Of_Substance is the collaborative practise of Björn Rust and Nikhila Madabhushi founded on trust and respect.

Outcomes for Impact

Unblocked Cash Pilot

Of_Substance lead research outcomes for Oxfam’s UnBlocked Cash pilot while contributing to programme design and technical advisory across all aspects of the project. This engagement included close collaboration with leading blockchain solutions providers; ConsenSys & Sempo.

Category: Design / Research
Year: 2018–2019
Collaborator/s: Oxfam Australia
Images: Keith Parsons, Oxfam Australia
Figure 1: Registration site in Pango pictured with a shuttle that is used to transport a community member with a disability.


During the UnBlocked Cash pilot, Oxfam in partnership with Sempo and ConsenSys distributed 966,443 Vanuatu Vatu (VUV) or 11,896.91 Australian Dollars (AUD) to 187 heads of households and 29 vendors, which was estimated to have directly benefited some 1,209 individuals in two urban communities in one of the world's most at-risk countries.

Over the course of a month, Oxfam and its partners were able to successfully deliver a first-of-its-kind Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) based solution employing the Dai (DAI) stablecoin. Additionally, the system piloted in Vanuatu saw the successful deployment of a novel near-field communication (NFC) card, which in tandem with a ‘side-channel’ developed by Sempo, allowed the system to cope with poor internet connectivity while ensuring double-spends were impossible despite offline transactions.

Figure 2: A QR code printed on the reverse side of an NFC card.

Figure 3: A QR code being scanned during recipient registration in Pango.

Oxfam set out to determine whether DLTs can reduce the cost and transaction time of cash and voucher assistance (CVA), while improving transparency, security, and overall user experience (UX) within the urban context of Port Vila, Republic of Vanuatu.

With the support of Sempo, the UnBlocked Cash pilot has shown modest cost-savings and significant time-savings related to operational activities. Onboarding recipients to the platform was reduced to an average of 3.6 minutes per individual compared to over an hour during the Ambae volcano response in 2018. Additionally, the tested system eliminated slow identity (ID) verifications and reduced dependency on post offices or banks to deposit cheques.

Figure 4: Oxfam's Kalua Salerua, discusses proceedings with Pango community members ahead of registrations for the UnBlocked Cash pilot on the island of Efate.

However, there is little evidence that the direct time and cost of financial transaction between programme stakeholder accounts has been reduced. This is due to the reliance on existing financial service providers (FSPs) for foreign exchange and cashing-out vendors in this particular implementation. In contrast, the indirect time and cost appear to have fallen due to the efficacy gains promoted by the Sempo platform. Fortunately, the unexpected challenges with the existing FSP in Vanuatu created an opportunity to test a more community-integrated hub-and-spoke cash-out mechanism via the ‘Super Vendor’.

The quality of the tested solution, which encompassed transparency, security, and user experience indicators, was found to be extremely high. Recipient and vendor feedback alike indicates an overwhelming preference for assistance of this type.

📑 Report

Longform: Medium, Shortform: Twitter.

Of_Substance acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet and work. We recognise that sovereignty over the land has never been ceded, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.