Giving freely: Experimenting Basic Income in Kenya

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

I remember a post a couple years back by Daniel Norris where he talked about the practice of handing cash to the homeless or marginalized. The common response by most is “I don’t want them to spend the money on alcohol (or the likes), so I’d rather just give them food”, but Daniel challenged that perspective reminding us that the most valuable thing you can give isn’t cash, but trust and respect.

The human and inspirational element of this isn’t the only consideration for this method of giving, as there’s also a growing movement for it on economic grounds. This movement is widely referred to as Basic Income, and is explained as “giving periodic cash payments delivered to all on an individuals basis, without means-test or work requirement.”

While entirely theoretical, there are a handful of quasi-experiments built on this idea. One that is particularly interesting, due to it being a non-profit (and thus using voluntarily given funds, as opposed to tax based) and run by a group of economists is the GiveWell. The GiveWell initiative in Kenya is like Basic Income in their giving of funds directly to the extreme poor for spending entirely at their discretion.

There’s plenty of skepticism around the idea, and for good reason due to it’s entirely unproven concept and complexity of execution, but it is an interesting idea worth exploring. Whether you buy into this or find yourself waiving it away as preposterous, there’s still plenty of reason for supporting a good cause in giving to GiveWell. Aside from helping to explore this idea, your minor gift can have a disproportionate impact on the extreme poor.

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