Blockchain companies and projects found themselves facing their biggest opportunity in 2020 – an opportunity to demonstrate how the technology could be used to deliver value to the people more effectively than its centralized predecessors. Essentially, the blockchain can be used to monitor donations and contributions from the moment they are procured to the moment they are distributed to ensure they reach those who really need them.
In this way, volunteers and non-government organizations can better account for their efforts at the center of these numerous donations and relief drives. Essentially, they can provide transparent and monitorable data and demonstrate to others that initiatives like these are worth doing.
The Grameen Foundation is one such institution that organized COVID-19 relief efforts in the Philippines. After two decades, the foundation has stayed relevant by using digital technology and data to understand financially excluded people on how they can access financial services.
Last year, the Celo Alliance for Prosperity and the Grameen Foundation (a Prosperity member) launched an initiative to deliver aid to 3,453 women entrepreneurs in the Philippines impacted by COVID-19. The project leveraged the Valora app developed by cLabs to facilitate the distribution of financial aid, thereby relying on the Celo Alliance for Prosperity members’ crypto and blockchain expertise to deliver aid securely and transparently.
According to Gigi Gatti, Director of Technology for Development at the Grameen Foundation, the women recipients used to run small businesses within their communities. Because of the pandemic, they could no longer operate.
For the COVID-19 relief project, Gigi said the intention was to enable the use of digital money to buy grocery and pharmacy items through partner marketplaces like Beam and Go. Gigi explained that there were two ways to provide aid. The first is through a simple SMS voucher, which means the recipient could go to the store and then show the clerk the text message that acts as a voucher to buy the items.
The second way, which is through the Valora app, however, had less of a risk to contract COVID-19. With this app, the goods could be delivered instead of going to the store. To ensure the program is a success, Grameen Foundation facilitated the recipient’s remote training.
Gigi said using a fintech app such as Valora can be a powerful tool to allow financially excluded people to begin having their financial records. A record of one’s financial transactions is more beneficial than just being able to track spending. The record allows them to be better understood by financial institutions, just in case the time comes that they need financial assistance or wish to demonstrate their financial stability to an organization like a bank.
“To us who have been doing online banking, who have been using our ATMs, we already have a digital footprint to speak of. We have credit cards and all that. But to the underserved, there’s nothing,” Gigi explained. In situations like that, when they go to a bank or a microfinance institution, they would have nothing to show.
“With this pilot, we are able to establish that it can be done. The beneficiaries of the relief program are now being coached on how to recover from the damages of Covid-19,” Gigi said, adding that a digital curriculum entitled “Resilient Life, Resilient Business: is being taught to some of the beneficiaries to help them fully recover.
Steve Hollingworth, President and CEO of the Grameen Foundation, previously noted how almost none of the aid recipients have heard of cryptocurrency and blockchain before. “Yet [they] were able to easily download the Valora app, receive and use cUSD to pay for their basic needs, and paid almost no fees to do so. We are exceptionally pleased with the outcome of this project, as it was the first time we embraced blockchain technology, and the results were far superior to anything we could have imagined,” he said.
Valora is in a perfect position to become the tool to provide aid because it includes the best of what traditional finance and blockchain can bring. Valora allows one to simply transact with electronic money. Because of the blockchain, the CELO blockchain in particular, transactions are fast and, most of all, cheap. In a previous article, we wrote one key benefit of cheap transactions — sending money multiple times in smaller portions.
“For example, instead of sending $100 to your mother for everything the whole family needs back home, you can send $15 to your grandmother for her medicines, $25 to your brother for his school supplies, $50 to your mother, and $10 your dad. You’d never do this with traditional remittance because the per transaction cost would be so high.”
Gigi said it’s very important for the recipients to develop their own “blockchain-enabled ledger of transactions” so that they can finally have a presence in the financial space. “Hopefully we are able to reuse the Valora wallet to give incentives and help the beneficiaries reconstruct their businesses,” she added.
Through apps like Valora, and through the Celo Alliance for Prosperity and the Grameen Foundation’s initiatives, people on the fringes of society can have access to financial resources and assets that they need to prosper. “To me, that access is key. It’s not about relief. It’s about giving women and their families the tools they need,” said Gigi.
This article is published on BitPinas: How Grameen Foundation and Celo Provided COVID-19 Relief in the Philippines