The arrival of the Blockchain promises to radically change the way we share, circulate and distribute the things that we value. However, the possible benefits for the not-for-profit sector have only begun to be understood, and much research and innovation is presently limited to the financial and tech industries. Ox-Chain is a major EPSRC research project which explores how Blockchain technologies can be used to reshape value in the context of international development and the work of Oxfam. To do this, the project is exploring three central themes: The Future of Giving; New Forms of Civic Value Exchange, and Blockchain in International Development.

Ox-Chain is a collaborative research project between the Northumbria University, Lancaster University, the University of Edinburgh, and research partners Oxfam, Volunteer Scotland, Zero Waste Scotland, and WHALE Arts. By bringing together experts in digital design, cryptography, business and international development we will design a Blockchain for Oxfam. More broadly, drawing on the expertise and practices of our research partners, we will explore the reconfiguration of economic, social and cultural life in the context of international development which may be made possible by digital, peer-to-peer value exchange.

Project details

September 2016 – August 2019
EPSRC (EP/N028198/1)
Funded value:
Project website
  • Chris Speed, University of Edinburgh (Principal Investigator)
  • Kate Symons, University of Edinburgh (Research Assistant)
  • Nigel Davies, University of Lancaster (Co-Investigator)
  • Ralucca Bunduchi, University of Edinburgh (Co-Investigator)
  • Aggelos Kiayias, University of Edinburgh (Co-Investigator)

NORTH Lab investigators

John Vines

I’m a designer by background, and most of my current research is located in the fields of human-computer interaction (HCI) and participatory design.

My research focuses on the study of how people experience, appropriate and use digital technologies in their everyday lives. I often take a research through design approach, which for me involves designing new digital prototypes, artefacts and “things” with citizens, and studying the creation and use of these prototypes to generate knowledge that is both valuable to designers and advances our understanding of social phenomena. I am specifically interested in how technology is interwoven with issues such as independence and agency in later life, could support informal and relational care for people of all ages, and might help scaffold “friendly” and “caring” communities. I also have experience and ongoing interests in human experience and technology design as it relates to self-care, trust, security and empathic communication. Generally, I’m intrigued by the ways in which digital technologies might support new interactions and engagements between people in relation to these issues, rather than be used to replace human contact (as is often the case).

Along with the above, a large amount of my research examines the practical and ethical dimensions of conducting participatory design (and participatory research in general) with citizens, especially in sensitive contexts and with people with heightened vulnerabilities. Therefore I have an ongoing interest in understanding the methods and techniques used for involving people in design and research processes, and have been involved in a series of professional events and journal special issues unpicking the ethical encounters faced when conducting participatory and technology oriented research with participants.

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Chris Elsden

I’m an interaction design researcher who recently joined the IDEATE group in the School of Design to work on the Ox-Chain project.

With a background in sociology, my work employs a wide range of qualitative methods and peculative design research to open up new and alternative design spaces for future relationships with data and technology.

My thesis work at Open Lab, Newcastle University, concerned fieldwork about the experiences of living a ‘data-driven life’, in particular, how burgeoning digital traces can mediate remembering.

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