Devcon Scholars: Blockchain Case Study for Educating Underserved Communities

An initiative designed to provide an opportunity for individuals from underserved communities, unique circumstances, or developing areas to engage with the Ethereum ecosystem.

Broadening Access to the Ethereum Ecosystem

The Challenge

The Ethereum ecosystem has made many strides since its launch in 2015, boasting over 250k blockchain developers and supporting use cases spanning from real estate tokenization to crypto-backed cash transfer programming. However, there are still many who have yet to access the technology and realize its capabilities. Many groups are still underrepresented within the blockchain community, and oftentimes it is these same groups that need the technology the most to combat public sector corruption, minimize the costs of remittances, or increase access to financial services and other tools of economic empowerment. Also, currently marginalized community members may have the answers to the scalability and usability questions burdening the crypto community.

How can a blockchain ecosystem ensure that it is inclusive of engineers, designers, policymakers, and community developers from all around the world – instead of creating a western-centric echo chamber? How can blockchain companies affect positive change when it comes to inclusion and diversity?

ConsenSys Social Impact, Consensys Academy, the Bounties Network, and UNICEF Innovation worked with the Ethereum Foundation (EF) to provide free blockchain education and engagement exercises with EF’s Devcon Scholars Program.

The Ethereum Solution

If you live outside the crypto-bubble, breaking into the blockchain ecosystem can be difficult. Resources are scattered across the internet, many tutorials tend to have incomplete information, and oftentimes, most resources are only available in English. Although helpful, these tools can only be leveraged by a select few – and for those that are not English literate, or those who live in areas with low or non-existent internet connectivity, accessing the transformative opportunity of becoming a blockchain developer online, or learning how blockchain technology can empower your local community is near impossible. Even worse, over-resourced communities without the diverse perspective of typically marginalized community members cannot adequately serve locales beyond their own cultural experience.

The Devcon Scholars Program aims to more strategically extend the impact of EF’s original efforts to provide an expense-paid trip to the Devcon conference. It provides sustaining support to selected scholars so that they can enter and stay within the Ethereum community. Thus, in its new iteration, the Devcon Scholars Program leverages new ecosystem partners in the Bounties Network, ConsenSys Academy, and the UNICEF Innovation teams. The Devcon V Scholars Program supported 53 full scholarships and 8 partial scholarships to a cohort representing 25 different countries, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, Sweden, and Syria, among others.

The core goals of the program are the following:

  1. Upskill underrepresented community members from around the world to become leaders and major contributors toward Ethereum’s ecosystem

  2. Increase accessibility to the Ethereum Foundation by translating documentation and the website into multiple languages to make ecosystem onboarding easier, and to spread community events across underrepresented regions

  3. Place Devcon scholars in organizations dedicated to leveraging Ethereum’s technology (internships and full-time opportunities)

How it works

The scholars program focused on enabling participants to tap into the possibilities of blockchain through the lens of their own experiences, skill sets, and wide-ranging levels of blockchain knowledge.

The scholars curriculum included exclusive programming, professional networking opportunities, and individual guidance from key Ethereum ecosystem builders. The scholars program focused on leveraging Web 3 technologies and principles. For instance, scholars were given bounties to complete involving a range of activities like publishing articles on the transformative potential of blockchain technology and documenting their experiences at the conference. The Bounties Network developed the bespoke ETHScholars environment that hosted all bounties and funded the gas fees for all scholars’ transactions throughout the program.

UNICEF Innovation’s Boost (BST) token was used on the Bounties Network to teach blockchain concepts and encourage multinational engagement in order to bring new voices to the Ethereum ecosystem. To date, there have been over 500 bounty submissions across the program, with over 390 BST earned.

Attending Devcon in Osaka Japan, served as the culminating event of the program. Scholars were provided access to Ask Me Anything sessions to maximize their experience, as well as access to networking events to provide possible internship and full-time employment opportunities.

Upon graduation at Devcon V, scholars participated in UNICEF Innovation’s “Boost 4 Good Initiative”, which motivated scholars to give back. For every 5 BST tokens each scholar earned, they could send 3 nutritional bars (RUTF – ready to use therapeutic food) to children in need. RUTF is used by UNICEF to help the millions of children threatened by acute malnutrition worldwide. Scholar BST donations were sent to UNICEF’s wallet at the following address on Ethereum’s mainnet: 0x6eFdbe523585387F1912351f6926225131210bbF. So far, 30% of the scholar’s BST has been donated back, providing over 30 RUTF bars for children in need.

Goals Achieved

The 2019 scholars cohort comprised of 53 scholars from 25 different countries around the world receiving over $300k in ecosystem support, immersion, and educational resources. Over 60% of the scholars cohort became certified blockchain professionals.

  • Cohort Breakdown

    • 53 Scholars supported representing 25 countries (+8 Partial Scholarships)

    • 54% Female 43% Male 3% Non-binary

    • 19% Blockchain Experts, 32% Blockchain Intermediate, 48% Blockchain Beginners

    • 30% Engineers, 37% Students, 7% Designers, 26% Researchers, Project Managers, & Entrepreneurs

  • Program Experience

    • Consensys provided $55,000 in in-kind support via 1,000 employee volunteer hours, helping manage and support the operations of the program

    • 91.5% saw the program as deeply impact and or life-changing

  • Education

    • ConsenSys Academy provided mentorship and $30,000 in educational resources through their

      blockchain developer program

    • 100% conducted Bitcoin and Ethereum learning and research exercises

    • 64% of Scholars are now Consensys Academy Certified

  • Professional Development

    • 2 Weeks out of Devcon V, 41% have secured internship/full-time interviews from companies including Consensys, Coinbase, Storj, and Sempo among others

    • 2 Weeks out of Devcon V, 24% have secured internship/full-time offers from companies including Coinbase and Consensys

Sample Scholar Profile

Meet Shawki Sukkar

Shawki Sukkar, a 17-year old scholar from Aleppo, Syria, was one of the most active program participants. He constantly wanted to learn more and access additional curriculum to strengthen his understanding. After changing high schools 8 times in the last two years, and suffering the destruction of his father’s factory during the continuing Syrian Civil War, Shawki came to Devcon with purpose – he wanted to leave with an internship.

On October 10th, the 2nd day of Devcon, Shawki earned a fully sponsored internship in Germany with Ocean Protocol that would take care of his visa.

Next Steps

The Devcon Scholars program will continue to iterate with additional cohorts each year. We hope to engage with organizations interested in partnering and or sponsoring the program in an effort to expand the initiative’s impact.

For questions about the Devcon Scholars Program, and offers to contribute resources or employment opportunities for our scholars, please reach out to the Ethereum Foundation at [email protected].