This interview is part of a series of interviews featuring Fintech influencers who are doing work that advances our efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
LATTICE80, in collaboration with FinTech4Good, presents the complete list of Top 100 Fintech for SDG Influencers who are leveraging the power of fintech and blockchain technology to create a positive impact on the future. LATTICE80 is launching our accelerator programme based in Hong Kong to help SDG-focused startups build blockchain solutions. Are you a SDG-focused startup? Click here to indicate your interest.
Disclaimer: The interviews are published on a rolling basis and the order by which they are published by no means representative of any rankings.
1. Tell us more about what you do and how your role or project is making an impact. How do they support the SDGs?
Currently, I serve as the Global Social Impact Lead at ConsenSys, the leading firm within the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency market. I helped co-found the ConsenSys Social Impact practice in an effort to create an organization dedicated to the application of blockchain technology across the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals in collaboration with social enterprise and NGO stakeholders. I also co-founded the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition (BSIC), which was the first blockchain focused, social sector consortium initiative within the ecosystem, and the Bifrost Initiative, a nonprofit consortium of blockchain companies and NGOs seeking to affect positive change in the evolution of cash transfer programming (CTP) and Microfinance. Collectively, these initiatives seek to (1) form an ecosystem of collaboration across blockchain technologists and social practitioners, (2) develop iterative experiments testing how blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies can build upon pre-existing social sector solutions and progress against recurrent problem statements, and (3) co-develop social sector-centric research focused on how to apply blockchain technology across use cases.
Throughout these engagements, I have worked across 14 projects, 11 research initiatives, developed over a dozen partnerships and created 2 consortia (BSIC and Bifrost Initiative). Our collaborators include Harvard Shine, the University of Michigan, the U.S. State Department, UNOPS, the World Food Program, the Human Rights Foundation, MakerDao, the Ethereum Foundation, and Black Girls CODE, among many others
2. Why do you see Fintech and/or Blockchain in particular as an important enabler in creating a social impact?
Fintech is the basis of how we transfer and capture new forms of value from economic epicenters like Wall Street to incredibly impactful solutions like digitized conditional cash transfer. As blockchain technology enables new forms of organizational interoperability, we’ll start to see a rich network of socially impactful ecosystems merge to provide under-resourced communities a more consistent, accountable, and sustainable support system. UN Agencies will be able to streamline the refugee support process across continents by leveraging standardized digital identity and cash transfer practices without siloing helpful beneficiary data. Mercy Corps and the Red Cross will be able to transfer millions of dollars in cash aid in a more secure and transparent manner to hundreds of thousands of people in need. Thus, the social sector (and maybe even the financial sector) will regain the trust of philanthropists and of the common consumer alike. The hope is to increase the availability of social mobility by making financial services and democratic rights more accessible to 80% of the world’s population that live on less than $10 a day.
3. What are some challenges you face along the way?
There are many people-problems obstructing what we know technology and collaboration can accomplish today. The politics of ‘messaging’ should not overtake the importance of helping others – that should be the highest priority for stakeholders leading this work. Stakeholders in the blockchain ecosystem need to cross-pollinate their ideas and capabilities with social impact practitioners on an increasingly recurrent basis, as it is easy to build something no one can use, and hard to build something that works even in the most disparate parts of the world. Lastly, the Fintech-for-good space needs to be more inclusive of marginalized narratives and diverse leadership, as those individuals can insert the cultural context needed to evolve average solutions into globally impactful platforms for change.
4. What more do you think is needed in the ecosystem to support and facilitate creating a greater social impact?
There is a great need for consortia that bring emerging technology stakeholders and social impact practitioners together to teach one another, co-develop research to teach others, and collaborate on sandboxed experiments to more quickly and responsibly transition the capabilities of technology into the field. An influx in commercial capital that is willing to invest in social enterprise could also increase the feasibility of leveraging technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrency in social sector contexts. Lastly, new value transfer policies need to be recommended to government stakeholders to prepare for the solutions of the future (and not outlaw what could potentially save many lives).
5. What do you hope to see or achieve in 10 years’ time?
I hope to contribute toward the evolution of Cash Aid 2.0, where value transfer in the social sector becomes hyper-transparent in ways that both keep NGOs accountable but also commit capital to communities that need it most in a responsible and efficient manner. Cash Aid focused solutions will provide a tool to more quickly respond to international crisis and find sustainable ways in which we can collectively realize a more equitable future socioeconomically. Ultimately, I hope to co-lead the development of ‘social-impact-driven capital markets’ that marry the financial market’s expectation of a ROI and social sector’s need for increased investment by more fluidly leveraging localized social impact bonds (SIBs), carbon permits, and recyclables as digitized (and maybe even tokenized) forms of value that can be invested in and exchanged to help direct billions of dollars into the sustainable project and social enterprise ecosystems. Such a market would provide the capital needed (over $2.3B) to achieve and sustain the UN’s SDGs.