GiveDirectly interviewed cash recipients and their neighbors. Here’s what we found out.

GiveDirectly interviewed cash recipients and their neighbors. Here’s what we found out.

“I spent my transfer on buying furniture, a mattress, iron sheets, nails, and paid for labor towards house construction,” Sarah, 27, told GiveDirectly field officers. Sarah lives in Kenya and grows and sells vegetables to support herself and her family.


By Ian Bassin, COO-Domestic of GiveDirectly

Here at GiveDirectly, we often get asked what recipients think when we show up at their door offering cash, no strings attached. We also get asked what that person’s neighbor, who doesn’t get any, thinks.

We’d love to fly every supporter out to Kenya to find out first-hand, but short of that, we’ve created a way to walk through one of our recipient villages so you can find out for yourself.

From December 7th to December 11th, three GiveDirectly field officers, cameras in hand, went back to a randomly selected village that had started receiving cash transfers in late 2013. They asked those who had received transfers as well as those who hadn’t about their experiences—both good and bad, and both individually and as a village.

It was important to us to share the full range of answers we received. When our supporters have traveled to Kenya to see our work, we let them choose which recipients they’d like to meet or even randomize it (so long as the recipients agree) to avoid cherry-picking stories of miracle successes. We applied that same principle here, letting you pick which village residents to read about, unfiltered and uncut.   

The result is a set of portraits that are as complex as human life, with a range of emotions and experiences from the happy to the sad, the humbling to the inspiring. In the end, we think the overall collage speaks to the power of cash transfers and the good they can do for families and communities. But we encourage you to spend time looking through these and drawing your own conclusions. 

This holiday season, we’ve had supporters ask friends and family to give a gift to GiveDirectly recipients rather than to them. If you’re so inclined, we hope sharing the words of our recipients and non-recipients helps you convey to friends and family why.


Ian Bassin is GiveDirectly’s Chief Operating Officer – Domestic. He previously served as Assistant Counsel to President Barack Obama and, most recently, Deputy Counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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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.

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