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From Promise to Practice: A cross-institutional analysis of design trends, enablers and challenges in blockchain-enabled cash and voucher delivery

19 November 2023 — By Sandra Uwantege Hart

This research paper provides a cross-institutional analysis of design trends, enablers, and challenges in blockchain-enabled cash and voucher delivery in humanitarian programmes. The study examines six pilot projects led by three prominent international NGOs across four countries to identify obstacles to innovation, adoption, and scalability that may arise in this context. The research applies human-centred design theory, combined with the multiple case study method, to generate a cross-case synthesis, revealing common threads, specific trends, key reflections, angles of analysis, and design approaches that can facilitate this work in the future. The findings and conclusions from this study aim to be useful and relevant to practitioners, private sector actors, and researchers. The research aims to address existing research gaps and promote a more informed, coordinated, responsible, and rigorous research agenda and community of practice for the use of blockchain applications in the humanitarian sector. Throughout the discussion, this study highlights the frictions related to variables such as context, agency, and participation. A framework for analysis, focused on four key variables: process, people, program and product, is proposed to provide a basis for comparative analysis, and eventually, a series of propositions for interested stakeholders. The study concludes that blockchain technology has the potential to address cost and time inefficiencies in cash and voucher assistance, but success of implementation is highly dependent on design, context, and stakeholder engagement. The paper recommends continued research in this area to further validate findings and expand the use of blockchain technology in humanitarian and development programs. It also emphasizes the significance of integrating these variables into novel approaches to uphold ethical and professional standards in humanitarian work.