UNICEF Innovation Fund Graduate: Coinsence (Utopixar)
Enabling communities working on social impact causes to create their own currencies to mobilize resources and generate impact.
The UNICEF Innovation Fund is proud to see portfolio member, Coinsence Services (formerly Utopixar) graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better, strengthening their business model, and gearing up to take their solution to market. With the newly established company Coinsence Services, they’re now ready to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community.
At Coinsence Services, we enable communities working on social impact causes to create their own currencies to mobilize resources and generate impact. With our solution, communities with common values and missions can create their own currencies in a decentralized, participative and transparent way. These community currencies can be used to make collective funding decisions, trace transactions, reward contributions and to mobilize further resources across different sectors.
In the past 12 months, we have grown our team and mobilized supporters with diverse backgrounds from different sectors contributing to our project. We have engaged with communities and organizations on several pilots to validate their needs and develop our solution in an iterative way. Within the ecosystem we are fostering an environment whereby impact investors, business sponsors and different organizations can allocate resources to community-led projects.
Coinsence project has built a network of 1300 members who were able to easily start experimenting with complementary digital currencies.
We have worked with several partners on identifying the different social and environmental challenges which can be addressed by dedicated community currencies. Now, we are working with selected stakeholders on further use cases where we will use community currencies to facilitate value exchange and increase flexibility and efficiency in ecosystems which contribute to the SDGs.
For our initial approach we introduced a common community currency (Coinsence Community Coin) and built a community around the currency’s mission. Community users were able to allocate coins to their selected projects. We started the testing phase by implementing the community currency creation and transaction functionality on top of an open source social collaboration platform.
First, users create a crowd-funding campaign to collect coins. Thereafter, users implement the crowd-sourcing process for a project: creating different tasks, allocate coins to these tasks and assign them to a contributor. To create the value for the coins and show coin owners the benefits, we have implemented a marketplace to motivate merchants and private users to offer services, products and discounts in exchange for coins.
Below are images of an example of offer in the marketplace:
Our solution helps sponsors and potential collaborators to identify projects with innovative and effective solutions and facilitates the connection to the relevant stakeholders and the access to the needed expertise and resources. With common means of accounting and exchange, different parties can effectively share resources to contribute either directly to the implementation of solutions or to offer incentives for contributors. Incentives can be benefits like free time offered by employers to socially active employees or can be products and discounts offered by business to socially engaged customers. These benefits are offered in exchange for diverse community currencies, which act as proof-of-contribution to a specific impact.
With several partners, a project “Enfant Créateur” supporting orphaned children has been performed in the summer of 2019 using Coinsence Community Coins and platform as a means to engage supporters and partners in different tasks and as an instrument to reward contributors. The SOS Akouda kids were able to gain new skills and to build perspectives on their educational and professional paths. At the same time, organizations and partners were excited and thrilled to use the platform to reward their members and volunteers for their contributions to make this project happen.
The most memorable event we had was the SDG hackathon with a University in Tunis. In parallel to the standard jury base selection process, we offered projects the opportunity to start a crowd-voting campaign to collect coins. After an hour we were quite surprised by the number of users in our platform, doubling from approx. 400 to 800 members. The students showed impressive marketing talent by starting a competition via social media to mobilize a high number of students from their universities.
Another memorable event was a workshop with representatives of civil society in the south of Tunisia which was organized by UNICEF Tunisia. The participants were comparably older to our typical user base (between 40 and 65 years old) and had a lot of experience and networks in the non-profit sector. We were expecting high skepticism toward digital solutions and thought it would be a challenge to talk about blockchain. The opposite was the case as participants quickly started adding their projects to the platform using their smartphones. A participant aptly summarized that...
“Our community is used to collaborate to bundle synergies and exchange value to solve our own problems. Now instead of using our own credit systems in our minds for only mutual value exchange, we can build trust and transparency across a bigger network.”
Open Source Technology
We were able to build our solution on already existing open source solutions. This was a big benefit for us as we did not have to invest resources to reinvent the wheel and we did not have to bind ourselves to proprietary solutions which we cannot change.
By keeping our solution open source, other communities can build upon and further develop the solution and thus create shared value for all. There is still a lot to do for us as a team and for other change-makers and innovators to enable a transformation and achieve the sustainable development goals. By sharing our knowledge and assets, we increase the chance that others can build on what we created and make the next steps better than us. This is how we can ensure that the time and resources we have invested bear fruit.
From the beginning, it was clear that whatever solutions and ecosystems we create shall be owned and controlled by the people who use them. Our vision in Coinsence Services is to foster a decentral value creation ecosystem giving people direct power and freedom to shape the ecosystem and removing central control, even from our team as initiators.
With the support of UNICEF mentors, we were able to build a sustainable impact scaling strategy rather than a business growing strategy. We have also put emphasis on how different parties can contribute, engage their networks and resources and also sustain their activities to grow the ecosystem and increase its economic value and social impact.
Considering we are introducing new collaboration concepts with new financial instruments and economic models to organizations, our biggest challenge is in engaging bigger organizations and sponsors that have a large number of people - all of which are needed to leverage the network effect and create the value of reciprocity. During community building activities and workshops, we have learned to map our story to the target groups and to create awareness about their possibilities to introduce their own currencies to address common challenges.
From a technical perspective, the main challenge is to build easy, user friendly tools that can mask the complexity of the blockchain technology. These tools should also be designed flexibly and interoperably enough to cover different use cases and needs while also guaranteeing data sovereignty and connecting communities to avoid the creation of fragmented ecosystems and closed collaboration silos.
Our goal is to scale the ecosystem we are building, increase the interactions and mobilize the needed resources to contribute to several projects that address SDG’s. We will focus here with selected associations and partners on Universities, social innovation hubs and non-profit projects related to children and youth and will engage diaspora to also remotely contribute to projects with expertise and resources.
Our focus will be on empowering change-makers and building common resources that support grass-root initiatives and social innovation.
We plan to conduct several pilots with partners addressing different use cases with the goal to identify the best approaches, create the needed tools and show alternative ways how we can build scalable financial solutions that are better able to address local and global challenges.
Working with the UNICEF Innovation Fund
The UNICEF Innovation Fund team was a big support for us, and we have gained sound support to move the project ahead. The local team of UNICEF Tunisia welcomed us from the first day and helped us to better understand their ecosystem in Tunisia and to connect to the right stakeholders. They helped us identify the most relevant needs and the biggest potential which had a big influence on our solution and strategy. We are looking forward to further collaboration opportunities.
About the UNICEF Innovation Fund:
UNICEF’s Innovation Fund invests up to $100k in early stage, open-source, emerging technology digital public goods with the potential to impact children on a global scale. It also provides product and technology assistance, support with business growth, access to a network of experts and partners to allow for scale and growth. The investments can go either to UNICEF Country Offices or to private sector companies in UNICEF programme countries.