This week, in response to a poorly-argued front-page Daily Mail article against the UK’s cash transfers, we saw a pretty extraordinarily response to cash from a range of organizations and officials, including the Prime Minister Theresa May, herself. Also, this week, Benjamin Soskis wrote a long piece on cash and benchmarking in The Atlantic, and the launch of Finland’s basic income experiment was covered in a variety of outlets.


1. Finland just launched an experiment giving 2,000 people free money until 2019
Business Insider, Chris Weller, January 2, 2017
But other long-term experiments are picking up the slack. Basic income is part of government conversations in Canada, India, and the Netherlands. A pilot project run by the Silicon Valley firm Y Combinator is soon launching in Oakland, California, and the charity GiveDirectly has launched a massive 12-year study in Kenya.

2. Popularity of Cash Transfers Could Create a New Paradigm
Philanthropy News Digest, January 2, 2017
The mounting research evidence combined with advances in digital payment systems, widespread cell-phone ownership, and increased access to financial services helps explain the growing popularity of GiveDirectly, a nonprofit that has aggressively promoted the efficacy of direct cash transfers to poor people. Moreover, cash transfers have shown great promise as an evaluative tool. Respected charity evaluator GiveWell, among others, has begun to use such transfers as a baseline against which to compare other charities, while GiveDirectly co-founder Jeremy Shapiro likens the potential of cash benchmarking to index funds, in that someday it could force aid organizations to actually demonstrate that their favored approaches to poverty alleviation are doing more good than just giving the money to the poor directly.

3. The Three-Word Question That’s Changing What Charities Do With Their Resources
The Atlantic, Benjamin Soskis, December 29, 2016
This convergence of evaluative rigor and technological advances helps explain the rise of GiveDirectly, the charity that has most aggressively implemented charitable unconditional cash transfers. GiveDirectly has developed programs in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, pooling donations and then electronically transferring $1,000 to each of the households it has identified as the poorest in the region. The organization then monitors the recipients and conducts randomized controlled trials to evaluate its programs. It’s a relatively simple concept, though it took a while for GiveDirectly to convince potential funders of its merits: One fundraising pitch in Silicon Valley was reportedly met with the response, “You must be smoking crack.” But investors couldn’t ignore the organization’s data, and soon GiveDirectly had attracted funds from Google and from several of Facebook’s co-founders.


4. Theresa May defends foreign aid cash handouts after Daily Mail attacks ‘dole’ scheme
The Independent, Rob Merrick, January 3, 2017
She told a Westminster briefing the “effectiveness” of cash transfers had been recognised by the National Audit Office, Whitehall’s spending watchdog. And she said: “In the last four years, cash transfers supported by UK aid have helped almost nine million of the world’s poorest people to buy food, medicine, and clean water.

5. Pakistan cash transfers defended as MP says aid programme amounts to ‘exporting the dole’
The Telegraph, January 3, 2017
But MP Nigel Evans, a former Commons deputy speaker and member of the International Development Select Committee, warned that cash transfers were “clearly open to fraud”. The UK aid budget helps fund the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which offers cash amounting to just over £10 a month to some of the poorest families in a country where 60 million people live on less than £1 a day.

6. The year’s top development stories: 2016 in review
The Guardian, Liz Ford, December 30, 2016
This year has been dominated by concerns about hunger and food security and increased migration as El Niño and conflict took their devastating toll. Zika was declared a public health emergency and world leaders met in Durban to discuss progress on reducing HIV. The UK got a new international development secretary, who immediately began to make waves, and the world speculated on what the US president-elect has in store for women and aid policies.


7. Finland trials basic income for unemployed
The Guardian, Jon Henley, January 3, 2017
Finland has become the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum, in a social experiment that will be watched around the world amid gathering interest in the idea of a universal basic income.

8. Finland to test ‘universal basic income’ for the unemployed
DW, Rachel Stewart, December 28, 2016
A group of 2,000 unemployed people in Finland will receive a basic income every month from the state, tax-free and with no strings attached. Proponents hope to prove such schemes boost people’s motivation to find work.

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