There’s a Start-Up that Gives Impoverished People Income for a Year for Free

A start-up has been quietly changing the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable.

In fact, it could change the way we do charity in general.

Despite its relatively discreet presence, GiveDirectly is being hailed as one of the most effective organizations in the world for trying to eliminate world poverty. The company’s work is data-driven and completely transparent in a way that’s absent in most of the charity realm.

When it comes to supporting a cause, few other organizations offer evidence-backed results the way GiveDirectly does. This, of course, makes people more inclined to donate.

The company transfers around $1,000 to extremely financially disadvantaged families over the course of the year, making zero rules on how the cash should be spent. It chooses villages based on poverty data that’s publically available. In order to determine the neediest families, the company seeks out households who live in homes built with thatched roofs and mud floors, with the reliance on such materials a strong indicator of severe poverty.

Upon locating the extremely poor communities, the company sends field staff door-to-door to digitally collect data on poverty and enroll recipients.

The only thing is, recipients need to have a mobile financial account. For this reason, the company has focused on communities in Kenya and Uganda because they’re at the centre of Africa’s fast-spreading mobile banking revolution.

All funds are delivered electronically, and recipients receive an SMS alert instructing them to collect their cash from a nearby mobile money agent. If the recipient is among the declining number of people without mobile phones or a SIM card, the company helps them buy one with a portion of the cash transfer.

Sending cash electronically not only slashes the costs, it decreases the opportunities for corruption and misuse of funds. On average, $0.91 per dollar is placed directly in the hands of the poor. GiveDirectly also publishes their internal performance data in real time.

Since launching in 2011, the group has distributed about $15 million to communities in Kenya and Uganda.

And that’s what we call notable.