22 votes

Just give poor people money

7 comments

  1. skybrian
    Link
    From the article:

    From the article:

    In the last three years, humanitarian organizations have doubled their cash and voucher programs, giving out $5.6 billion last year, according to an annual survey by the Cash Learning Partnership, or CaLP, a network of 90 humanitarian groups around the world. “Fifteen years ago, we were five organizations trying this weird new thing: What if we just gave cash to people?” says Sophie Tholstrup, policy coordinator with CaLP.

    What became apparent is that the recipients would prioritize their needs and spend money in ways that set themselves up for the long term. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tholstrup says, families might skip a meal in order to send a child to school. “It’s a terrible choice to have to be making, but families were able to choose, and it struck me that that’s where the decision-making power should be,” she says.

    Cash is also less prone to diversion or outright corruption. Cash distributions are often digital, and deposits are more discreet and more difficult for middlemen to steal. You can’t hold a village’s worth of mobile money deposits hostage at a rebel checkpoint. But even inside humanitarian aid groups, that part of the story hasn’t taken hold yet. More than one-third of the humanitarians CaLP surveyed last year think the risk of fraud or corruption is still too high, despite growing evidence to the contrary, Tholstrup says.

    9 votes
  2. knocklessmonster
    Link
    I think part of the issue is Western labor ideologies. It starts with the proven fact that people who are paid when they're not working work less. This is actually used to an advantage in various...

    I think part of the issue is Western labor ideologies.

    It starts with the proven fact that people who are paid when they're not working work less. This is actually used to an advantage in various countries with generous unemployment systems because it means people aren't desperate to work, and can find the right job, to stay at the job. This extends to African countries, coupled with all sorts of biases against Africa (some racial, some a sort of cultural superiority complex), and even understandings of some realities of rampant corruption in some regions that get extrapolated to an entire continent. "If we give them money, the warlords will take it!"

    I think it's great that Odede's trying to get the word out, and even I'm surprised that money is really fixing it. It feels to simple, but it also bolsters the local market, which can increase money circulation, and help people keep functioning, and eventually improve things themselves. I'm probably more used to the "Send us money so we can send <x> to the kids in need" sort of charity but that's sort of been the west's way of throwing stuff at a problem, corrected by the call from people in poorer countries to simply send them what they need (money) to make their systems (local economy, military) work.

    8 votes
  3. [3]
    post_below
    Link
    This is great to see. It's not surprising that it works, the data has been clear on that for years. But the scale is amazing: That's not easy to pull off when you're up against such a strong and...

    This is great to see. It's not surprising that it works, the data has been clear on that for years.

    But the scale is amazing:

    cash or vouchers now account for nearly 20 percent of the $29 billion given out in humanitarian aid each year

    That's not easy to pull off when you're up against such a strong and enduring misconception.

    Here's a great related TED talk from Rutger Bregman:
    https://youtu.be/ydKcaIE6O1k

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Good_Apollo
      Link Parent
      The data is constantly against the generally accepted mantras in economics and social policies, yet here we are constantly fighting for people to see the light. It’s a Sisyphean task and drains my...

      The data is constantly against the generally accepted mantras in economics and social policies, yet here we are constantly fighting for people to see the light. It’s a Sisyphean task and drains my energy when I try to change the hearts and minds of those around me. I get called a bleeding-heart, foolish idealist, communist, and other more sordid insults even.

      7 votes
      1. crdpa
        Link Parent
        Same. I can't even think to say something about this here in Brazil. The brainwashing that there is a big communist boogeyman trying to take over the country is too ingrained. Unfortunately I...

        Same. I can't even think to say something about this here in Brazil.

        The brainwashing that there is a big communist boogeyman trying to take over the country is too ingrained.

        Unfortunately I don't have energy for this anymore.

        4 votes
  4. wcerfgba
    Link
    My favourite charity, GiveDirectly operate in exactly this way: They have some studies linked on their website as well about the efficacy of direct cash transfers and how they try to evaluate how...

    My favourite charity, GiveDirectly operate in exactly this way:

    GiveDirectly is the leading global NGO specialized in delivering digital cash transfers. We’ve worked in challenging contexts across 8 countries, from Houston after Harvey to the most remote parts of Uganda, and launched 13 experimental evaluations (RCTs) with independent researchers documenting the impacts on recipients and on the local economy.

    They have some studies linked on their website as well about the efficacy of direct cash transfers and how they try to evaluate how recipients are using the money in unbiased ways, really interesting stuff.

    One thing I find interesting is some recipients use the money to expand their businesses, so although the programme isn't directly about social enterprise itself, because it is such a flexible approach for recipients, it does end up yielding some of the same benefits of social enterprise investment.

    I'd like to see similar charities -- or maybe just GiveDirectly -- expanding to Western countries as well. In the UK we have food banks and a lot of people struggling to make ends meet and I wonder if the same model would be effective here.

    EDIT: Looks like GD do have a few US programmes, I thought they were mostly based in Africa. Good stuff :)

    3 votes