Blockchain Technology and International Development: Challenges, Opportunities and Innovations
One-day workshop on 22 May 2018, Coin Street Conference Centre, Waterloo, London
Hosted by the OxChain research project
This workshop will explore the practical and political implications of blockchain technology for international development. Blockchain technology underpins public transaction ledgers which enable secure, immutable peer-to-peer transactions of value without centralized intermediaries like banks or governments, challenging power relations and practices in value exchange (Speed and Maxwell 2015; Nissen et al. 2017). While the best-known application remains the cryptocurrency bitcoin, there has recently been a proliferation of blockchain start-ups and experimental projects in international development. These include new ways to certify identity in emergency situations, direct cash transfers, ethical and transparent supply chains, transparent donations and spending, and secure and immutable certification for contested assets such as land titles and conservation 'assets'. This workshop is interested in investigating the challenges, questions and possibilities which arise from blockchain in the field of international development, with a focus on large organisations like donors and international NGOs. Contributions may address the following themes, though we also encourage participants to co-define this emerging research area.
Theme 1: The Future of Giving
Blockchain promises radically new ways to exchange money and value in international development. Contributors to this session may wish to explore new forms of philanthropy through blockchain such as: New forms of direct giving; the fundraising potential of digital currency, the implications of programmable currency for the distribution of aid; the disintermediation of giving; the potential for large NGOs to establish and secure their own ethical currencies; and, what it means to be able to attach conditions to donations.
Theme 2: Power, Governance and Decentralization
In this session we welcome papers addressing the theme of power relations, governance and the decentralization of development organisations. As blockchain technology disrupts current patterns of power by enabling new ways of governing identity and exchange, what might it mean for international development to be managed collectively and not by one person or authority? We also wish to consider how large NGOs might wish to contribute to debates around the governance of blockchain and cryptocurrencies (for example, how they are considering exposure to cryptocurrency volatility and legislation around data, privacy and security such as Anti-Terror Funding).
Theme 3: Current Innovations, Use Cases and Practices in Blockchain
In this session we welcome current uses of blockchain technology in international development. This might include current use-cases and evaluations of recent applications. We are also interested in broader research which expands on the social, material and political embeddedness of blockchain in an international development context.
Those interested in participating should send a proposed title and abstract of around 250 words to Kate Symons – firstname.lastname@example.org – by Monday 23 April 2018. We are interested in contributions from the academic community and from international development practitioners. Informal enquiries about the workshop can also be sent using the email address above.
Nissen, B., Symons, K.,Tallyn, E., Speed, C., Maxwell, D., Vines, J. New Value Transactions: Understanding and Designing for Distributed Autonomous Organisations, Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference Companion Publication on Designing Interactive Systems, June 10-14, 2017, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Speed, C., & Maxwell, D. (2015). Designing through value constellations. Interactions, 22(5), 38-43.