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BRIN Webinar

CirclesUBI is a community-based Universal Basic Income (UBI) program that provides a complementary digital currency called Circles. Circles Points are earned and spent within localized exchange networks based on mutual trust and agreement. They aim at strengthening communities. Our pilot research has been conducted in collaboration with Indonesia's National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN). The aim is to study the impacts, and any potential risks of this innovative, blockchain-powered Circles UBI model on communities across Bali.

At the conclusion of this research period, our team was honored to share the results from the 2023 CirclesUBI Bali study at a publicly accessible webinar hosted by Indonesia's National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).

On February 23rd, our research advisors at BRIN presented fascinating findings on the CirclesUBI pilot study in an engaging webinar. It was wonderful to be joined by some of the research participants themselves from Tabanan, Jembrana, and Denpasar.

The head of BRIN's Population Research Center, Mr. Nawawi, remarked that this pilot was the first experiment conducted in Indonesia to study a blockchain and UBI combination. The survey questionnaires created by BRIN researchers were used to measure changes in variables related to financial welfare, health, food security, social capital, and overall life satisfaction across pilot participants and control groups in their areas.

The aim of the study was ascertaining a preliminary sense of whether, and if so how, recipients' lives changed before and after receiving CirclesUBI over a 3-month period. All of the participants were eager to learn what impacts emerged from the data they had gathered.

BRIN compared outcomes between a treatment group of 97 Circles users and a control group of 186 non-users across the three distinct (urban, semi-urban, and rural) locations in Bali that were chosen for the study due to their diverse characteristics. The participating locations were the urban municipality of Denpasar, and the districts of Jembrana and Tabanan. Data was gathered through in person interviews that were conducted both before and after the CirclesUBI intervention.

The research examined nine key dimensions including financial status, consumption habits, food security, physical/mental health, social capital, and overall life satisfaction. Keeping in mind the very short 3-month period of pilot implementation, several measures did not show a significant change, however even so some interesting benefits did emerge:

  • On average Circles UBI users in Jembrana decreased their levels of debt

  • Survey respondents in Tabanan reported lower spending on ceremonial costs

  • A small number of users in Jembrana reduced their frequency of online gambling

  • Trust from others increased for Circles participants in Tabanan

  • Users in urban Denpasar dined out more frequently, stimulating the local economy

These preliminary results indicate that Circles UBI has the potential to improve financial welfare and social cohesion, although further research, over a more extended period of time is of course needed.

A fellow economist, Ni Kadek Sinarwati, from Ganesha University highlighted the importance of community-centered implementation for the sustainability of programs like CirclesUBI. As a complementary currency, Circles works best when integrated into existing social structures and norms.

The Circles UBI model aims to reinforce localized systems of exchange, rather than provide direct cash disbursements as is found in traditional UBI programs. With its unique blockchain technology, Circles empowers communities to strengthen bonds and reimagine how they cooperate to meet common needs.

This spirit of mutual-support at the heart of Circles UBU aligns well with the local cultural practice of ‘gotong-royong’, or mutual assistance, that is deeply embedded in Balinese society. While our pilot revealed light impacts in this preliminary 3-month trial, we believe that deploying Circles UBI long-term, through grassroots community networks, will have more transformative results.

Everyone at the Circles UBI team wishes to extend our sincere, heartfelt thanks to BRIN for their partnership, guidance and providing such a rigorously considered study for reviewing and validating the Circles UBI concept. This webinar brought together stakeholders across government, academia, technology, and importantly, actual UBI recipients from communities in Bali.

To access the complete study from BRIN click here.

As we work to improve and scale CirclesUBI, research efforts like BRIN's demonstrate the viability of community-based social equity models. We hope to inspire more initiatives that use technology to bring people together, rather than pull them apart. The future of UBI lies in empowering communities to support each other's essential needs and thrive.

If you wish to explore more about the research results, please feel free to watch the recording of the webinar (held in Bahasa Indonesia) through this link.


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