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UNICEF launches pilot program exploring DAOs for digital public goods

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(Kitco News) - UNICEF, the global humanitarian aid organization, is reportedly testing out how it can apply the concept of a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) to help improve its humanitarian work with children around the world.

According to a report from TheBlock, the organization is in the early stages of a pilot program that is intended to enable easier communication between stakeholders of a digital public good (DPG) when discussing the addition of possible new features to the project.

“Right now, we're building a DAO prototype to fairly distribute power and communication for a globally distributed digital public good,” said UNICEF blockchain lead Arun Maharajan in an interview last week at Paris Blockchain Week.

A digital public good is a type of open-source software, model, or standard that can be used by countries to build digital infrastructure as an alternative to private proprietary solutions.

UNICEF has selected the Ethereum layer-two scaling solution Polygon as the host for its DAO pilot due to the network’s high throughput and low-cost capabilities.

“In a sense, it’s a closed DAO for each DPG to get all the stakeholders on board,” Maharajan said. “Right now we are looking at team members but I think it’s perceivable that it could even include end users or other stakeholders so that really the community around that DPG gets together and decides together what needs to happen.”

He added that UNICEF has also trialed the open-source voting tool Snapshot for potential governance proposals, noting that this is one way the platform could function as a typical decentralized organization.

The aid organization ultimately hopes to create a platform that projects can use to perform DAO governance votes to fund any new features.

UNICEF previously established a CryptoFund in 2019 that is designed to receive donations in Bitcoin and Ether. Donations to the fund are used to fund startups that the organization determines are providing technological innovations that directly benefit children in need. It specifically assists these startups with becoming certified as a DPG via the Digital Public Goods Alliance.

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To help avoid controversy, UNICEF has procedures in place to avoid taking donations from anonymous or otherwise questionable donors, according to Sanna Bedi, who manages the UNICEF CryptoFund.

“As we have for our private donors, we have the exact same due diligence process for our crypto donors, so you cannot have anonymous donor donations in crypto," said Bedi. “If we do get unsolicited funds, we actually burn them," she added.

The fund has invested in 41 startups to this point, and its portfolio of companies has raised roughly $17 million in follow-on funding once exiting the program. Notable donors to the CryptoFund include ETC Labs, Animoca Brands and Huobi Charity.

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