Blockchain Based Financial Inclusion: Thesis Research

Here is a continuation of my research for my Masters Thesis project for connecting individuals affected by homelessness to financial resources. Stay tuned for a prototype on my next post. Previous Documentation

The market has grown since I last wrote about blockchain and the homeless. I’ve discovered a plethora of companies and blockchain companies alike attempting to solve for poverty and financial inclusion. Many of these efforts are laudable and some even groundbreaking. Some offer homeless people a way to receive money, others a digital identity and others record keeping for sensitive data. While most of these focus on homelessness at the individual level I wanted to see how the people at the institutional level: people collecting the data, caseworkers, system administrators, and designers were viewing solutions and what they still thought was missing.

Interviews

Exploring the Institutional space led me to some chance encounters with firms tackling homelessness in unique ways. Speaking with individuals from Community Solutions and the good Folks at Future laboratories the industry is ripe for change. At the institutional level, the public sector is ripe for change and they know it. They’re openly welcoming new solutions and embracing new technology. While specifically for homeless people, affordable housing is the obvious solution, institutions are open to providing resources and solutions on various platforms and at various touchpoints. One of the biggest themes is consolidation. While startups are looking to consolidate user data by having it exist on the blockchain so its accessible to the poverty-stricken institutions are looking to use blockchain to store data from systems so it's more widely accessible to different stakeholders within the institutional community whether that be government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

The solution we should be looking for

We haven’t found the perfect use case and maybe we never will. As an industry, we can’t agree on its application but there are two merits we can agree on: decentralization and accessibility. We are all in strong agreement that technology and resources of the future should be decentralized and accessible. But that is our accordance ends.

Current Landscape

Financial Inclusion Landscape

BanQu Alternative Credit Score Technology Provider) with a local bank. Their technology is to help the bank accelerate and simplify the screening process. BanQu focuses on communities stricken with poverty by allowing the unbanked user to create a digital identity and ledger of recorded transactions to start building a verified credit history. Outside of the user, Banqu offers a host of solutions for participating governments and companies: the ability to track aid disbursements down to anti-money laundering techniques.

World Remit A better and faster way to send money: around the world or domestically. Allows you to choose between cash pickup or bank deposit. Functions like a bank.

Stellar Antipoverty blockchain initiative focused on moving money faster and cheaper, sending money home, payments move as fast as email, low fees (0.01$) cover 600k transactions.

While all these platforms seem necessary the all fail to answer the single question regarding poverty. How can we provide people with resources and a stable social network? One of the major cures to poverty is the ability to rely on a strong social network. People who escape the system more often than not have of a strong support base of friends, family, benefactors, caseworkers, onlookers. etc. This is in addition to awareness of available resources make the possibilities endless. What good is infrastructure, resources, identity, and funds if you don’t have proper guidance on how to access them when to use them, how to improve your financial state. Our industry is hooked on providing tools that we support internally. This often works well for modern day users who have routines, friends, family bank accounts, etc. These individuals have a structure to their lifestyle. If your lifestyle doesn’t have any structure or sense of routine or familiarity the platforms you use should reflect that and act to compensate that. If not their not adequately serving you, but serving the user they want you to become without giving you the support to become it. The future of financial inclusion is less about tools and more about support. Afterall, inclusion without support is just tolerance.

Going Forward

Over the next coming weeks, I’ll be conducting interviews and making prototypes that test the notion that support should be offered externally and should be facilitated by the platforms. Embracing the idea of “collective impact” I want to structure a platform based on a community as much as it is based on resources. If we can galvanize a community to have a vested interest in an individual, while promoting resources, resource awareness and financial tools, said individual is more likely to overcome poverty and better their financial standing.