GiveDirectly is a charity based on the simple premise of sending one-off unconditional cash transfers to very poor households.
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? A chunk of money is handed out with no control over what happens to it. Surely people will jump at the opportunity to buy a new pair of Nike trainers? Rigorous research done by both GiveDirectly and external assessors shows that giving recipients the freedom to do what they want with the money has a much higher impact than other approaches to reduce poverty.
As well as visiting the Nairobi HQ, we spent a day with the field team in Bomet, visiting past recipients and watching the enrolment process.
It was touching to see how several years on, people had turned their lives around from the GiveDirectly transfer. In many cases people used the money to invest & generate an income. For example, one family used the money to develop a shop/cafe (serving 3 villages), meaning they no longer have to work in harsh conditions to earn $1 a day, and now their kids can go to school. With the recipient taking full responsibility for the construction of the cafe, they boosted local employment and kept costs very low. Costing just $350, it would probably have cost $3,500 if managed by a charity. The business is now so profitable ($70/month) that the family are extending to create a barber shop.
Watching the charity in the field was quite something. The end-to-end process is so simple and slick, that a team of 50 are part of an operation handing out over $15m a year, including visiting every participant individually and following up with them several times.
GiveDirectly is not solely about cash transfers, they are running several other programmes, including one concerning Universal Basic Income.
There are a million and one things we could tell you about our visit, but there isn’t space to do so here. We are very happy to talk to anyone in detail about our experience.