Exploring blockchain applications to accelerate impact

Blockchain image
UNICEF Office of Innovation

Blockchain technologies are introducing new systems of trust and exchange on which users can send value directly from one party to another without the need for intermediaries.

Blockchain systems have no central points of control, are powered by the internet, and are governed by computer code normally referred to as smart contracts. Digital currencies (e.g bitcoin) are famous applications of blockchain technologies, nevertheless, these technologies have promises that go beyond currencies or financial transactions.

UNICEF Ventures explores these technologies, with the potential to impact children and young people globally. The team sees blockchain technology as having benefits in 3 main ways: 1) strengthening resources through innovative financing models; 2) increasing the efficiency and transparency of internal processes, and; 3) fundamentally disrupting broken systems to deliver programmes for children in new ways. The approach to achieving this is by researching and prototyping with both internal and external stakeholders.

To understand the technical, social, ethical, and legal challenges of utilizing blockchain technologies in our complex and interconnected world — the team is exploring this space with open eyes on practical experimentations of cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, digital scarcity, digital collectibles and various types of tokens.

Blockchain event
KX Made

We’re working on integrating blockchain technology and supporting programmatic applications in several areas.

  • Investing in open-source blockchain projects through our UNICEF Venture Fund. The Fund is the first financial vehicle of its kind in the UN, & makes $50-100K investments in portfolios of emerging technology. Learn more here.
  • Developing prototypes, for internal processes or addressing development issues. A summary of our approach & past work can be found in this MIT article.
  • Leading blockchain learning events & hackathons globally via SURGE, to enable local communities, & develop open source solutions that continuously build upon one another to address challenges. Read more here
  • Participating in collaborative cross UN agency initiatives & projects, such as the United Nations Innovation Network (UNIN),with the aim of collectively experimenting and sharing learnings around blockchain. Learn more about our newest interagency blockchain project, The Atrium, here.



UNICEF Innovation Fund

Prescrypto is a 2018 Venture Fund portfolio company focused on securing and tracking prescriptions using blockchain technology. Learn more here.

Through the Venture Fund, UNICEF Ventures has been investing in blockchain startups since 2016. Learn more about our current cohort of companies here.


Hackathon in Mexico City, 2018

On-the-Ground Learning

SURGE is an immersive series of events that invites young people to learn new skills, while at the same time exploring where blockchain could play a role in addressing global challenges.

As of today, UNICEF Ventures has hosted SURGE events around the world, from South Africa to Thailand and beyond. SURGE is comprised of a one-day learning event and two-day hackathon, allowing participants to not only learn something new but put it to use almost immediately.


School Mapping on Project Connect

Project Connect

Project Connect is an initiative that aims to map every school in the world. The goal is to provide real-time data assessing the quality of each school’s internet connectivity, eventually creating an observable metric of society’s progress towards enabling access to information and opportunity for every community. See the live map here.

With blockchain, Project Connect can provide users visibility into how donations are being used to connect schools around the world, what speed of internet each of the connected schools has, and managing the contracts between a region of schools and an internet service provider.



Certifications via Blockchain

UNICEF Ventures is leveraging a public blockchain, Ethereum, to make claims in a transparent and immutable way. In the first phase of the prototype, certificates were issued confirming the participation of organizations who tested in our drone corridors. Learn more here.

Contact us

Please reach out to blockchain [at] unicef [dot] org