Pro bono through blockchain: Tokens Pombo

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Carmen Pombo Morales
Fundación Fernando Pombo, Madrid

Alejandra Martín Benítez
Fundación Fernando Pombo, Madrid



The Fernando Pombo Foundation (the Foundation) works globally and focuses its activity on the creation of social projects with innovative legal content for social transformation.[1] Within the scope of developing and promoting pro bono culture and the social responsibility of the legal profession, it develops legal projects to strengthen social entrepreneurship and responsible advice on human rights and business, as well as in other specific areas.[2] ITo achieve a multiplier effect, the Foundation works in a network with lawyers from Gómez-Acebo & Pombo, universities, legal clinics, non-governmental organisations, public administration, and national and international institutions.

Tokens Pombo: merging pro bono and blockchain technology

Social responsibility is one of the Foundation’s main concerns and innovation is a necessary tool. Tokens Pombo are a pioneering initiative in the legal sector that sees the merger of pro bono work and funding to enable access to justice projects for the most vulnerable. This initiative was created and promoted by the Foundation in collaboration with Gómez-Acebo & Pombo, and with the technological support of Blockchain Work Labs. Tokens Pombo have attracted donors because blockchain offers full transparency and traceability of their donation. To achieve the required outcome, projects involve both the Foundation’s performance and pro bono hours.

How it works

The transaction takes place in a virtual platform of a public blockchain network, named Stellar. Within the platform, Tokens Pombo are issued, and donors are able to allocate the destination of the tokens from a list of projects drawn up by the Foundation. Although the process can be applied more generally, these tokens grant pro bono working hours of Gómez-Acebo & Pombo lawyers to the following list of projects:[3]

Older women and teenagers in gender-based violence situations

This issue is of great concern owing to its intensification in recent years, both in the context of teenagers and older women. These victims face multiple legal barriers with significant complications when violence is digital or financial.

Victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation

There are many barriers faced by the victims and survivors of human trafficking. Such trafficking violates fundamental rights including dignity and freedom and legal solutions can remove or lessen obstructions to support and freedom.

Children and health

Enhancing the rights of the child and seeking the deletion of barriers to enjoyment of those rights, particularly in the context of healthcare is a key objective, aiming to improve access for treatment and medical therapy needed.

The collaboration, through blockchain technology, is an innovative and revolutionary way of undertaking pro bono, which could be extended to other sectors. This mechanism offers transparency and absolute traceability at the time of both the donation and development of pro bono project’s work. There is a one-year-deadline to repay issued tokens. At the initial launch in October 2019, 350 non-refundable Tokens Pombo were issued. At this first offering of tokens, ten subscribers (the maximum launch donors allowed) were entered as subscribers including: CEMEX, EBN Bank, Ford, Bancaria Ibercaja Foundation, Botín Foundation, Mutua Madrileña Foundation, Romeu Group, IBM, MACSA ID and the Lawyers Mutual Insurance.

The process and the role of the Foundation in creating and facilitating pro bono projects

The Foundation plays a pivotal and crucial role in the process as without suitable, well-defined and compelling projects, pro bono work often does not happen. Using experience in its specialist fields, the Foundation develops the projects and manages the use of pro bono hours with Gómez-Acebo & Pombo lawyers with specific profiles to ensure success. In other words, the Foundation designs and creates customised projects for the Tokens Pombo subscribers, focusing on identified vulnerable groups, addressing their legal barriers through analysis and collaboration with civil society. The Foundation’s work also includes different transactions in the following steps:Token subscribers have a virtual wallet to operate within the Stellar network.

1. Token subscribers have a virtual wallet to operate within the Stellar network.

2. Tokens were purchased by transferring the amount of lumens stipulated in the smart contract generating the tokens.

3. Subscribers selected a project from the list provided by the Foundation and allocated their Tokens to that project by transferring them through the virtual wallet.

4. The Foundation deploys the pro bono hours depending on the needs of each project and the course of its execution.

5. Inasmuch as the pro bono hours are employed in the projects, the Foundation will certify the service provided and the effective use of pro bono hours, reporting back to the donors.[4]

Furthermore, the Foundation identifies, executes, manages and communicates on all aspects of the project. Additional needs may be identified for vulnerable groups, leading to further pro bono projects and support. Once a further legal barrier has been identified, the Foundation can form pro bono lawyers’ groups to start an investigation into and execute the project. During the implementation, part of the task of the Foundation is to continuously engage with its subscribers, updating and reporting back on progress, as an important component of blockchain methodology is its transparency.

As the project advances, information about its progress will be entered by the Foundation in the blockchain platform for traceability. Results will also be communicated to donors. Finally, the Foundation will perform the important element of evaluating the effective social impact of the project, considering if the resolution had the expected result, eliminating barriers for either the victims of trafficking, gender-based violence, or children with health problems.


This initiative is a truly ground-breaking approach to advancing social causes, deploying pro bono resources, using blockchain technology and bringing transparent reporting to donors. This leads to a better way of promoting the Foundation’s innovative access to justice pro bono projects and it is both traceable and transparent. This revolutionary combination is also a way for donors to get more closely involved in projects which make a social impact. Previously, a donor may have lost track of how their donation was put to use. However, this close correlation between donor and project via technology now allows an ongoing connection. Blockchain technology, therefore, will allow the Foundation to raise funds and offer participation and collaboration to donors who are interested in gender-based violence, trafficking for sexual exploitation, and children’s health projects.


[1] The Foundation was jointly founded in 2010 by the firm Gómez-Acebo & Pombo and its founder, the late Fernando Pombo, who was President of the IBA in 2007–2008.

[2] The Foundation’s objectives are mainly two-fold: (1) to advance and campaign for the rights of the following vulnerable groups – forced migrants, the homeless, vulnerable women (gender-based violence, trafficked women) and vulnerable patients (persons in social exclusion with a chronic, disabling, rare disease, serious or mental health condition); and (2) to advocate for the global legal profession to use its influence and capacity to be a force for social justice.

[3]  The Foundation has created a website to show the positive impact of its projects and pro bono work, available at: https://www.fundacionpombo.org/tokenspombo, last accessed 2 April 2020.

[4] The tracking of the transactions and Tokens status can be checked on the virtual platforms: https://stellarchain.io and //www.fundacionpombo.org/tokenspombo, both last accessed 2 April 2020.


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