UNICEF & Blockchain

Learn more about the work of UNICEF Ventures’ Blockchain Team

Arianna Fowler, Blockchain Strategist, UNICEF
UNICEF's Blockchain team organizing a SURGE event
UNICEF Innovation
09 July 2020

UNICEF Ventures, part of UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, is tasked with exploring emerging technologies which have the potential to positively impact children and young people globally. Since 2015, the team has been researching and experimenting with blockchain technology and is excited to see the team continue to grow. 

UNICEF Ventures sees blockchain technology as having benefits in three main ways: 1) leveraging innovative financing models to distribute resources; 2) increasing the efficiency and transparency of internal processes, and; 3) incentivizing and encouraging the creation of open-source digital public goods. The approach the team takes to achieve these goals is via researching and prototyping with both internal and external stakeholders. 

The work of the team is primarily focused around the following four areas: 

1) The Venture Fund 

To stimulate the creation of open-source digital public goods, UNICEF makes early-stage investments in blockchain startups in both USD and cryptocurrency. Launched in 2014, the UNICEF Innovation Fund allows UNICEF to quickly assess, fund and grow open-source solutions that can improve children’s lives., UNICEF Ventures has been investing in blockchain startups since 2016. Learn more about our current cohort of companies here.  

Until 2019, all investments were made in USD, however, UNICEF will now be able to receive, hold and disburse donations of cryptocurrencies ether and bitcoin, through its newly-established UNICEF Cryptocurrency Fund. In a first for United Nations organizations, UNICEF will use cryptocurrencies to fund open source technology benefiting children and young people around the world. Learn more here.

2) Our Products

UNICEF Ventures is working on a variety of blockchain prototypes and products, working with our programmatic areas and our UNICEF country offices around the world, with the primary aim of increasing the efficiency & transparency of UNICEF processes. Below are a few samples of current work underway:   

In Kazakhstan, the team is exploring how the technology can be used to facilitate payments between UNICEF and its partners. Learn more about Digicus, a new tool enabling more efficient processes here. 

With the UN Innovation Network (UNIN), UNICEF is supporting the development of an interagency platform that allows any UN entity to learn and experiment with blockchain. Learn more about The Atrium here. 

UNICEF Ventures is leveraging a public blockchain 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

Participants joining UNICEF's SURGE hackathon in South Africa
UNICEF Innovation

3) Project Connect

UNICEF is looking at how blockchain can bring connectivity to schools in a more fair and transparent way, both in terms of providing new financing mechanisms, as well as streamlining necessary operational processes. 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. See how blockchain could play a role here.

4) Engagement

Education and training are foundational to incentivizing and enabling the creation digital public goods. UNICEF has launched SURGE, 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. UNICEF Ventures has hosted SURGE blockchain events around the world, from South Africa to Thailand and beyond.

UNICEF Ventures also participates in collaborative cross UN agency initiatives & projects, such as UNIN, with the aim of collectively experimenting and sharing learnings around blockchain. Learn more our UN blockchain learning course here.

Have questions? Want to get involved? Contact us at blockchain@unicef.org.

Funding Opportunity:

Do you have a blockchain solution that can benefit humanity? Looking for investment? UNICEF Innovation Fund launches another round of funding supporting companies to develop their solution further with $100K in USD and/or cryptocurrency.