Ted speaker and veteran aid worker Joy Sun thinks that we should rethink the way we donate money. In her Ted talk “Should you donate differently?” she shares alternative ways to help the poor.
Joy Sun, had an epiphany ten years into her work as a veteran aid worker. Rather than help the poor by putting money into projects such as training and school, why not redistribute that money as cold hard cash into the hands of the poor themselves? Until that moment, Joy held two assumptions
- Poor people are poor in part due to lack of education and make bad choices.
- The poor need people such as veteran aid workers to help make decisions for them and get them what they need.
Condescending? Well yes, but if you think about it, and I hadn’t before just now, I think that western society is actually really guilty of thinking that we need to be the decision makers for the less fortunate countries.
Joy now supports unconditional giving, by being part of the team behind Give Directly, an organisation that gives direct cash transfers to the extreme poor, giving them one-time cash transfers of $1000 The evidence that Give Directly have accumulated indicate that giving money directly to the poor works and the money is used to better their lives. Their website has some pretty impressive stats on this.
Having never been an aid worker I am not in the same position as Joy to really know the difference in impact using aid money to fund projects such as school, or redistributing that money directly to the poor. I would like to think that there is room for both, room for projects such as orphanages and schools to be funded by aid organisations, but also room for no-strings attached cash transfers to empower families. Joy herself says that there is a need for aid rather than direct cash transfers “I believe in aid. I believe most aid is better than just throwing money out of a plane. I am also absolutely certain that a lot of aid today isn’t better than giving directly to the poor. I hope that one day, it will be.”
When it comes down to it, what these cash transfers are all about, is sending out the message that the poor are quite capable of knowing what exactly it is that’s best for them. It’s about empowerment and that is something that we all should experience.
What do you think? Do you agree with Joy or think aid workers are best to decide how to distribute funds themselves?