ACE Launches $900,000 Competition to Boost Economic Mobility Through Blockchain
August 12, 2020

​The Blockchain Innovation Challenge will fund teams that create solutions to help underserved learners share their skills with employers

ACE today announced that it will begin accepting applications for the Blockchain Innovation Challenge, a $900,000 competition that is designed to identify solutions that harness the potential of distributed ledger technology to help underserved learners take control of and communicate their skills.

“The pandemic is exacerbating endemic inequities at the intersection of education and employment. Blockchain has the potential to help individuals—and institutions—bridge the divide between educational experiences and economic opportunity,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “Now more than ever we must encourage creativity and experimentation and be willing to test innovations that could equitably help people better develop and share their skills.”

The Blockchain Innovation Challenge is the second stage of the Education Blockchain Initiative, an ambitious U.S. Department of Education effort to explore how nascent technology can be harnessed to boost economic mobility for underserved populations by enabling individual ownership and use of education records. The competition is informed by “Connected Impact: Unlocking Education and Workforce Opportunity Through Blockchain,” a recent report that identified 71 active blockchain efforts across K-12 and higher education. Many of those efforts focused on documenting, validating, and sharing skills and credentials.

“Too often learners face unnecessary roadblocks when it comes to clearly communicating their skills to prospective employers or learning providers” said Gayatri Agnew, senior director of and a member of the Education Blockchain Initiative Steering Committee, which will select the Challenge winners. “We are looking for bold, scalable, learner-centered ideas that can help individuals better navigate pathways to economic opportunities.”

ACE is partnering with the Presidents Forum to manage and oversee the Challenge selection process as well as provide technical assistance to the winners. Applications are open through Oct. 30, 2020, and may be submitted by teams that use an ecosystem-first design approach, including K-12 and higher education institutions, employers, community organizations, and/or technology providers.

“Improving communication and access to records through technologies like blockchain will be essential to helping opportunity seekers as they transition between education and employment,” said Dr. David Andrews, president of National University, one of the founding member institutions of the Presidents Forum. “This ambitious initiative can help put learners first—giving them the control and ability they need to fully unlock the potential of higher education.”

Successful applicants will build community consensus by bringing organizations together to solve a common problem through blockchain technology; leverage open standards and promote interoperability; and provide individuals with the tools and capability to better access and utilize their data. Winning teams will share up to $900,000 in prize money over two phases, with Phase 1 winners awarded up to $150,000 each.

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Audrey Hamilton
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​Blockchain Innovation Challenge

The Blockchain Innovation Challenge will make awards totaling $900,000 to ecosystem-first designed approaches driving interoperability, social mobility, and learner control.

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