Grassroots Economics: Integrating an emergency response platform for stakeholders to access digital payments
Our Mission at Grassroots Economics is to improve the lives of those who are most vulnerable by providing them a medium of exchange that is backed by their own goods and services. Affording vulnerable households a decent, dignified quality life.
We were inspired by financial solutions that had been used during depression areas in the 1920s and 1940s as well as community currencies that were created around the world in areas like Japan and Brazil. We were inspired to learn from these historic systems and apply them to poverty eradication in areas that had a chronic lack of currency.
Grassroots Economics' (GE) is building and supporting systems that empower communities to digitally create their own basic incomes and community inclusion currencies (CICs) based on local goods and services in regional markets that are built from the ground up. Sarafu Network is the premier CIC system in Kenya. Beneficiaries of our programs include small businesses and people living in informal settlements as well as rural areas.
GE together with local communities developed a simple user interface (via feature phones with no internet) to a blockchain based token creation and trading system. Together with the Red Cross, GE has been piloting the system across Kenya. Unlike traditional forms of aid and basic income that require scarce national currency: CICs are community-driven basic income programs where local groups, villages and markets create their own form of credit. We work with individuals, groups and organizations to help them to issue credit against their future production - then enable people to trade these credits among communities and themselves as a medium of exchange. CICs operate like a local barter system - allowing people to trade goods and services when lacking national currency.
Evidence from studies, including randomized control trials have shown a significant multiplier effect on local trade with spillover effect reaching 5x within 2 months of implementation, with several locations using them for over a decade.
The key areas that CIC addresses is the availability of credit - specifically for local social enterprises. While there are many usages for CIC, typically the usage for CIC is to create stable social enterprises connected to stable markets. Usage across the country where vulnerable communities are trading with each other for basic needs using CICs have validated our theory that people have goods and services to trade – and only lack a medium of exchange. Thus allowing people to create and use their own community currencies that can enable local resilience - can solve chronic and recurring poverty.
Our organization leverages environmentally friendly small-scale blockchain technology to provide a digital ledger for clearing balances among users. This technology helps record data securely and anonymously and helps show the impact of CIC usage. It makes it easier to reward, capacity build and support users. It also means that there is a decentralized public ledger that communities can add their community currencies to and protocols for enabling trade between CICs.
Furthermore, the use of open source technology means that anyone can create a CIC to support their local community and anyone can invest into that community to make it stronger. It also means that the barrier to entry is lower for people and organizations to create similar technology.
We see our work as a humanitarian infrastructure - everyone should have access to credit creation and ledger systems - open source is a must.
TEAM & DIVERSITY
Our diverse team speaks a total of 8 languages, we are an equal opportunity employer and encourage gender balance in all our projects. Our team does not discriminate against race, gender, tribe or religion. Beneficiaries of our programs include small businesses and people living in informal settlements as well as rural areas coming from different tribes and religions. It makes it easier to reach out when we can identify with them through language and or religion.
For CICs to act as common infrastructure for decentralized economic systems, our aim for the next 12 months is to develop open source tools for communities and humanitarian organizations around the world to easily develop and maintain them. This involves creating marketplaces and wallets for ledger systems where internet is not available, enabling humanitarian organizations to support users and for goods and services as well as impact claims to be certified.