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Austin-based nonprofit using blockchain technology, cryptocurrency to help children in need

Upbring’s goal is to protect and prevent children from living in dangerous or unhealthy situations. To do that, the organization is getting innovative.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor’s note: Catch this story Thursday night on KVUE News at 10 p.m.

One location nonprofit is using newer technology to help address an age-old problem.

Upbring is an Austin-based nonprofit that serves more than 11,000 children in the state of Texas. The organization has three main ministries: foster care, education and resettlement. 

Upbring’s goal is to protect and prevent children from living in dangerous or unhealthy situations. The organization currently has 75 locations throughout Texas to carry out that mission.

It’s a mission that aims to break the cycle of child abuse but also break the mold when it comes to how the mission is accomplished.

Upbring’s President and CEO Michael P. Loo understands that there are different ways to help kids, and he and his team have started an innovation lab of five employees who are working to use technology to advance the organization’s goals. 

“We don’t want to just keep doing what we do from a programming perspective. We want to start adding some value in terms of measuring the impact on the child. What do our programs actually do while we have them,” Loo said.

The 5-person innovation lab is coming up with ways to do just that, in addition to developing new ways to raise necessary funding. 

Ryan Park is the vice president of innovation.  

“A huge piece of the industry influence is opening minds to what is possible,” Park said.

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One application Park and his innovation team are working on is using blockchain technology to essentially speed up the process of identifying a child in need. Through this, Upbring will be able to assist that child with the resources that they need more quickly. 

“We are also working on a big data project to use millions and millions of fields of data to determine potentially predict where child abuse could happen next,” Park said. 

As with any nonprofit, funding is necessary to run Upbring. It is a $100 million organization, and 15% to 20% of that budget is raised through private fundraising. 

That’s where Upbring’s latest innovation comes in. Park and his team have developed a cryptocurrency donation program that is currently up and running. They have also started a cryptocurrency endowment. 

“We actually hold their bitcoin, Ethereum, hundreds of other cryptocurrencies and that fund grows over time. We pull just a little bit of the gains to fund our projects that we’re working on,” Park said.

Loo is happy with the projects that are in the works and those, like the crypto-philanthropy initiatives, that are already being utilized at Upbring. 

“We really believe we have a really bright future for this. It’s not going to come without challenges and bumps and so forth, but we’re gonna rock!” Loo said.

It’s all part of what makes Upbring a nonprofit on the cutting edge of technology with a goal to protect children.

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