Thursday 14 June 2018

Dr. Cristina Devecchi at the UN

Dr. Cristina Devecchi, Senior Lecturer in Education, and co-director of the Centre for Education and Research at the University of Northampton, has recently returned from a trip to the United Nations. Cristina travelled to New York on behalf of the University to announce the winner of the #BlockchainEducationalPassport Global Challenge.

The #BlockchainEducationalPassport Challenge is a collaborative project between the United Nations’ Unite Ideas platform, the University of Northampton and Ana-Aqra Association in Beirut, Lebanon. The Challenge called on the public and industry to create an open-source Blockchain-based tool to address the humanitarian crisis facing displaced Syrian refugee children and young adults, who have lost proof of their educational credentials, and other formal and informal learning experiences.

The Path Foundation was awarded the Challenge’s top prize for the submission of their solution at a ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The Blockchain solution was chosen because it provides a way to capture, validate and verify both education and work experience, to bridge the gap between those people looking for work and the job market.

Dr Cristina Devecchi, Senior Lecturer and co-director of the Centre for Education and Research at the University of Northampton said: “65 Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of conflict and violence. Of these people, 61% are below the age of 26. In Lebanon, 1 million people, 1/6 of the population, consists of Syrian refugees. Of these half are under the age of 18 and 250,000 are not in school. Yet, they have a right to access education and have their education attainment preserved to help their futures, something that sadly is not a reality. The #BlockchainEducationalPassport will support these children and people to capture and preserve the skills they already have, and the skills they will gain in the future.

“The #BlockchainEducationPassport aims to create a platform which can be used by individuals, aid organisations, academia and also employers in the region to establish certified and secure way for people to track their identity and learning credentials from the past and also for the future, and ensure that their achievements are portable as they rebuild their lives after escaping conflict. The Path Foundation solution was very interesting and gives the Challenge team lots to think about for potential development of a working prototype.”

Ross Jones, Path CEO said: “Path is passionate about making a real difference in this world. To provide opportunities to those who are often forgotten. Giving everyone a chance to create their own Path in life, no matter what came before. The chance to be visible, when it’s so easy for people to be hidden.

“I accepted the award for Blockchain Educational Passport from the United Nations Headquarters in New York via video (I would have loved to be there!) and I couldn’t be more proud of the work we are doing. I couldn’t be more proud of the team I work with and I am humbled to be given the chance to make a difference to so many people in the world.”

Rima Doany Musallam, Executive Director at Ana Aqra Association said: “Ana Aqra has worked diligently to provide access to education to thousands of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon since 2012. We are keen on seeing these children go on to continue their path for an education at the appropriate level earned, wherever they may end up.  We are so excited that the Path Foundation through the #BlockchainEducationalPassport Challenge will honour these children’s hard work and provide a means to track their learning progress.

Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Petford, and ten other University staff, drawn from the Faculties of Education and Humanities; Arts, Science and Technology; and Business and Law, will now focus their efforts, along with the UN Unite team on a second Challenge to develop the Path Foundation solution, with the aim of a working prototype. In addition to the solution put forward by the Path Foundation, a number of others submitted ideas. Thank you to those people who took the time to submit solutions.

#BlockchainEducationPassport was one of just eight crowdsourcing projects selected for the UN’s Unite Ideas platform. Unite Ideas aims to bring together the UN, academia, and the public to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – which all UN member states are working towards – through data-driven challenges.

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