Imagine a world where one person or one organization could really make a difference. Imagine if their efforts to end poverty and war had a global impact. You don’t have to imagine that anymore. Meet the people at Abt Associates.
Abt Associates was founded by Clark C. Abt, a German immigrant who came to the U.S. at the age of eight. He earned a degree in aeronautics at the age of 22, which was soon followed by a masters in writing. After that, he completed a PhD in political science from MIT in 1965. He created Abt Associates the same year with one purpose: to create a world free of war and poverty.
Acting with Purpose
Today, Abt Associates is a global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, climate change and international development. They employ more than 2,300 people and have impacted nearly 50 countries worldwide. They help governments and businesses around the world make better decisions.
One of the ways the organization has made an impact is with their Blockchain for Good initiative, which focuses on advancing automated services in the developing world. RewardExpert recently spoke with Dr. Jane Thomason, CEO of Abt Australia, about these efforts.Originally launched in 2017 to help the poor, the original Blockchain for Good initiative has since inspired several other social impact initiatives. “We believe that this is the time for hyper-co-innovation, and we try and link with all social impact initiatives and connect people around the world and share ideas and information,” explained Thomason.
Abt has many clients looking for solutions for inefficient aid and underperforming delivery services. By acting as a trusted broker and general contractor, Abt is working hard to be the solution for those with a shared vision for success who need the coordinated delivery of disparate services to make large scale changes in government services.
How The World of Warcraft Sparked an Interest in Blockchain
When asked what the biggest obstacle has been as the initiative has grown, Thomason answered, “There is a huge education piece needed. Most people do not understand blockchain, and what they have heard is bitcoin, dark web and cryptocurrency volatility. Very few understand its transformative impact.”
Thomason admitted that she herself was a little late in the game to understand the full impact of this relatively new form of technology. She actually learned about the idea from years of watching her son play World of Warcraft, never quite understanding how this game would ever play into a productive future for her child.
“He insisted that what he was doing was productive and had prospects,” she explained. “The World of Warcraft was in fact a meeting place for tech entrepreneurs and a training ground for future leaders, and a way to make a lot of money. Players learn how to work in teams and collaborate digitally; how to motivate volunteers; how to take strategic risks; work under pressure; be agile and accountable to the rest of the team. The World of Warcraft gave my son key skills to be a business leader.”
The Benefits of Blockchain
So how does this new technology help the world today? Simple—it makes transactions more secure. “We rely on third parties—banks, governments and others—to verify the authenticity and security of many transactions,” explained Thomason. “Blockchain replaces that need by establishing a digital, public ledger for transactions and secure, unique IDs for participants in the system.”
But blockchain networks can do more than exchange money. Their decentralization, identification and security features can potentially help:
- Establish and confirm identify
- Verify authenticity, freshness and delivery of vaccines and medicines
- Ensure that donor funds are used as intended
- Provide lower-cost money remittances
- Sell energy to their neighbors.
“Blockchain has the potential to connect people to these services and opportunities the way mobile phones connected rural people who didn’t have access to landlines,” she said.
The Future Looks Bright
So, what is next for this amazing organization? “Renewable, cheap energy will be ubiquitous and it will slow climate change and transform the lives of the bottom billion,” Thomason explained.
“While the uptake among governments and donors has been a bit slow, by the end of the year we have seen the UN, Denmark, Britain, Asian Development Bank, World Bank and USAID showing more than a passing interest in blockchain and its social impact potential. Our own work in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Mauritius and Chhattisgarh in India, makes me convinced if we can push through the proof of concept stage to implementation at scale – somewhere – we will see mass adoption and impact.”
Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries. To learn more about their mission, visit www.abtassociates.com.