121: Improving cash-based assistance

Increasing numbers of people are in critical need of humanitarian aid – and more funds than ever are needed to meet their needs. These challenges require new approaches – which is why the Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA) has launched the first Call for Proposals under the DRA Innovation Fund (DIF). This initiative sees humanitarian organisations join forces with the private sector to develop innovative proposals to tackle urgent humanitarian challenges.

121 is a ground-breaking cash transfer platform designed to effectively connect donors with beneficiaries in crisis situations. The platform is powered by open source software and utilises block chain technology to provide for rapid cash transfers. 121 can be adopted in a variety of emergency contexts and allows for more efficient, effective and transparent provision of cash support to people in need.

Implementing cash-based programmes has proved to be challenging. These programmes are hard to scale up, as organizations often lack capacity to target and monitor large transfer volumes. Cash initiatives are even harder to coordinate, with sub-optimal delivery channels and high data protection risks.

The development of 121 was started by the Red Cross – 510 team and their technical partner Tykn. Dorcas joined the development and brought Tearfund, Help a Child and Disberse on board with their fund management platform. Several universities and PWC are also involved, with their specific research and compliance expertise.

The core of the system is a sophisticated kernel system that handles the registration of beneficiaries and validation of needs, assigns digital identities and allocates cash using vulnerability and cash allocation algorithmics. The kernel system is connected to context specific first- and last-mile solutions that handle donation possibilities and the ways beneficiaries can redeem digital cash or spend it directly on goods and services.

The result is two-fold: beneficiaries receive support closely connected to their needs – while retaining their anonymity – while donors and humanitarian organization are able to better coordinate and allocate cash transfers to those who need them most. The addition of integrated protection measures and context-specific donation and payment options gives 121 the ability to transform the supply chain: cutting out intermediaries and ultimately helping communities recover more quickly.

Supported by DCHI, 121 is already creating new roles for local actors who will take the lead in validating identities and needs. The innovation, which brings together partners from within and outside the humanitarian sector, has an open-source license, which makes possible our ambitions to scale up and replicate rapidly. The platform will be piloted in Malawi and Iraq in 2019/2020.

Lead applicant: Dorcas
Co-Applicant: Red een Kind, Tearfund NL
Other Parties: Netherlands Red Cross – 510 (Core consortium partner), Tykn, Disberse, PWC (Private sector), TU Delft (Knowledge institute), DCHI (Innovation expert, in kind support)
Local partners: Red Cross Malawi, Eagles, SOLDEV

Contact person: Ruben Mulder – r.mulder[@]dorcas.org