BanQu Tackles World’s Biggest Problems with Help from BYU Students
Apr 07, 2022 –
Gender Inequality, Climate Change, and Extreme Poverty
“The three greatest problems that currently face the world are gender inequality, climate change, and extreme poverty, all of which intersect in our global supply chain,” explains Ashish Gadnis, cofounder and CEO of BanQu and the BYU Ballard Center for Social Impact’s 2022 Social Innovator of the Year Awardee.
“A mama farmer in Zambia, for example, is often unfairly discriminated against for her gender, does not receive fair pay for her products, and ultimately can’t even open a bank account because she has no digitally verifiable proof of sales,” Ashish continues. “So despite her contributions to the global supply chain, without receipts that her crops ended up at your local grocery store, that mama farmer remains invisible, and these big companies continue to claim ‘fair trade’ and ‘sustainability’ while rarely tracing their materials back to the original source.”
Growing up in India, Ashish experienced poverty firsthand. He acutely remembers having to share a bathroom with 16 other families and feeling his first moment of true freedom after later landing a software engineering job in Bogota, Colombia. The company gave him his own apartment with his very own bathroom. “I thought I was dreaming,” recalls Ashish.
When a subsequent employer encouraged him to open his first bank account, he realized he was beginning to finally build wealth. “Once I was bankable, I was on my way to a secure, brighter future,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to advocate for others so they could take similar steps.”
Revolutionizing Supply Chains
BanQu, a for-purpose, for-profit software company, is a current corporate partner with the Ballard Center. The organization empowers brands to have more “traceable, transparent, and equitable” supply chains, while simultaneously ensuring that farmers, miners, and recyclers have equal rights and access to transactions. Otherwise, “behind every product you touch is a person who remains invisible, ‘unbankable,’ and impoverished,” says Ashish.
BanQu works to revolutionize supply chains with a patented blockchain platform that traces original materials back to the first-mile farmers, waste collectors, and laborers. This new technology securely tracks transactions in real time, ensuring that the first-mile workers receive a verified copy of all sales through SMS text messages. With these digital receipts, laborers can legitimize their work efforts and begin building wealth with secure records and newfound access to financial services, including personal bank accounts, lower interest rates, or affordable business loans.
Refugee Relief through Blockchain and BYU
Lack of economic visibility is a global issue not only for first-mile workers but also for refugees. Displaced individuals must often flee their homes and leave everything behind, including proof of identity, certifications, educational records, pay stubs, tax returns, and more. BanQu plans to leverage its blockchain platform to similarly tackle this problem through a new upcoming partnership with Utah Valley Refugees, supported by a BYU cohort of students.
Since January 2021, BanQu has seen remarkable success partnering with groups of BYU students through the Ballard Center’s Social Innovation Projects (SIP) class. In SIP, students learn how to solve social problems in a classroom setting and then receive internship credit working with a corporate partner on a semester-long project. BYU students have aided BanQu in gathering data and refining messaging and marketing strategies, and will now test their models with BanQu’s Utah Valley Refugees partnership.
“I wanted the students to see that similar problems exist within a five-mile radius, and to experience applying what they have learned to solve these very real, backyard issues,” notes Ashish.
For students interested in registering for the Social Innovation Projects class, you can learn more here: https://sip.byu.edu/
For those interested in becoming a corporate partner for BYU’s Social Innovation Projects, visit: https://marriott.byu.edu/ballard/partners/
Media Contact: Jess Dansie Anderson, 801-422-9009
Writer: Jess Dansie Anderson