Finn Church Aid (FCA) is an international aid organisation fighting poverty and advancing human rights in 13 developing countries. Dedicated to creating permanent change, FCA works in close cooperation with the local communities and people, regardless of their religious beliefs, ethnic background and political convictions.
In humanitarian work, cash-based interventions have been recognised as critical measures for increasing efficiency, supporting people’s urgent needs, enhancing individual dignity and stimulating local economies. Many aid organisations have committed to increasing the percentage of cash-based interventions, prompting the need to enhance security and standardise digital payments.
Antti Toivanen, lead for new technologies in humanitarian aid at Finn Church Aid, wanted to look into the potential of blockchain solutions to increase the speed and transparency of donations, and to improve operational efficiency and donation tracking.
”The field of humanitarian work is evolving, and we’re looking for innovative ways to be more transparent and accountable to our beneficiaries and donors. Blockchain technology is particularly attractive due to its democratic nature. To complement our solid understanding of humanitarian work, Solita brought in their insight on technological solutions, so we were a great match,” says Toivanen.
Background understanding on cash-based interventions
In early 2019, Solita had created a proof of concept for a biometric checkout solution, building trust for the collaboration that began in October. Together, Solita and FCA agreed on the goals:
- Understand the practices, needs and the value creation of target groups (beneficiaries, aid workers and merchants) in the selected country
- Find and prioritise solutions that deliver the greatest impact on the target groups
- Evaluate and compare novel technological solutions for delivering cash assistance
- Design a concept that works in the context of the target country
While cash transfers in most cases are preferred over in-kind benefits, distributing monthly allowances is both time consuming and costly. Auditing and reporting is complex. In some cases, it’s difficult to guarantee that the cash reaches the target groups who need it the most.
Digital solutions have limitations, too. How does FCA reach people without bank accounts or mobile phones? How about those without proof of identity? Or those not willing to use their real identity? Other things to consider are limited connectivity, required devices, required ID documents, and literacy, among others.
During background research, Solita also started building cultural understanding on the role of money and how it relates – in a myriad of ways – to human activities outside of modern Western societies. Equipped with initial understanding, a team of two Solitans, an ethnographer and a code-savvy service designer, set off to the field.