The UNICEF CryptoFund

What is it all about?

Christina Lomazzo, Blockchain Lead & Mehran Hydary, Product Manager
essica Marques, 20, checks her mobile phone underneath a tree in a park in Taiobeiras municipality in the Southeastern state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.
UNICEF/UN017601/Ueslei Marcelino
23 December 2020

In October 2019, UNICEF launched the CryptoFund, a new financial vehicle allowing UNICEF to receive, hold, and disburse cryptocurrency - a first for the UN.

The CryptoFund is a pooled fund of bitcoin and ether. It is a part of UNICEF's Innovation Fund, with the distinction that investments made through the CryptoFund are denominated in crypto. By sharing the public records of crypto transfers, the CryptoFund aspires to create visibility for the donor and the public, adding a layer of transparent accounting to the donation and investment processes. The CryptoFund is a prototype fund for UNICEF to explore the use of digital currencies, and what it means to operate in a digitally-financed future. 

Why Cryptocurrency?

Simply put: Transparency. Efficiency. Digital by Default. The CryptoFund is a way for UNICEF to learn about a new digital asset class, and in line with goals of the Office of Innovation, explore possible futures that UNICEF may operate in – whether it be cryptocurrencies, central bank digital currencies, or any other type of digital currencies, UNICEF will have a better understanding of what is required to operate in this new context. Through the CryptoFund, UNICEF is leveraging the transparent nature of blockchain transactions, while at the same time benefiting from the low cost of sending value. 

In addition, over the past few years we’ve seen the increased desire for donors to contribute using cryptocurrency and to see their donation used as cryptocurrency (ie. not have it converted to local fiat currency). Why’s that? By keeping crypto in its native form, UNICEF, donors, recipients, and the public can track where the money is going and how it is being spent, providing an unprecedented level of transparency in the funding and NGO space. From the investment side, when cryptocurrency is being used to transfer value to companies, UNICEF is then able to track where the funds are being spent. In keeping crypto crypto, transfers can be made to investees around the world in under a few minutes for under a few dollars. In the context of our Venture Fund, cryptocurrency is an additional way for UNICEF to make investments into early-stage startups in emerging and developing economies. If you’re not familiar with our Venture Fund structure at UNICEF, you can learn more here.  

National Ambassador Bojana Gregoric Vejzovic is playing a computer game about child rights with children.

Investments to Date  

At the one-year anniversary of the launch of the CryptoFund, UNICEF has made 12 investments into startups across eight countries. Investments have been made in startups working on data science, extended reality & virtual reality, artificial intelligence and blockchain solutions.  

Supporting the CryptoFund with New Tools - Introducing Juniper 

Our team sought out to create a set of tools that could be used at UNICEF to explain why and how cryptocurrencies are flowing through the organisation (see donations coming see and track donations to startups). Furthermore, we wanted to create a set of tools that could be used not only at UNICEF, but at any organisation that is looking to interact with cryptocurrencies... enter Juniper.  

Juniper is a set of tools to help public sector organisations use cryptocurrencies. They are a suite of web applications that have been created and validated by UNICEF and the cryptocurrency ecosystem. There is a visualisation website, a portfolio tool, and extensive research around the custodianship of cryptocurrencies. The tools help organisations track and monitor cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether in a user-friendly and transparent manner. 

Juniper - Visualisation Tool 

The visualisation tool is a web application that was created to help the general public understand how and why UNICEF is using cryptocurrencies (and the CryptoFund). The application is currently deployed here

UNICEF CryptoFund website
UNICEF Innovation

Juniper - Portfolio Tool   

The portfolio tool is a web application that was created to help the different teams at UNICEF understand how cryptocurrencies are flowing through the organisation. It reduces the barrier to entry for someone new to the cryptocurrency world to start understanding some of the key fundamentals (e.g. wallets and transactions) and how it is relevant to an organisation. The code for the platform is available here

Juniper is a set of tools to help public sector organisations use cryptocurrencies.
UNICEF Innovation
Juniper is a set of tools to help public sector organisations use cryptocurrencies.

Now what? 

UNICEF is currently working with UN agencies and government organisations to roll out Juniper to have these organisations also interact with cryptocurrencies. 

Over the next few months, we will continue to work closely with our users and interested organisation to improve the products that we are creating to make them easier to use for countries, users, and people around the world.