Transcript: Cash Aid | Dec 21, 2016

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her thirties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a gray blazer over a white shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine."
Then, it changes to "Cash aid."

Nam says THERE ARE MANY CHARITIES
THAT DO GOOD WORKS.
BUT THERE AREN'T THAT MANY THAT
USE DATA TO ANALYZE AND IDENTIFY
NEED, AND THEN GET DONORS TO
SEND CASH MONEY STRAIGHT TO THE
PEOPLE WHO WILL USE IT.
THE NON-PROFIT "GIVE DIRECTLY."
DOES, AND JOINING US NOW FROM
NEW YORK, NEW YORK CITY, TO
EXPLAIN HOW IT ALL WORKS:
JOE HUSTON, REGIONAL DIRECTOR IN
EAST AFRICA FOR GIVE DIRECTLY.

Joe is in his thirties, with short blond hair and a stubble. He's wearing a black coat and a pink shirt.

Nam continues WELCOME, JOE.

Joe says THANK YOU.
IT'S GREAT TO BE HERE.

Nam says NOW, JOE, IF
SOMEBODY SAID TO ME, NAM, HERE'S
1,000 dollars, YOU CAN USE IT FOR
WHATEVER YOU WANT.
I WOULD THINK SOMETHING'S UP.
I WOULD SAY, WHAT DO YOU WANT IN
RETURN.
SO EXPLAIN TO ME, HOW DOES "GIVE
DIRECTLY" WORK?

The caption changes to "Joe Huston. Give directly."
Then, it changes again to "Show me the money."

Joe says WHAT WE DO IS
VERY SIMPLE.
WE DELIVER CASH TRANSFERS
DIRECTLY TO THE POOR, TO SOME OF
THE POOREST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.
THOSE CASH TRANSFERS HAVE NO
STRINGS ATTACHED.
PEOPLE CAN SPEND IT HOWEVER THEY
WANT.
IT'S NOT A LOAN, IT'S A GRANT.
THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY IT BACK
AT ANY TIME.
YOU'RE RIGHT THAT THAT'S VERY
DIFFERENT FROM I THINK HOW WE AS
A WORLD HAVE APPROACHED HELPING
POOR PEOPLE IN THE PAST.
BUT THE EVIDENCE IS PRETTY CLEAR
THAT GIVING CASH IS ONE OF THE
BEST THINGS YOU CAN DO.

Nam says I'M SURPRISED TO HEAR
THAT.
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SAY THAT WHEN
YOU GIVE SOMETHING TO SOMEBODY,
THEY BECOME DEPENDENT.
SO HOW DOES THIS EMPOWER PEOPLE?

Joe says YEAH.
I THINK IT'S ACTUALLY SORT OF
ONE OF THE ENCOURAGING THINGS
ABOUT CASH TRANSFERS.
THERE HAVE BEEN LITERALLY OVER
HUNDREDS OF STUDIES EVALUATING
CASH TRANSFERS BASICALLY ALL
OVER THE WORLD.
WHEN PEOPLE RECEIVE THE MONEY,
THEY SPEND IT IN A VARIETY OF
DIFFERENT WAYS, BECAUSE PEOPLE
ARE VERY DIFFERENT ANYWHERE IN
THE WORLD, LIKE THEY'RE
DIFFERENT IN CANADA AND THE U.S.
YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THAT SORT OF
TYPE OF DEPENDENCY THROUGH IT.

Nam says HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO
GETS THE MONEY THEN?
WHO DO YOU GIVE IT TO?

The caption changes to "Joe Huston, @Give_Directly."

Joe says YEAH.
SO THE ONLY CRITERIA IS VERY
CLEAR, THAT YOU HAVE TO BE POOR.
SO GIVE DIRECTLY IS WORKING IN A
GIVEN AREA, WE'LL APPLY
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CRITERIA TO
TRY TO FIGURE THAT OUT.
OUR AVERAGE RECIPIENT LIVES ON
SOMETHING LIKE 65 CENTS A DAY.
WE TYPICALLY WORK IN MORE RURAL
AREAS, SO OUR TYPICAL RECIPIENT
WILL LIVE IN A HOUSE MADE OF MUD
WALLS OR MUD FLOORS, THEY'RE
USUALLY A SUBSISTENCE FARMER.
AFTER THAT, THERE'S NO OTHER
SORTS OF HOOPS TO JUMP THROUGH
OR ANYTHING ELSE.
THEY HAVE TO MEET THE OBJECTIVE
CRITERIA WE LAY OUT.
THAT WILL VARY FROM REGION TO
REGION.
SOMETIMES IT'S AS SIMPLE AS WHAT
TYPE OF HOUSE ARE THEY LIVING IN
AND SOMETIMES IT'S A LITTLE MORE
COMPLICATED.

Nam says HOW DO THEY GET THE
CASH?

says WE SEND THE CASH THROUGH
MOBILE MONEY.
WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE, LITERALLY
ON OUR END WE'RE ABLE TO PRESS A
BUTTON ON A LAPTOP AND THOUSANDS
OF PEOPLE ACROSS KENYA, UGANDA,
AND RWANDA RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES
THAT THEY'VE RECEIVED 300 dollars OR
SO.
THEY TAKE THAT TO AGENTS NEARBY
THAT HELP THEM WITHDRAW IT.
IT'S A NEAT ADVANCEMENT OVER THE
LAST DECADE OR SO THAT ALLOWS
YOU TO SEND CASH VERY DIRECTLY
TO THE PERSON YOU WANT TO SEND
TO AND PRETTY CHEAPLY AS WELL.

Nam says CAN YOU GIVE US SOME
EXAMPLES OF WHAT THEY USE THE
MONEY FOR?

Joe says RIGHT.
IT'S EXTREMELY VARIED, JUST
BECAUSE INDIVIDUAL NEEDS ARE
VERY DIFFERENT.
SOME OF THE COMMON THEMES WE SEE
ARE THINGS LIKE INVESTMENTS IN
LIVESTOCK, MAYBE BUYING COWS OR
GOATS OR CHICKENS.
INVESTMENTS IN THEIR FARMS,
WHETHER THAT'S BUYING LAND OR
PAYING SOMEONE TO HELP THEM WORK
ON THE LAND OR BUYING FARM
TOOLS, INVESTMENTS IN SMALL
BUSINESSES LIKE BUYING A
MOTORCYCLE TO BECOME THE SORT OF
MOTORCYCLE TAXI GUY IN TOWN OR
BUYING STOCK TO START A SMALL
STORE.
ALSO THINGS THAT HELP PEOPLE
SLEEP MORE EASILY, MAYBE GETTING
A TIN ROOF INSTEAD OF A THATCHED
ONE SO YOU'RE NOT GETTING RAINED
ON.
WE'VE ENROLLED SOMETHING LIKE
50,000 RECIPIENTS.
WE'VE SORT OF SEEN EVERYTHING.
THERE'S A GUY, WILLIAM, IN
KENYA, WHO BOUGHT INSTRUMENTS
AND STARTED A BAND.
WE ALSO HAD A COUPLE WHO BOUGHT
SOLAR PANELS AND BASICALLY
STARTED A CHARGING STATION IN
THEIR VILLAGE THAT'S NOT
OTHERWISE ELECTRIFIED.
PEOPLE WERE ABLE TO COME TO
THEIR HOUSE AND CHARGE PHONES OR
ANYTHING ELSE. THE EVIDENCE
SUPPORTS WHEN YOU GIVE PEOPLE
CASH THEY SPEND ON A VARIETY OF
THINGS BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE A
VARIETY OF DIFFERENT WANTS.
THE SORT OF RESULTS ARE PRETTY
CONSISTENT THAT YOU SEE PEOPLE'S
EARNINGS GO UP, ASSETS GO UP,
THEIR OVERALL WELL-BEING
IMPROVES.

Nam says OF COURSE, LIKE YOU
JUST SAID, YOU GAVE MONEY TO
SOMEBODY AND THEY STARTED A
BAND.
I'M ASSUMING THAT'S NOT WHAT THE
MONEY... YOU KNOW, IN A
DIFFERENT SITUATION, MOST PEOPLE
WOULDN'T USE THE MONEY FOR THAT.
BUT I'M WONDERING, LIKE IN A
COMMUNITY, IF YOU DO GIVE MONEY
TO ONE PERSON AND MAYBE NOT GIVE
IT TO THE NEXT PERSON, DO YOU
FIND THAT, YOU KNOW, NEIGHBOURS
TURN AGAINST EACH OTHER OR IT
CREATES TENSION WITHIN THE
COMMUNITY, IF SOME PEOPLE GET
MONEY AND OTHER PEOPLE DON'T?

Joe says THERE'S
DEFINITELY A GENERAL THING THAT
ANY TIME YOU'RE GIVING SOMETHING
OUT THAT PEOPLE WANT, IF THEY
DON'T RECEIVE, THEY MIGHT BE A
LITTLE BIT UPSET.
IN THE PLACES WHERE WE WORK,
WE'LL TYPICALLY ENROL 50 percent OR
MORE OF THE VILLAGE.
WE'LL TRY TO CHOOSE OUR CRITERIA
SPECIFICALLY TO MANAGE THIS
RISK, SO WE'LL CHOOSE THINGS
THAT ARE PRETTY TRANSPARENT TO
PEOPLE AND SEEM FAIR.
AND SO IN THE COMMUNITIES WHERE
WE WORK, WE'LL TRY TO MAKE SURE
THAT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE INCLUDED
ARE THE ONES THAT THE COMMUNITY
WOULD HAVE SORT OF AGREED ARE
THE POOREST.
ONE THING WE'VE EVEN TRIED OUT
IS ASKING THE COMMUNITY TO SAY
WHO IS THE NEEDIEST AND THAT
WORKS PRETTY WELL AS WELL.

Nam says WOW.
YOU'VE NEVER HAD A SITUATION
WHERE EVERYBODY SAYS I WANT THE
MONEY AND I'M IN NEED AS MUCH AS
MY NEIGHBOUR IS?

Joe says EVEN IF YOU
STARTED HANDING OUT MONEY IN THE
U.S., PRETTY MUCH EVERYBODY TO
SIGN UP TO RECEIVE 1,000 dollars.
IF YOU SORT OF EXPLAIN THE
SITUATION, WHICH IS PRETTY
CLEAR, THAT WE CAN EITHER GIVE
MONEY TO WEALTHIER PEOPLE OR
POORER PEOPLE, PEOPLE ARE
USUALLY PRETTY UNDERSTANDING.

Nam says WHEN YOU SAY "POOR,"
ARE YOU GIVING TO PEOPLE... YOU
MENTIONED UGANDA, KENYA, AND
RWANDA.
ARE YOU SPECIFICALLY JUST
OPERATING IN RURAL AREAS BECAUSE
YOU FIND THAT RURAL AREAS,
THERE'S MORE POVERTY, INSTEAD OF
OPERATING IN THE URBAN AREAS, OR
DO YOU OPERATE ELSEWHERE?

Joe says WE'RE CURRENTLY
FOCUSED BASICALLY TOTALLY ON
RURAL AREAS.
I THINK SOMETIME IT WOULD BE
GREAT TO EXPERIMENT WORKING IN
SORT OF MORE URBAN ENVIRONMENTS,
BUT FOR NOW, WE'RE PRETTY
FOCUSED ON RURAL AREAS.

Nam says AND SPECIFICALLY IN
UGANDA, KENYA, AND RWANDA?

Joe says RIGHT, EXACTLY.

Nam says AND HOW LONG DO YOU
GIVE MONEY FOR?

Joe says IN OUR USUAL
PROGRAM, WE'LL GIVE ABOUT ONE
THOUSAND U.S. DOLLARS IN THE
COURSE OF THREE CHUNKS IN FIVE
MONTHS.
IT'S ONE SHOT TO RECEIVE A LOT
OF MONEY AND INVEST IT TOWARDS
WHAT THEY WANT.
SOMETHING WE'RE EXPERIMENTING
WITH STARTING NEXT YEAR IS A
LONGER-TERM PROGRAM, TESTING A
UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME THAT
WOULD PROVIDE PAYMENTS TO SOME
PEOPLE UP TO 12 YEARS.

Nam says OH, WOW.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO START
THAT?

Joe says THAT WILL BE IN
WESTERN KENYA AS WELL.

Nam says CAN YOU GIVE US A
LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE HISTORY OF
"GIVE DIRECTLY"?
WHERE DID THIS IDEA COME FROM?

The caption changes to "Economics meets charity."

Joe says GIVE DIRECTLY
WAS FOUNDED BY FOUR PEOPLE IN
BASICALLY ECONOMICS GRAD SCHOOL.
THEY WERE LOOKING AT TWO SORT OF
CONVERGING TRENDS IN THE WORLD.
THE FIRST WAS THAT THE SORT OF
EVIDENCE BEHIND CASH TRANSFERS
WAS GROWING, THAT THERE WAS
INITIAL EXPERIMENTS MOSTLY IN
LATIN AMERICA AND BRAZIL AND
MEXICO, AND RESULTS FROM THOSE
EXPERIMENTS WERE REPLICATED ALL
OVER THE WORLD, BETWEEN LATIN
AMERICA, ASIA, AND AFRICA.
SO THERE WAS A LOT OF EVIDENCE
BEHIND CASH TRANSFERS THAT
PEOPLE SPEND IT WELL, THAT EVEN
SORT OF AFTER THE MONEY STOPS,
PEOPLE ARE BETTER OFF, AND OF
COURSE IF YOU SORT OF MEASURE
WHAT PEOPLE SPEND ON ACROSS
STUDY AFTER STUDY, YOU DON'T SEE
THINGS LIKE INCREASING IN
SPENDING ON ALCOHOL OR TOBACCO,
YOU DON'T SEE PEOPLE STOP
WORKING.
SO LOOKING AT THAT PART OF THE
REALITY WHERE THIS IS ONE OF THE
BEST INTERVENTIONS YOU CAN DO,
BUT THERE IS NO NON-PROFIT
EXCLUSIVELY DEVOTED TO DOING IT.
THE OTHER TREND THAT HELPED A
LOT WAS INNOVATIONS IN MOBILE
PAYMENTS WHERE, FOR VERY, VERY
LITTLE MONEY, YOU CAN DELIVER
LOTS AND LOTS OF CASH TRANSFERS
DIRECTLY TO A RECIPIENT, YOU
KNOW, DIRECTLY TO LITERALLY THE
PHONE IN THEIR HAND.
THAT IS SOMETHING THAT ALLOWS US
TO BE A PRETTY EFFICIENT
PLATFORM WHERE 90 percent OF EVERY
DONATED DOLLAR GOES STRAIGHT TO
THE POOR.

Nam says THAT'S TECHNOLOGY THAT
STARTED IN KENYA?

Joe says THAT'S RIGHT.
IT'S VERY WELL-DEVELOPED IN
KENYA AND A LITTLE LESS
DEVELOPED BUT USEFUL IN UGANDA
AND RWANDA AND ELSEWHERE IN THE
DEVELOPING WORLD.

Nam says IF SOMEBODY IS
WATCHING THIS SHOW AND WANTS TO
BECOME INVOLVED WITH GIVE
DIRECTLY, HOW CAN THEY GET INVOLVED?

Joe says IT'S FAIRLY EASY.
YOU CAN GO TO OUR WEBSITE AND
YOU CAN DONATE.
ALSO IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE,
WE HAVE ONE PAGE THAT JUST GOES
THROUGH A LOT OF THE EVIDENCE, I
THINK THERE'S SOMETHING LIKE 30
FOOTNOTES OF THE DIFFERENT
PAPERS EVALUATING CASH
TRANSFERS.
IF YOU WANT TO GO TO A DIFFERENT
SIDE OF GIVE DIRECTLY, GO TO GD
LIVE, THAT PIPES DATA FROM
RECIPIENTS TO OUR WEBSITE.
IT'S NOT FILTERED OR
CHERRY-PICKED, IT'S JUST THEIR
WORDS.
THAT GOES A GOOD WAY TOWARDS
LETTING THE POOR SPEAK FOR
THEMSELVES.
YOU GET A SENSE OF WHAT THEIR
PRIORITIES ARE, WHAT THEIR
CHALLENGES ARE, WHAT THEIR PLANS
ARE FOR THE MONEY OR IN GENERAL
FOR THEIR LIVES, WHICH IS GOOD
TO GET A SENSE OF THE LOGIC FOR
CASH TRANSFERS, YOU CAN ARRAY A
VAST NUMBER OF CHOICES FOR
PEOPLE WHO HAVE REALLY GOOD PLANS.

Nam says WHY DO YOU THINK
PEOPLE STILL THINK THAT GIVING
CASH DIRECTLY IS A BIZARRE
CONCEPT?

Joe says I THINK A LOT
OF THE SORT OF CONVERSATIONS
ABOUT HOW TO HELP POOR PEOPLE
ARE DOMINATED BY STEREOTYPES OR
PRECONCEPTIONS ABOUT POOR
PEOPLE, AND I THINK A LOT OF
THAT IS NOT LETTING THE POOR
SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.
I THINK CASH TRANSFERS DOES THAT
SOMEWHAT DIRECTLY BECAUSE POOR
PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE OF HOW THEY
WANT TO SPEND THE MONEY AND WHAT
THEY WANT TO DO TO IMPROVE THEIR
LIVES.
I'M THINGS LIKE GD LIVE CAN PUT
MICROPHONES IN FRONT OF POOR
PEOPLE AND THEY CAN DIRECT THE
TYPE OF AID THEY MOST WANT TO
RECEIVE, HOW THEY WANT TO ENGAGE
WITH PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HELP
THEM.

Nam says EVERYTHING SOUNDS
GREAT WHAT YOU'RE SAYING.
IS THERE A DOWNSIDE TO GIVING
CASH DIRECTLY?

Joe says I THINK THERE'S
ALWAYS DIFFERENT TYPES OF
OPERATIONAL PROBLEMS, THE SORT
OF STANDARD THINGS YOU RUN INTO
AS PART OF RUNNING WHAT IS
BASICALLY A LARGE CUSTOMER
SERVICE ORGANIZATION.
BUT I THINK THE SORT OF MAIN ONE
IS THAT IT'S UP TO THE PERSON,
AND I THINK IT'S A PRETTY
ENCOURAGING THING ABOUT HUMANS,
THAT WHEN YOU GIVE PEOPLE CASH,
IT WORKS OUT PRETTY WELL.
THERE'S NO SORT OF FALLBACK.
IT'S UP TO THE PERSON THEMSELVES
TO IMPROVE THEIR LIVES ONCE THEY
RECEIVE THE CASH.

The caption changes to "Producer: Meredith Martin, @MeredithMartin."

Nam says JOE HUSTON, THANK YOU
FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SPEAK TO
US.

Joe says THANKS SO MUCH
FOR HAVING ME.

Watch: Cash Aid