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Research Director Field Studies – Day 1: In the details

In the first part of this three-part series, GiveDirectly’s Research Director Michael Cooke discusses key takeaways from his trip to visit field teams and recipients in Kenya.

Truth and Customer Service: two of many things that have been said to be in the details. What I saw today was GiveDirectly’s call center team in Kisumu, Kenya striving for both.

GiveDirectly sign by roadside


Let’s face it, call centers are where an awful lot of the work gets done when your customers are remote (as GiveDirectly’s are), and how these centers operate makes the difference between satisfaction and frustration for end users.

The details definitely matter. One team I sat with manages a “hotline” that participants in GiveDirectly’s programs can call if they have any problems.

Another team I sat with deal with “adverse events”, the things that we do our utmost to avoid, but that inevitably happen from time-to-time. These events include conflict in a household (rare), requests for bribes, and theft of transfers. Getting to the bottom of these issues requires the investigatory powers of a Private Investigator (getting to the bottom of what has happened the rare cases of theft), combined with the guile and people-reading of a top social worker (when couples are having a conflict). It is also an essential source of learning for our operations, informing how we support vulnerable participants with cash transfers, for example through nominated trustees.

Tomorrow I have the privilege of going out with some of GiveDirectly’s field officers to meet potential GiveDirectly participants. I can’t wait.