Ripple $10 million Mercy Corps
Cryptocurrencies,  Libra,  Ripple,  Technology

With Ripple’s $10 million donation, Mercy Corps strengthens its bet on crypto

The nonprofit has already joined forces with the Libra Association and Celo Foundation to use blockchain technology to bring the poorest into the global financial system

Libra Association member Mercy Corps just upped its involvement with the cryptocurrency world with a $10 million donation from international payments firm Ripple.

The donation and partnership with Mercy Corps was announced at the Ripple Swell conference on Oct. 15.

The fintech-friendly nonprofit connects some of the world’s poorest people to “resources and opportunities they need to build strong, stable livelihoods that can withstand future challenges.” Last year it helped some 28 million people in 40 countries struggling with economic instability, natural disasters, and conflicts.

Mercy Corps was a founding member of the Libra Association, the independent governing body created by Facebook for libra. The controversial global stablecoin has faced hostility from many international financial organizations such as the G7 and the Financial Stability Board, as well as governments and central bankers

The nonprofit is also working with the Celo Foundation’s Alliance for Prosperity, which seeks to use the mobile phone-focused blockchain’s stablecoin to build financial tools focused on the needs of world’s 1.7 billion unbanked people.

With the $10 million donation, Mercy Corps will partner with Ripple and its nonprofit arm RippleWorks to use fintech, digital assets, and cryptocurrency to help bring people into the global economy over the next three years. Ripple said it has already been working with the non-profit’s Mercy Corps Ventures arm on building pilot programs and investing in early-stage fintech startups in Latin America and the global south.

“The existing financial system is fragmented, antiquated, and exclusionary—leaving 1.7B people unbanked and disproportionately excluding women. Emerging fintech, crypto and blockchain technologies have the potential to radically transform it” said Scott Onder, senior managing director at Mercy Corps Ventures. “There are substantial risks for the world’s most vulnerable people if their needs are not taken into consideration as these new technologies are designed and deployed.”

Ripple’s donation will also support FinX, a joint venture between RippleWorks and Mercy Corps. The venture capital investor will back startups that use distributed ledgers, digital assets, cryptocurrencies, and other fintech to “reimagine the financial system” with solutions tailored to vulnerable and populations and humanitarian goals.

Mercy Corps’ crypto focus

With its focus on bringing the unbanked into the financial system, Mercy Corps has already turned to fintech and cryptocurrency several times. 

In joining forces with Libra, Mercy Corps said was looking for ways to use the global stablecoin to get money to places where it is difficult to mover fiat funds.

“We work in difficult places. It’s hard to get money onshore. Imagine if you had access to a currency that was widely accepted throughout the world,” Mercy Corps’ senior adviser of technology, Rick Shreves, told NPR shortly after Libra was announced. “Libra opens up a lot of possibilities.”

The nonprofit made similar comments after partnering with the Celo Alliance, in March.

“As we begin to witness a revolution in global financial systems, we are committed to ensuring that the voices of the world’s most vulnerable people are heard and that new digital financial services include them and their needs,” said Alpen Sheth, Mercy Corps’ senior technologist for blockchain. 

With a “long history of facilitating financial inclusion around the world we have seen how difficult it is to escape poverty when you’re excluded from financial system,” he added. “We believe in Celo’s mission to build a financial system that creates conditions of prosperity—for everyone.”

As for the Ripple partnership, the overall goal is to “leverage our global resources and reach to ensure community voices are heard and vulnerable populations are not left behind in the fintech revolution,” Onder said.

Modern Consensus founder Ken Kurson sites on the board of Ripple. 

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.