Stellar Aid Assist
One year ago, Stellar Aid Assist launched in Ukraine under UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, marking the realization of a vision for payments on the Stellar network that our team and ecosystem had been building for years. As an organization obsessed with making payments cheaper, faster, and more efficient, we had been convening an ecosystem of wallets, on and off-ramps, and the technical tools and know-how to connect the existing financial system with blockchain to achieve that.
When the war in Ukraine began, all that work came to a head. In under two months, the UNHCR had a minimum viable product (MVP) in hand that could deliver aid using blockchain technology. And by December of 2022, less than ten months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with millions of people displaced within the country, Stellar Aid Assist was launched.
It was a short timeline, with many stakeholders, but as many people within the organization and the Stellar ecosystem will tell you, it was one of our most rewarding experiences to date. Without each component of Stellar Aid Assist – Circle, Moneygram International, and Vibrant – it would have not been possible. And it goes without saying, that without the innovative and forward thinking of UNHCR, this initiative would still be an idea.
Under UNHCR, the program began as a limited launch of the aid assistance in Ukraine for internally displaced people. Since then it has since been expanded to deliver assistance for basic needs, rent, and victims of gender-based violence. At the end of its first year, UNHCR successfully served over 1500 individuals and disbursed more than $1.1 million in essential aid using Stellar Aid Assist. The initiative has received global recognition, receiving awards for its innovative approach and impact, and lauded by the Ukrainian government. This isn’t tech for tech’s sake. Aid delivery on the blockchain has proven to be a genuine and viable option for aid organizations for enhanced efficiencies and effectiveness.
The successful design of Stellar Aid Assist also acted as a springboard towards the development of the Stellar Disbursement Platform. After building the initial technical platform to disburse the payments in bulk, we knew this transformative platform was the unlock button from facilitating peer-to-peer payments to efficiently managing bulk payments. With feedback and iteration, we transformed the platform from a backend with a limited user interface to a full product. In August 2023, we open-sourced the Stellar Disbursement Platform, making it available to anyone to use and customize to fit their needs. With it, organizations, governments, and companies can facilitate bulk payments (within and across international borders) more cheaply, quickly, and transparently than legacy financial systems and in compliance with regulatory standards. Payments can range from government programs such as stimulus checks and tax refunds to payroll disbursements for gig workers and creators around the globe. For recipients, SDP opens new possibilities for underserved and overlooked individuals who do not have access to bank accounts and the benefits of instant and portable money.
We've seen payments sent to people globally, from the Gambia to Mexico. We've seen builders from inside and outside the Stellar ecosystem contribute to the code to make it even better.
We are witnessing what blockchain can do to create meaningful and impactful solutions for the most vulnerable amongst us in their time of need. Stellar Aid Assist, with its partners, has set the stage for a future where innovation and compassion converge to uplift communities and make a tangible difference in people's lives. And this journey is far from over. We envision leveraging existing partnerships, forging new partnerships, expanding into new regions, and continuing to respond to the increased global demand for efficient aid disbursement.