Programmable Donations: Exploring Escrow-based Conditional Giving

Chris Elsden, Ludwig Trotter, Mike Harding, Nigel Davies, Chris Speed, John Vines

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


This paper reports on a co-speculative interview study with charitable donors to explore the future of programmable, conditional and data-driven donations. Responding to the rapid emergence of blockchain-based and AI-supported financial technologies, we specifically examine the potential of automated, third-party ‘escrows’, where donations are held before they are released or returned based on specified rules and conditions. To explore this we conducted pilot workshops with 9 participants and an interview study in which 14 further participants were asked about their experiences of donating money, and invited to co-speculate on a service for programmable giving. The study elicited how data-driven conditionality and automation could be leveraged to create novel donor experiences, however also illustrated the inherent tensions and challenges involved in giving programmatically. Reflecting on these findings, our paper contributes implications both for the design of programmable aid platforms, and the design of escrow-based financial services in general.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '19)
Subtitle of host publicationMay 4–9, 2019, Glasgow, Scotland UK
Place of PublicationNew York, NY, USA
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781450359702
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2019
EventACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2019: CHI’19 Workshop: HCI in China: Research Agenda, Education Curriculum, Industry Partnership, and Communities Building - Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 May 20199 May 2019


ConferenceACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2019
Abbreviated titleCHI 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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