The arrival of blockchain promises to radically change the way we share, circulate and distribute the things that we value. Blockchain is a software technology which underpins alternative currencies. It is a distributed, secure and shared database of transactions which opens up the possibility of fundamental changes to our current use of fiat currencies as the primary method of value exchange, enabling new forms of social interaction, and different models of trust between people and institutions. However, the possible benefits for the not-for-profit sector has only begun to be understood, and much research and innovation is presently limited to the financial and tech industries. The goal of our research is to explore how Blockchain technologies can be used to reshape value in a much broader and diversified way.
Oxchain is a major research project between the Universities of Edinburgh, Northumbria and Lancaster, and research partners Oxfam, Zero Waste Scotland, Volunteer Scotland and WHALE Arts. It brings together experts in digital and collaborative design, cryptography, business and international development. More broadly, drawing on the expertise and practices of our research partners, we will explore the reconfiguration of economic, social and cultural life which may be made possible by digital and peer-to-peer value exchange. We’re exploring this in three different contexts relevant to our partners and blockchain technologies – smart and contracted giving to charity, the circulation of donated items and their value, and identity management and volunteer promotion in communities.