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First of its kind – Cash in the News

With the World Humanitarian Summit coming up next week, the discussion turns toward ways cash can make aid more cost-effective. Journalists reported on emergency cash transfers for disaster relief in Canada and the outcomes of cash on infants. The Irish Times covered Kenya’s mobile money system as a vehicle for sending cash instead of in-kind goods. Meanwhile, another form of cash transfers, basic income, remained in the news, with a piece by Reuters calling GiveDirectly’s trial, “the first… of its kind.”


1. You Can’t Talk About Robots Without Talking About Basic Income
Motherboard, Vice, Wren Handman, May 14, 2016
Around the world, countries are listening to these examples, and starting their own experiments into basic income…. Meanwhile, Switzerland will hold a referendum on the topic in June of this year, and a charity called GiveDirectly has decided to take the onus out of the government’s hands; it’s giving guaranteed 10-year basic incomes to selected families in Kenya.

2. Can We End Global Poverty? A New Program May Show the Way
Care2, Cody Fenwick, May 13, 2016
This is where charities like GiveDirectly comes in. GiveDirectly is initiating a new program to provide a guaranteed basic income to entire villages in the developing world, which may serve as a model for aid more broadly. GiveDirectly has been pioneering a unique method of providing cash transfers to poor families in Kenya and Uganda for years. Using cell phones to transfer money directly to recipients, GiveDirectly has been able to immediately see where and by whom funds are being received, unlike many other methods of charitable giving.

3. In first trial of its kind, charity to give poor Kenyans cash for 10 years
Reuters, Lin Taylor, May 12, 2016
What would happen if poor villages were given cash for the next decade, no strings attached? That’s the question one U.S. charity wants to answer through a pilot programme to provide poor Kenyans with a guaranteed basic income for 10 years. In an ambitious social experiment, GiveDirectly plans to transfer cash to 6,000 Kenyans living in extreme poverty for a decade, making it the world’s first basic income trial of its kind, it said.

4. Rich people can end poverty
Oxfam blog, Gawain Kripke, May 10, 2016
But, GiveDirectly, a non-profit that gives unconditional cash transfers to poor people in Kenya and Uganda, is going to show just how it can be done. The organization recently announced that they will give $10 million to end poverty for 6,000 people in Kenya. It’s not totally clear who the rich donors are, but Vox reports that some venture capital and angel investor tycoons are involved. It’s great to see some rich people catching on to the project of rich people ending poverty. Good for them! They hope this will be part of a $30 million project to last for the next 10-15 years. This is fantastic and a real break-through.


5. How the mobile phone changed Kenya
The Irish Times, Harry McGee, May 14, 2016
The scheme expanded. Families at risk of extreme poverty, usually in Nairobi’s slums, received a monthly transfer for eight or nine months. The monthly sum was modest – 2,000 Kenyan shillings, or about €17.50 – but “a cash transfer is better than a food transfer,” says Wendy Erasmus, O’Mahoney’s successor. “It gives people an independence and a power of decisionmaking. We saw a surprising increase in the number of meals people ate during the day as a result of this small cash transfer. The second thing we saw was that people were able to keep their kids in school or put them back in.”

6. Buying a Better Baby: Unconditional Income Transfers and Birth Outcomes
Pediatrics, Andrew D. Racine, May 2016
Can society buy a better infant? This is, in essence, the question posed in this month’s Pediatrics article by Brownell et al. Studying a group of low-income Canadian women who participated in an unconditional cash transfer program (Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit [HBPB]), the authors compared the birth outcomes of participants with outcomes among a group of low-income nonparticipants. They found that the group that received the equivalent of $81.00 per month over the second and third trimesters of their pregnancies experienced a 21% decrease in the rates of low birth weight and a 17.5% decrease in the rates of prematurity among other clinically important outcomes.


7. ​Can charity raters achieve both rigor and scale?
Devex, Catherine Cheney, May 13, 2016
With increasing attention to effective altruism, a movement to ensure philanthropic donations achieve as much impact as possible, there is also growing demand for information to guide those donations. That is where charity raters come in. But these tend to fall into two groups: large charity raters such as Charity Navigator survey thousands of organizations, collecting basic financial transparency data, such as the percentage of an NGOs budget that goes to overhead expenses. Smaller charity raters such as GiveWell do deep dives into questions of programmatic effectiveness, then recommend a small group of the charities as worthy of funding. For GiveWell, only four make the mark of top charities.


8. The Case for Cash for All
Huffington Post, Chris Hughes, May 17, 2016
Some would argue that this kind of temporary credit would not be enough. The movement supporting a basic income — recurring, unconditional cash payments — has blossomed in recent months, and a number of countries have begun to consider providing all their citizens with an income of $10,000 or more. Canada, Finland, New Zealand, and a region of The Netherlands have all started to research or experiment with a universal basic income. Momentum is growing for a social dividend in the United Kingdom, and next month Switzerland will hold a referendum on whether to provide a basic income to all its citizens.

9. What it Takes To Get Workers to be Their Most Creative
Fortune, Rick Wartzman, May 12, 2016
At a Future of Work conference in Zurich last week, much of the discussion turned, intriguingly, to a day when lots of people might choose not to work at all. Or at least they might not do so in the way that many of us currently define “work.” “Most people in this world are doing work that they really would rather not do, but they have to do,” Robert Reich, the former U.S. Labor Secretary, told an audience of about 300 or so. “Can’t a rich country aspire to give more of its citizens the possibility of doing less of what they don’t want to do and more of what they do want to do? Obviously, the answer should be, in my view, yes.”

10. ‘Most important cash transfer’ in Red Cross history: $600 per adult, $300 per child
CBC News, Michelle Belliefontaine, May 11, 2016
The Canadian Red Cross will soon start providing emergency funds of $600 per adult and $300 per child from the millions raised so far for Fort McMurray, Alta., residents forced from their homes by the wildfire. The funds will be transferred electronically, within the next 24 to 48 hours, to individuals who have already registered with the Red Cross. The transfers represent $50 million of the $67 million donated by Canadians. Red Cross chief executive Conrad Sauve said this is first phase of helping evacuees. More funds will be provided down the road.