTABILITY IN SUPPLY CHAINS

Blockchain can be used to track and verify interactions between different actors around the globe. Bext360 and Fairfood International aim to ensure fair wages and prices for producers and farmers by monitoring the entire supply chains of coffee, coconuts and other products.

These are just a few examples of the way Big Data and Blockchain are being used to innovate in the civil society sector and beyond. We want to discover more ideas, case studies and stories with our partners, colleagues and friends from across civil society. We also want to look at some of the challenges that come with the use of these technologies: How do we ensure that data is properly secured and not misused? How do we design projects in an inclusive way and increase the number of people who benefit from technological opportunities?

The Innovators Forum will be a starting point, but we will cover different aspects of digitalisation and digital technology through the year 2018. If you want to get involved or share your own work in this space, get in touch!

Thanks to Bond for the inspiration for this article.

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Thomas Howie

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Thomas joined the Centre in June 2017 as the Communications Coordinator. He is responsible for developing and implementing the Centre’s global communication strategy, as well as the Disrupt & Innovate platform – a place for civil society professionals and activists to discuss current innovations and future trends in the civil society sector. Prior to the Centre, Thomas worked for 5 years in the European Parliament firstly as the Digital and Social Media Coordinator for the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, and then, after the 2014 European elections, for Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen as Head of Communications, where he worked on issues such as the EU-US trade deal, issues around Brexit and as a specialist on the Petitions Committee. Thomas graduated from Bristol University with BSci in Geographical Sciences and holds an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, where he completed research into the role of civil society in the post war peace settlement in northern Uganda.