Blockchain for Social Impact

Blockchain for Social Impact

Doug J. Galen, Nikki Brand, Lyndsey Boucherle, Rose Davis, Natalie Do, Ben El-Baz, Isadora Kimura, Kate Wharton, Jay Lee
Center for Social Innovation, RippleWorks. April
11, 2018

The promise — and potential — of blockchain to drive social impact is massive, but how much of it is hype and how much is reality?

Proponents contend blockchain will touch, if not disrupt, every major industry and will even alter the way that people and societies interact. Technology that increases efficiency, reduces costs, and promotes transparency can have significant implications for sectors that are dedicated to driving social impact. The potential to transform systems and leapfrog infrastructure can enable solutions that previously weren’t thought to be possible.

But the question remains: Are we at the pinnacle of a history-altering technology that will drive massive social impact, or is blockchain the latest tech buzzword — more noise than substance?

This study is a result of an analysis of 193 organizations, initiatives, and projects that are leveraging blockchain to drive social impact. By mapping and cataloging the landscape of such blockchain applications, our research captured which applications have already begun to demonstrate proven social impact, which industries and use cases are more or less advanced, and what we should be learning from the hundreds of test cases, pilots, and experiments that are using blockchain for social impact.

Key findings include:

We’re Still in the Early Days, but Impact Is Close

Blockchain initiatives dedicated to social impact are still early-stage — 34% were started in 2017 or later, and 74% are still in pilot / idea stage. But, 55% of social-good blockchain initiatives are estimated to impact beneficiaries by the end of 2018.

Blockchain Enables Solutions Not Previously Possible

Of the 193 blockchain initiatives researched, 20% are providing a solution would not otherwise have been possible without blockchain, and 86% are material improvements over existing solutions.

The Health Sector Has Attracted More Initiatives Than Any Other Sector

The health sector saw nearly twice as much activity (25% of all initiatives) than the next leading sector, Financial Inclusion (13%). Philanthropy and Aid and Democracy and Governance (both 11%) were the next most active sectors.

Blockchain Is Most Often Used to Facilitate Payments and Verify Records

The leading use cases for blockchain are records and verification (26%) and payments and money transfers (25%). Blockchain’s most popular primary benefits are reducing risk and fraud (38%) and increasing efficiency (24%).