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Charities get online makeover

By HE WEI | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-04 06:55

In simple terms, this new method of payment is nothing more than a digital ledger in which transactions are chronologically recorded and tracked.

Blockchain technology also allows users to make direct transactions, trimming administration costs.

"The decentralized nature of blockchain means all transaction history regarding the funds are more reliable," said Cheng Li, chief technology officer at Ant Financial.

To illustrate this, donors using Alipay can click on the "donation record" button to show the amount and the time it was recorded.

The Say Goodbye to Aplastic Anemia organization was an early convert to blockchain.

In partnership with the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, the charity has been raising funds to help children suffering from aplastic anemia.

This is a rare disease in which the bone marrow and the hematopoietic stem cells are damaged.

"We are proud to be a part of this blockchain-based charity project, and we are happy to be involved in this technological revolution," said Hu Ling, director of crowdfunding at the Chinese Red Cross Foundation.

Innovation might be the life blood of the internet, but it is also filtering through fundraising activities.

Ant Forest, another Alibaba initiative, is a radical departure from the traditional charity format and has been recognized for its environmental impact.

The platform tracks the "carbon footprint" of individual users as they collect "energy points" through their actions in the real world.

This in turn is used to grow virtual and, ultimately, real trees.

Up to 230 million users of Alipay have activated Ant Forest accounts, according to the company. Ant Financial and its partners, including nongovernmental organizations, the SEE Foundation and the China Green Foundation, have planted 10.25 million trees, or the equivalent of a 1.22-million metric ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

"By integrating a fun game into the Alipay app, we have provided our users with the opportunity to play a meaningful role in the fight against climate change," Lucy Peng, executive chairwomen at Ant Financial told Xinhua News Agency.

"We believe our platform can power positive change well beyond the financial sector and there is much more we can do in the future," she added.

Wang Haipeng is an avid supporter of the initiative.

The 33-year-old bank clerk successfully earned enough points to plant three "real sacsaoul trees".

"It was not that I did not care about charity before, it was just too inaccessible," Wang, who lives in Shanghai, said. "Now, it has become an intrinsic part of my life. . . it has changed my lifestyle."

Naturally, this new approach to highlighting important social issues, such as climate change, is considered an exciting development as it gets the younger generation involved.

Many see innovative ideas like this as vital to the future of fundraising for charities.

"The exciting thing about the Ant Forest program is that it makes carbon relevant (and gives it an) online identity," said Simon Zadek, co-director of the United Nations Environment Programme's Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, an international organization, which works with Ant Financial on green digital finance.

"It is a whole new way of thinking about carbon markets, and is incredibly relevant for young people and generations going forward," he added.

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