COVID-19 Response Spotlight: GiveDirectly

COVID-19 Response Spotlight: GiveDirectly

GiveDirectly’s COVID-19 Response Work in Africa

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting all of us in a way no other crisis has. If you’re coping and able to help someone worse off, now is the time to act. Giving directly is a fast, efficient, proven, and empowering way to do so.

GiveDirectly is the leading global NGO specialized in delivering digital cash transfers. We’ve worked in challenging contexts across 8 countries, from Houston after Harvey to the most remote parts of Uganda, and launched 13 experimental evaluations (RCTs) with independent researchers documenting the impacts on recipients and on the local economy.

We’re responding to this crisis by doing what we’ve done for a decade: delivering cash. We’re doing so quickly and safely using mobile money to families impacted by COVID-19 in Africa.

We are deeply concerned for these families. As governments impose lockdowns to limit the spread of COVID-19, many families will suddenly be unable to continue earning a living. Few will have the financial resources to weather this storm, let alone provide care if a family member falls ill. To make matters worse, traditional aid programs that rely on face-to-face interaction may need to scale back at the same time.

This is the moment for digital cash. To protect the safety of recipients and staff, all enrollment and payment processes will be conducted remotely from end-to-end.

To begin, we’re targeting low-income, informal sector workers in urban areas.

We will focus first on urban areas, where we expect the economic impacts of COVID-19 will hit first and hardest. We’ll coordinate with local governments and NGOs to identify and prioritize underserved groups. To start, we’re enrolling recipients in Nairobi slums — mostly youth — in partnership with SHOFCO.

We’re using a basic income model as a short-term assistance solution

Each household will receive $25-50 per month (dependent on location), initially for 3 months. We expect the main constraint on how many we can reach will be how much we can raise.

Direct Implementation

As we work to target particularly vulnerable recipients impacted by COVID-19, we will occasionally work with partners (like SHOFCO* and the Shikilia initiative**) to reach recipients more rapidly. We will continue to own the end-to-end implementation process. As we scale, we will use a combination of (a) our own existing databases of low-income households, (b) rosters provided by local NGO partners whom we have vetted, and (c) rosters of mobile money subscribers recruited through our partner mobile network operators. Specific approaches will vary across countries.

In parallel, we will continue to pay previously enrolled recipients in all six countries with live projects (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi, and the DRC), and have already shifted to a remote follow-up model. We completed payments to 13,806 recipients in March totaling over $2.5M.”

During the crisis, all GiveDirectly donations made through TLYCS will go to their international Covid-19 response.

Giving directly to families in extreme poverty has always been a great opportunity to do good, but it’s an extraordinary opportunity now. 


More about GiveDirectly

GiveDirectly is the leading global non-profit specialized in digital cash transfers. Over the past decade, it has raised $300M for the extreme poor and for those affected by disasters. It is top-rated by GiveWell, 100% rated by Charity Navigator, and has consistently ranked among Fast Company’s most innovative companies. It is among the leaders in the global movement towards digital cash transfers, featuring regularly in the New York Times, This American Life, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and the Economist among others.

*Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is a grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing critical services for all, community advocacy platforms, and education and leadership development for women and girls.

**Shikilia is a collaboration between Kenyan private sector and non-profit organizations to raise funds and provide emergency cash transfers to low-income Kenyan communities to replace lost income due to COVID-19 and prevent a widespread humanitarian crisis. Partner organizations include Black Butterfly, Busara, Dalberg, Endeavor Kenya, FSD Kenya, GiveDirectly, JoyJet, Mercy Corps, NCBA, Oxfam, Pesalink, Safaricom, Sokowatch, and SunCulture.

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GiveDirectly is a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save. Using cell phone technology, GiveDirectly provides direct cash transfers to recipients living in extreme poverty. Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that these direct transfers drastically improve the lives of GiveDirectly’s participants, their families, and communities.

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The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.