Blockchain Innovation Challenge

About the Challenge

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

We are seeking technology-enabled solutions that reorient the education and employment ecosystem around the individuals that they aim to serve.

This challenge invited teams to articulate a vision and design pilots that address the following themes:

  • Empower all learners: How can learners exercise agency over their digital identities, including all records of learning, so they can share them in a secure, validated, and machine-readable way?
  • Unlock lifelong learning: How can learning be better documented, validated, and shared no matter where it occurs? How can control or ownership of learning records improve the way underserved learners connect and unlock disparate learning opportunities?
  • Improve economic mobility: How can blockchain support learners to find in-demand education in employment-relevant skills to advance economic mobility and to fulfill the promise of higher education?​​

For a full list of rules and eligibility criteria, please see the Application Guidelines document (PDF). Applications were due on October 30, 2020.

Key Opportunities

The Blockchain Innovation Challenge asked teams to address three important characteristics of an ecosystem-first design approach, uncovered through Connected Impact: Unlocking Education and Workforce Opportunity Through Blockchain, with a goal of helping individuals achieve social and economic mobility:

  • Building community and consensus:​ Networks of institutions and organizations are important precursors to many blockchain initiatives in education. By cultivating these communities to solve a common challenge and then engineering the blockchain solution as the connective tissue to pull existing components of the ecosystem together, we can reorient around the needs of learners.
  • Interoperability and open design: Solutions that leverage open data standards and protocols are critical to the mobility of individuals between the multiple learning and employment domains in their lifetime. See Understanding Interoperability for Education Blockchains for more information on interoperability standards compliance.
  • Data literacy and agency: Distributed ledger technology holds the potential to provide individuals with immediate access to their digital data, the ability to control who can view it, and a way for their data to be verified without contacting the issuing parties—allowing individuals to traverse seamlessly along a lifelong pathway of learning and work. Applicants should be sure to address how they can counter the digital skills and data literacy divide, which holds potential to compound disparities for traditionally underserved populations.

Anticipated Timeline​​​

Prizes

​The competition is being conducted in two phases. Winning teams will share up to $900,000 in prize money. Phase 1 winners will be awarded up to $150,000 each. Teams that demonstrate interoperability of their Minimum Viable Product (MVP) will receive Phase 2 funding for full implementation of the pilot.

Up to four Phase 2 winners will share the remaining prize balance.

In addition, winners will:

  • Receive national recognition through a variety of channels.
  • Receive leadership opportunities in community engagement to share lessons learned and best practices.
  • Be featured in ACE communications about the Education Blockchain Initiative.
  • Play a key role in working with ACE and other stakeholders to develop potential governance standards.
  • Receive mentorship from leading technology firms.
  • Other opportunities may also be announced.

Thank you to Amazon Web Services for their support of the challenge.

Evaluation Criteria

​​​Applications are being evaluated on the following criteria (please see the Application Guidelines document (PDF) for detailed definitions):

  • Quality of the ecosystem-first design approach​
  • Quality of the technological approach
  • ​Quality of the management plan and adequacy of resources

For additional information, join the Blockchain Innovation Group on ACE Engage, or email ebi@acenet.edu.

Blockchain Innovation Challenge

Applications for the Challenge are currently closed. Phase 1 winners will be announced in early 2021.

To stay up to date on the Challenge, join the Blockchain Innovation group on ACE Engage.

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