Report reveals how orgs are using blockchain for social impact

A new study profiles 193 social impact organisations and initiatives that are leveraging blockchain, the technology behind digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

Chloe Green | 13th Apr 18
Image: Kelly Sikkema, Upsplash

The promise of blockchain technology to drive social impact is said to be huge. A new report, ‘Blockchain for Social Impact: moving beyond the hype‘ released this week explores how much of it is hype and how much reality.

The study by Stanford University’s Center for Social Innovation and non-profit foundation RippleWorks analysed 193 social impact organisations and initiatives that are leveraging blockchain, the technology behind digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

“Are we at the pinnacle of a history- altering technology that will drive massive social impact, or is blockchain the latest tech buzzword — more noise than substance?” asks the report.

Bitcoin became the first decentralised digital currency, or digital ‘cash’ system that allows people to exchange money instantly, without having to go through intermediaries like banks. Its creation has led to over 1,500 cryptocurrencies that get purchased and traded globally.

Its underlying technology, blockchain, is a digital, secure, public record book of transactions that is linked in a chain with other blocks of data. This makes it a highly secure, transparent and fast to do things like facitilitate payments and verify records.

By mapping and cataloguing the landscape of such blockchain applications, the research captured which applications have already begun to demonstrate proven social impact, which industries and use cases are more or less advanced, and what we should be learning from the hundreds of test cases, pilots, and experiments.

Blockchain initiatives dedicated to social impact are still early-stage — 34% were started in 2017 or later, and 74% are still in pilot / idea stage. But 55% of social-good blockchain initiatives are estimated to impact beneficiaries by the end of 2018.

Of the 193 blockchain initiatives researched, 20% are providing a solution would not otherwise have been possible without blockchain.

The health sector is seeing a particular interest in blockchain, with nearly twice as much activity (25% of all initiatives) than the next leading sector, financial inclusion (13%). Other sectors trying out blockchain projects include philanthropy and aid, democracy and governance, energy, climate and environment, and agriculture.