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.
If you do an internet search for ‘data-driven disruption’ you can find articles about almost every industry being disrupted by digitalisation and new applications of data. Banking, transportation, healthcare, retail, and real estate, all have seen the emergence of new business models fundamentally changing how customers use their services. While there are instances of data-driven efforts in the nonprofit sector, they are not as widespread as they can be. Bridgespan Group estimated in 2015 that only 6% of nonprofits use data to drive improvements in their work.
At the same time, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have set a very ambitious global change agenda and we won’t be able to meet their targets by doing business as usual. To achieve the SDGs requires new ideas across the board: new solutions, new sources of funding, new ways of delivering services and new approaches to collaborating within and across social, public and private sectors.
The private sector already very successfully uses data analytics and machine learning not only to realise efficiency gains but also – even more importantly – to create completely new services and business models. For example, applying machine learning to wind forecasting is expected to reduce uncertainty in wind energy production by more than 45% and will allow utilities to integrate wind more easily with traditional forms of power supply. And entirely new utility start-ups such as Drift use machine learning technologies to provide customers with cheaper wholesale energy prices by more accurately predicting consumption.
In the nonprofit sector, early applications of data analytics and machine learning have mostly focused on improving fundraising and marketing. In a next step, the broader adoption of data analysis techniques and tools has the potential to help nonprofits increase their programmatic impact as well as identify completely new ways of achieving their mission.
As these approaches become more mature and wide-spread in their application their impact will go much beyond making workflows more efficient. They have the potential to fundamentally disrupt how we work and what we define as our core competencies. Today, it may seem challenging to move towards a future where recommending who to support and how could be largely automated. I also don’t want to minimise the challenges in this scenario: the availability of required data and the privacy issues involved.
However, I want to encourage us to actively embrace and shape this future as its potential for positive impact is immense. We need to work together to ensure that the automation involved in these techniques and tools will provide valuable insights that support humans in making thoughtful and effective decisions, free up our valuable and constrained resources and focus them on those parts of our work that truly make a difference in people’s lives.