Block-change (blɒk/-/tʃeɪndʒ/):
v.t using blockchain technologies for social change;
n. An initiative to examine whether and how blockchain technologies can be used for social change.

Blockchain and other Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs) have disruptive potential beyond transforming the way industry records and manages transactions (by leveraging a shared and verified database of ledgers in a distributed manner).

By providing transparency and accountability in new and distributed ways, blockchain technologies have the potential to empower underserved populations in myriad ways – including the establishment of trusted digital identities.

In other words, blockchain technologies can promote positive Social Change: Blockchange.

Despite the enthusiasm (and hype) around applying blockchain for social good, we in fact know little about how and whether blockchain technologies can truly foster social change

  • What kinds of applications can serve what needs?
  • What blockchain attributes matter the most?
  • What risks are involved?
  • Under what conditions have DLTs maximum impact?

Currently, the field is characterized by an “if you build it they will come” logic; faith that by applying blockchain technologies to identity management and other social needs, it will have positive impact.

To yield a more actionable understanding of whether and how blockchain and other DLTs can propel social change, we need to move from a faith-based to an evidence-based approach.

That’s the objective of Blockchange.

Phase 1: Focus on Identity

The first phase of Blockchange will seek to test the hypothesis that by applying blockchain attributes to identity management, a trusted digital ID can be created that can benefit, for instance:

  • The estimated 1.1 billion people who are unable to prove their identity to the satisfaction of authorities and other organizations – often excluding them from property ownership, free movement, and social protection as a result;
  • The 1.3 million refugees that are trying to relocate around the world but can’t be identified; and
  • All the women and girls, who disproportionately struggle to obtain IDs, often the result of barriers related to: freedom of travel, distance, financial costs, time constraints, illiteracy, lack of information and awareness, and lack of support from family members.

To become smarter about the application of blockchain technologies for identity, Blockchange will initially seek to:

  • Map, and provide a taxonomy of blockchain technologies that seeks to provide identity;
  • Develop a primer on the potential and challenges of blockchain technologies across the identity life-cycle (such as creation; verification; authentication; and authorization);
  • Map the actual use of identity provided through blockchain technologies for a variety of social good purposes through case studies; and
  • Co-develop a set of (evidence-based) design principles that can guide the further development and use of blockchain for social change.

Advisory Committee

Andrew Hoppin CoverUs
Arun Sundararajan NYU Stern School of Business
Audrey Tan Angels of Impact
Dr. Cara LaPointe Georgetown University
Carlos Santiso Inter-American Development Bank
Marta Piekarska Hyperledger

We want to hear from you!

Are you a blockchain researcher, practitioner, technologist or policymaker currently using blockchain technologies for social change or interested in creating Blockchange? Tell us more about what you’re working on and let’s find a way to collaborate!

Contact Us

More Information


Stefaan G. Verhulst Project Lead
Co-Founder, The GovLab
Andrew Young Knowledge Director, The GovLab
Raul Zambrano Consultant