Microsoft, Celo Back Virtual Earth Day Event From Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition


Microsoft is throwing its weight behind the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition (BSIC) incubator, a six-week hackathon focused on green energy and sustainable cities. 

The winners of the not-for-profit BSIC incubator program, originally spun out of Ethereum studio ConsenSys, will be announced at the Global Virtual Earth Day on April 22, with about $30,000 in prize money to be divvied out.

In addition to Microsoft, sponsors include Celo, Pepo, the Graph, the city of Austin, Texas, ConsenSys, DappHero, Gitcoin, KPMG and the United Nations Development Program.

The blockchain incubator attracted some 300 entrants, later whittled down to about 30 teams, and has been cooking away for the last month. Teams were given four areas to address: mitigating the world’s carbon footprint, peace and prosperity, designing sustainable cities and abating pollution and plastics.

Yorke Rhodes, the co-founder of Microsoft’s blockchain unit and a BSIC board member, said the incubator, which is in its fourth year, includes teams working on identity projects, affordable housing, incentives to clean up pollution and tracking carbon credits using tokenization.

“It’s run like a typical incubator where we have weekly deliverables for all of the teams. We also have subject-matter experts in these categories from around the world that we invited in to do seminars twice a week,” said Rhodes.

Out of the mentors, Rhodes mentioned Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco, which has further projects planned with Microsoft in the energy and sustainability space, he said.

Steven Haft, head of global partnerships at ConsenSys and a member of the original group of student activists who established the inaugural Earth Day in 1970, talked up Ethereum fork Celo.

“Celo has been particularly active in the environmental and social governance space,” said Haft. The startup has found a way to build funding for anti-deforestation or other climate-friendly causes into its proof-of-stake blockchain system, he said.

Earth Day, which comprises events in more than 193 countries, would normally see crowds of people take to the streets in celebration. However, this year’s event will be virtual thanks to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We made the decision to pivot our Earth Day 2020 event from an in-person event for people in New York City, to one that is 100 percent digital this year and available worldwide,” said ConsenSys Executive Director Vanessa Grellet, who’s also the president of the BSIC board.

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