IIC recognized that no solution existed to help companies manage their CSR in a transparent, efficient and engaging way without reducing the value of contributions to charities.
With help from Cognition Foundry, IIC created a platform for giving using IBM Blockchain Platform and IBM LinuxONE technology, empowering companies, people and good causes to manage their CSR.
Extremescaling and global resources enable IIC to pursue international growth plans
Bringstrust and verification to companies’ CSR activities
Empowersall members of society to deliver a positive impact to their communities
Business challenge story
Envisioning a new paradigm of giving
It can be difficult for individuals to connect with good causes in their local communities. Companies also face challenges around giving, with pressure to develop corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs that enable them to engage employees, manage activities and report on performance.
Investors in Community (IIC) saw an opportunity to help all three pillars of giving—companies, individuals, and good causes—to enable them to have a bigger and better impact. Philip Webb, Managing Director at IIC, elaborates: “Our goal is to help ordinary people do extraordinary things. People and businesses want to invest in local community projects, but have trouble finding them. Companies struggle to track and prove their CSR activities.
“Although existing platforms for charitable giving claim to address these challenges, many of them take a fee from every donation, reducing the amount that reaches good causes. Or they simply allow you to input data about your CSR activities, so you can see an unqualified summary.
“I had the idea for a unique platform to support all giving methods; whether that’s money, fundraising, time, skills, or gifts and services in kind. It would allow companies, individuals and charities to connect with each other, give directly through the platform, and track and manage their impact. 100 percent of all donations made through our platform would be passed directly to the target cause, with all transactions captured through blockchain to create an immutable record.”
Developing a platform that could reliably manage transactions between so many stakeholders proved a challenge. IIC found that its initial beta platform was limited in scalability, security and the ability to build simple user journeys. When the company gained early interest from major brand companies, it discovered that the beta platform could not meet demand.
“It quickly became clear that our beta platform could not support the functionality and scale to deliver on our global aspirations,” adds Philip Webb. “To avoid the opportunity slipping out of our grasp, it was vital we found an alternative, fast.”
IIC engaged Cognition Foundry to revitalize its vision for a platform to support every stakeholder involved in charitable giving. With limited working capital remaining from the investments in its initial platform, IIC was looking for a cost-effective route to realizing its concept. Cognition Foundry was just the partner to make this happen. The firm is an innovative service provider that specializes in democratizing access to leading-edge IT for startups.
“I met Ron Argent, CEO and Founder of Cognition Foundry, at a Blockchain conference,” recalls Philip Webb. “It didn’t take him long to understand our vision and declare that IBM Blockchain Platform built on HyperLedger Fabric with IBM LinuxONE could be the ideal foundation for our back-end architecture.
“Cognition Foundry agreed to provide a solution as a service to us, starting with an MVP [minimum-viable product] platform that we could build on as we recruited clients. As a result, we could infuse value into the business and give investors a new lease of confidence for future funding rounds.”
Ron Argent, CEO of Cognition Foundry, comments: “The IIC platform is a great initiative to help address the growing desire of businesses and individuals to make a greater impact in their communities. Cognition Foundry has a very strong focus on social improvement, and we are honored to be able to help IIC deliver their vision. Due to the nature of the transactions and the need for trust and transparency, we chose to build and deploy an IBM Blockchain Platform based solution on IBM LinuxONE. This provides industrial strength security and great flexibility with the lowest incremental cost profile in the industry. We look forward to continuing our very close relationship with IIC as they expand globally.”
IIC worked closely with Cognition Foundry to design the new platform, defining and simplifying user journeys to ensure seamless transactions between all parties. The open-source code is supported by a hybrid cloud infrastructure, featuring IBM Blockchain which is built on Hyperledger Fabric running on IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper enterprise servers connected to the IBM Cloud™.
“Our solution requires availability, security and scalability, and IBM LinuxONE delivers on each of these aspects beyond doubt,” says Philip Webb. “With our global ambitions, IBM Blockchain on IBM LinuxONE is the perfect combination to inspire trust in our offering.”
With help from Cognition Foundry, IIC soon launched an MVP that individuals and charities can use for free, ensuring that 100 percent of any money donated through the platform remains in the charity sector. Good causes can set up projects that ask for funds, volunteers (both skilled and unskilled) and gifts. Individuals can explore charities in their local communities and further afield, and see exactly where their contributions go. Business members pay a nominal fee to use the platform. In return, they get a powerful set of tools that enables them to deliver, measure and promote their CSR activities to multiple stakeholders and helps achieve greater impact.
“We developed a unique digital token measuring system called Community Credits™,” explains Philip Webb. “It is the only unifying measure of all five types of giving, allowing the giver to collect community credits for every act of giving. This can be used to compare, incentivize and even gamify between users, groups and companies.”
Capturing attention, winning clients
Since teaming up with Cognition Foundry, IIC has made significant headway in the market, adding corporate clients and charitable organizations to its community platform. Supported by IBM technology, the company is assured it can scale up its infrastructure to meet increasing customer demand.
“Before we kickstarted this project our progress had stalled,” remarks Philip Webb. “We knew that we had a winning concept, but we needed the right technology and partner to make it a feasible proposition. With Cognition Foundry and IBM in our corner, we know that we have both the technical and commercial scaling, there and ready, as we expand the business.
“Our clients are already incorporating CSR impact into their supply chain frameworks and procurement preferred supplier considerations. Many are using the IIC platform to drive collaboration with their user groups and supply chain. Examples include Chambers of Commerce who are using this approach with their extensive business membership, and the multinational infrastructure group Balfour Beatty, which is implementing this approach up and down its supply chain. Some are looking to go a step further and mandate use of the IIC platform throughout their entire supply chain—a major UK retailer is doing just that.
“Many of our clients, such as Provident Financial, Mansfield Building Society and Specsavers, are building on their mature CSR programs with IIC, using our tools to access a wider range of good causes to make a greater impact. Using Community Credits™, they’ve gained a standard form of measurement to track their progress and how much of a difference they’re making.”
Transforming charitable giving
Central to the IIC platform’s success is the visibility and auditability it brings to companies’ CSR strategies. The combination of the transparency, and immutability of IBM Blockchain technology along with the outstanding reliability and power of the IBM LinuxONE plays a key role in building users’ trust in the verification of transactions. Philip Webb comments: “In large corporations, high availability is critical. We need to show we can capture every contribution securely and with immediate response. Using IBM Blockchain and IBM LinuxONE gives us the confidence we can do this each and every time.”
IIC is leading the movement to deliver a more just and fair society. Philip Webb concludes: “Working with IBM and Cognition Foundry, we’re creating a new and rewarding way to give back to our communities. Every one of us can make a difference, so we’re removing the barriers to doing good that means we can all find the causes we believe in and see the outcomes of our contributions.”
Investors in Community
Founded in 2015 and based in Chesterfield, UK, Investors in Community was created to empower everyone in society to deliver good to their communities and to gain a sense of self-purpose. It aims to facilitate closer ties between companies, individuals and good causes.
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Blockchain Platform and IBM LinuxONE solutions, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit: ibm.com/blockchain/platform or ibm.com/it-infrastructure/linuxone
Cognition Foundry is a service provider headquartered in Essex, United Kingdom with offices in Boulder, Colorado and Sofia, Bulgaria. The company provides low-cost access to enterprise-class IT resources for innovative startup companies. To learn more, visit: cognitionfoundry.com