These 5 Women Are Using Blockchain To Empower Communities
All around the world, people are discovering new ways to use the power of blockchain technology. When the decentralized database was first introduced in 2008, it was used to trade Bitcoin. But over the past few years, many have developed ways to use blockchain to empower communities — through everything from worldwide fundraising to the creation of secure digital identities. To celebrate Acer’s Make Your Mark campaign, we are showcasing five inspiring women who are leading organizations that use blockchain technology to give back.
Thea Sommerseth Myhren
Thea Sommerseth Myhren is the founder and CEO of Diwala, a blockchain-based skill platform that gives displaced people the ability to verify their educational and personal growth. For the last nine years, Myhren traveled around the world exploring her passion for human rights and ethics. During her travels, she became frustrated with the bureaucracy that kept people from moving forward in their lives. She turned to tech in hopes of disrupting the existing structure, and started Diwala in 2017.
“Our first and foremost metric is how we can provide positive impact toward refugees, migrants and displaced people with our platform,” explained Myhren. “We believe Diwala must be built from the ground up, in constant collaboration and iteration with the people we design for. This metric is quite embedded into our design decisions, that we listen to people and embrace empathy and diversity. We hope to build a tool that changes people’s opportunities.”
Myhren is using blockchain to create a transparent and streamlined system that can increase opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship for displaced people. Through Diwala, they can provide verified proof of personal education and skill level. She hopes this tech can offer freedom and dignity to those in need by enabling democracy, challenging corruption and changing the power dynamics of data.
“I feel decentralized technology should be offered where it solves real problems. In markets it has been trapped by long-term challenges for too long, which always affect people that deserve it least,” said Myhren. “It’s not easy, and it takes time. It drives me through hard days, because I know so many people that deserve better. They should not be judged by realities they can’t control, which is why my team and I want to build something that showcases their strength, creativity and skill.”
Chris Zhong is the founder and president of Blockchain Philanthropy Foundation, a nonprofit organization that enables and accelerates humanitarian projects and initiatives worldwide through blockchain technology. Zhong launched her organization in 2017, and recruited volunteers from a variety of different backgrounds to help her mission of bridging the gap between technology and philanthropy.
“We are committed to changing the world by providing thought leadership in the social good space,” said Zhong. “We want to connect NFPS [non-financial public sector] corporations, governments, philanthropists and the blockchain community together to build a better future. Our team speaks at conferences to voice the challenges that vulnerable communities face, and how blockchain can help. We also have various research projects in collaboration with academics and NFPS in areas like cryptoeconomics, infrastructure for charities, health care and cryptocurrency donation.”
Zhong sees the potential for blockchain to help humanitarian projects in a whole new way through aspects like its cryptographically secure ledger, which can prevent fraud, and the transparency that will bring visibility to the whole supply chain.
“At the moment, there [is] a lot of hype around blockchain, especially cryptocurrencies,” said Zhong. “I think it is important for us in the technology space to be role models and do something practical to bring the real value of blockchain to the vulnerable communities.”
Daisy Ozim has a background in community organizing and public policy. After she was introduced to blockchain in 2016, she decided to bring the worlds of social justice and tech together. Ozim went on to found Blockchain for Social Justice, a collective of individuals who support the development of blockchain projects that serve the most vulnerable, as well as Resilient Wellness, a nonprofit that uses a public health blockchain to promote system and policy change and health-care improvement.
“Blockchain for Social Justice is an education and advocacy platform where marginalized communities have access to developer training,” said Ozim. “They can learn how to be an investor, like how to read white papers and get a [crypto] wallet, and how to be an entrepreneur, like how to develop their own blockchain. A lot of my work is actually in developing blockchain infrastructure and systems that can help address issues.”
Ozim was disappointed by the fact that many who were using blockchain for social impact weren’t familiar with the challenges these communities were actually dealing with, like wealth inequality or intergenerational trauma. Her unique background in community organizing has helped bridge that gap.
“Right now, we are working with the Blockchain Cities Alliance to promote the use of blockchain to develop and address gaps in infrastructure for the public sector,” said Ozim. “We are working on blockchain for some agricultural projects that address how to decentralize the environmental incentive market so folks who put work into farming and production get the most benefit when it goes to retail.”
Connie Gallippi is the founder and executive director of BitGive, a nonprofit that uses Bitcoin and blockchain technology to improve public health and the environment worldwide. Before starting her organization in 2013, Gallippi didn’t have a tech background. She had worked in the environmental field before becoming a consultant for nonprofits. When she saw the promise of blockchain, she decided to use the technology to give back.
“Over the years, it has been a slow process of introducing the technology to NGOs in the simplest ways we can. It can be very intimidating and overwhelming. When we first started, it was very early on in the industry, so a lot of what we did was talking to mainstream charities about the technology and why they should be interested in it and the benefits,” explained Gallippi. “An easy way to do that was to open the doors to fundraising for them in Bitcoin. When you don’t have to go through the traditional system of banks and governments, the money gets there a lot faster, it is much less expensive and with Bitcoin, it is also cryptographically secure, so you know it is getting to who it was intended to get to.”
Through her nonprofit, Gallippi has helped raise funds for organizations like Save The Children, The Water Project and Medic Mobile. Through blockchain, she has also developed GiveTrack, which helps create transparency for nonprofit donors by tracking the funds they donate and showing how they are spent.
“With blockchain technology you can actually watch what is happening in real time, and you can see money moving across borders and being used for different things. In the philanthropic world, that is a huge thing, to be able to see the money get there and what it was used for.”
Elle Toussi is the founder of In One Minute, a group that is helping women regain their identities through the use of blockchain. As a journalist, Toussi traveled the world and saw firsthand how this tech could positively impact communities. Toussi was introduced to blockchain in 2014, and started to explore ways it could provide social good solutions like the creation of digital IDs.
“Last year, I found out that more than one billion people don’t have access to proper identification,” explained Toussi. “I realized that the majority of that population were located in vulnerable communities and involved a big number of women. Blockchain can help these communities. By giving someone access to their identification, we can give them access to health care, financial freedom and even work.”
Toussi’s organization is dedicated to helping those who need it most by creating these digital identities, which reinstate dignity and independence for these individuals by giving them access to basic needs.
“Newer technologies, like blockchain, can make processes much more efficient. It is such an amazing time to incorporate this technology in demographics and populations that would never have the opportunity otherwise,” said Toussi. “I’m a big believer in what I like to call the power of one. One person can make a difference — they can empower a community.”
Acer is celebrating the women who are breaking barriers in tech. Acer wants to inspire future generations of women to embrace their passions and make their marks on the world, like those revolutionizing blockchain for good. Acer has spent the last 42 years making well-designed, cutting-edge and reliable computers, laptops and digital accessories to help break barriers between people and technology.