Category Archives: Cash Transfer Programs

It’s not about the money or is it….

[ilink url=”http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1090348521432748398#” title=”How $13 Changes Lives”]Malawi cash transfer/contract and bonus process[/ilink]

This is one of my favorite stories. In 2009 I blogged about this question. It’s not about the money or is it

How often can you dare to invest in someone you do not know? How often can you trust people to take what you have given and they actually carry through on their own words. Apparently in Malawi, Africa it has become an every day event. Please take time to invest in someone else today.

Just what is an addiction?

Discovering the freedom to be addicted to life!

In 2007 my lungs had taken a turn for the worse. I needed to take time to heal. At the same time a disc in my neck crumbled and life changed even more so. I was put on very strong medications. During that time it felt as if life was fading away. It was easy to close my eyes and believe that I would not wake up. Yet, each day I did wake up. It was important to make a decision about life itself. My memory had slipped away and there were times I looked in the mirror and did not know who I was. There were times when I stood in front of the mirror and asked where do I go from here. I would often turn on the computer and be confronted by Facebook. I knew nothing about this venue. I turned it on and began to see faces of people I did not know. Then I decided to look for people I did know. In the midst of my search I began to talk to people and recover my memory. This would be the second time in my life that my memory had been severely damaged by my sarcoidosis and the resulting medications. During this time while on Facebook I began to create discussions with old friends and new. I began to borrow thoughts, images and pictures.  I created files and saved what I could. The following story illustrates just how it worked for me. This story is dedicated to my staff, friends and participants at “the back door.” The back door was a project in Alberta Canada that started in the late 80’s. It was where I spent a lot of my life. This was a group of people who helped many young people to get off the street and to escape a life of addictions. At the same time these people created a way to allow an alternative addiction to live a life of it’s own.    I hope you enjoy the following.

Thank you Facebook friends for sharing these pictures and stories that helped to inspire so many thoughts.

Coffee, just how much does it affect our society and those around us? Staff never said much. They just carried their mugs with them.     They all knew there wasn’t a problem. One cup allowed them a moment of refreshment nurturing a clear mind and the power to face the day. 

Even many of the participants, those young people who came to get off the street grew to know they could easily police necessary life changes. 

Life could change! Indeed life would change! The staff had come to realize that the streets of Calgary would never be the same. This was not about individuals becoming super human. This was not about discovering the elixir of life. It was about developing networks for good and nurturing proper healthy life changing decisions. Indeed, it was about the willingness to give, the willingness to identify that life giving energy found in the heartbeat and blood line of those who choose to be a part of the difference.

Indeed the streets of Calgary would know that it was time to change. The staff and volunteers had committed themselves to a constant declaration that the purposes of life were very clear. It was time for the pain and violence of the streets to come to an end. These people were staunchly committed to the agenda, NO ONE NEEDS TO BE HURT!

It was time to get with the program! This was not about politics, this was not about defining who was right or who was wrong. It was about life. It was about seeing everyone had an opportunity to experience the opportunity to make healthy choices and take new directions when and where necessary. These were a people who knew that at the end of each day they could be rejuvenated to face tomorrow. They had indeed experienced the freedom to be addicted to life!

P.S. Congratulations to the initial staff of five persons and thirty young people who began this process. In the last 24 years people from over 120 countries have now experimented with these concepts and adapted them to life situations.

April 1: No joking matter…

One evening the telephone rang. It was late on Saturday. I was a young preacher at the time. The voice on the other end of the line was somewhat panicked. “Would you be able to preach for me tomorrow?” “Yes, I am available” was my response. Then it dawned on me. Tomorrow is a very short time away, what had I just committed myself to?

The thought going through my mind was advice from an old preacher. He said, “Never forget what day it is. Preach to the subject at hand.” That sounded like good advice. The next day would be April 1: April Fool’s Day. Would I dare preach on that subject? I thought for a while and then decided I could do that. I went through the process of creating the sermon. The next morning came very quickly.

As I got to the church and entered the pulpit I was confident that the sermon prepared was appropriate and would be sensitive to the day. The text was Luke 12:16-21. The passage was a parable about the story of a person who had given himself permission to “eat, drink and be merry.” The advice to this person was somewhat shocking, “You fool, be careful for tomorrow you might die.” No sooner had I read the text then a man sitting toward the front of the church began to fidget, make painful facial gestures, and begin to grab his chest. In a very short moment it was obvious that he was having a heart attack. I stopped, called the ushers forward and asked someone to call 911. In a matter of minutes the service was over. The sermon was never delivered.

I went to the hospital to visit the man and his family. When I got there I told the emergency room people who I was. A voice came from behind the curtain. “I don’t want to see you!” “This is all your fault!” “If you had only preached on something else I would still be at the church visiting with others!”

“What happened?” I called the pastor that week and tried to figure it out. He told me this was a person who always tried to pass the buck. It was always someone else”s fault. The pastor told me not to worry, things would be okay. I have never forgotten that moment.

When we began to create the contract process my mind went back to that incident. I knew that we had to create the contract in such a way that whoever was doing the contract would know that the contract was their own. The contract could not be someone else’s. The contract had to create accountability that could not be passed on to others. It was then that the bonus was given to create an incentive to take ownership. Think about what you want to do. Write it down. Then do it. Then come back and talk about what worked and what didn’t work. Then start another contract building on your experience.

Accountability is not a joking matter. Accountability will not exist if someone else creates plans for someone else. The reality is that someone else cannot live your life for you.

We have become a society of planners. Often it is someone else making the plans. Too often it has been necessary to live your life while being put on hold. The contract and bonus process was created to help people move on with their lives. Homeless youth, youth at risk, and now people from multiple situations are learning and experiencing freedom from being put on hold. Contracts are being created and people are getting on with THEIR lives. Simple tasks are being identified and being accomplished. The expectations concerning the system around us is slowly coming into focus for many as a way of help and not a mode of dependency.

Dream the impossible dream!

Many years ago I sat across the table from an elderly gentleman. He reached across and put his hand on mine and said, “Wasn’t that wonderful when that young lady sang? She has such a beautiful voice. When she sings she believes what she is saying.”

The young lady sang in church. She had found a place where she could discover a talent. In the process a talent found a place to be nurtured and given to those who would accept its blessing.

Dream the impossible dream! Over 20 years ago a group of people began to ask young people to dream, to experiment with a dream. It seemed like such a simple thought. We asked what is it you want to do with your life and how you believe that can be accomplished.

It wasn’t long before we discovered massive numbers of variables. These variables became roadblocks. They were real. To overcome them would cost money. We started to use a bonus system that honored the words and dreams of each young person. In this process we gave bonuses to people for daring to dream. The reward did not come for climbing the mountain, it came for accepting the challenge to climb the mountain. Today, over 20 years later young people are still accepting the challenge and succeeding greatly.

Poverty has become the birth canal for a new creative way to begin life. The contract and bonus process is one form of Cash Transfer Programs that are springing up around the world.

Dr. Candace Miller from the Center for International Health has joined with others to look at one such project known as the Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot in Malawi.* The results are the same. People are succeeding. Society is succeeding.

The variables are the same: the ability to buy basic needs, nutrition, adult and child time use, child health and growth, care-giving, child labor and schooling, migration, and health seeking patterns.

These words easily fall into the categories we used to classify why people were contracting.**

The dream was not without its complexities. The solution did not always come overnight. But as each contract began to connect with the next contract the plan became visible. Variables may have started out as obstacles but eventually they became stepping stones to a new life. The Malawi people and street kids in North America have something in common; dreams that did not remain impossible.

* Evaluation of the Mchinji Social
Cash Transfer Pilot
Center for International Health
Boston University
Boston Massachusetts USA
Dr. Candace Miller
USA 001 617 414 1216 or 001 617 272 6392
Malawi 08 782 129
Centre for Social Research
University of Malawi
Maxton Tsoka
08 838 508
KUFUNA KUMVETSA
MCHINJI CASH TRANSFE

** An excerpt from the book The Back Door, an experiment or an alternative.

The steps can be in one of the following categories:
1. Housing: Steps taken toward obtaining an appropriate, safe, independent living situation, landlord negotiation as required, and appropriate life style issues addressed within the chosen situation.
2. Jobs: Any steps which address issues related to preparation for and obtaining employment and dealing appropriately with problems arising within the job situation.
3. Education: Steps taken toward educational assessment, academic upgrading and planning for work.
4. Personal: Any steps taken to deal with personal life concerns and coping, e.g. relationships, attitudes, appearance.
5. Planning: Thinking, formulating possible action/alternatives in the area of life concerns.
6. Volunteer work: Giving of one’s own time and effort to contribute back to a community which is supportive of the participant.
7. Finances: Any steps to acquire knowledge or principles of action relating to money management or awareness of spending philosophy.
8. Legal: Steps taken to deal with past or current legal concerns to ensure their appropriate expedition, therefore enabling freedom to pursue the changes in life necessary to move off the street.
9. Leadership: Formal involvement in coaching, supporting by active example, or participation with others in positive movement in areas of life concerns.
10. Drug/Alcohol: Any step taken to acknowledge the reality of personal substance abuse and to address issues of rehabilitation (for example, detox or participation in twelve step type programs).
11. Problem solving: Steps representing any thought or action given to defining the problem, seeking alternative solutions, acting upon this, and processing the outcome.
12. Identification: Obtaining acceptable identification as necessary to integrate into the community.
13. Other: Any steps not specifically designated in the above categories but which deal with issues and concerns critical to the participant in his/her movement off the street.

March Madness is about to begin

A few years back I had just left the Doctor’s office. He told me that I should rest, take my medication and rest. My lungs were acting up again. Since the late 70’s I have lived with sarcoidosis. The cure, prednisone. Not much of a cure I am afraid to say, but without it sarcoid would probably have done me in a long time ago.

I am not much of a basketball fan but during that bout of illness March madness hit me. I turned on the television and it seemed to be everywhere. Somehow it got under my skin and hooked me. I watched with avid interest and followed it daily. March madness had captivated my imagination. I had even chosen a team to root for.

Today it looks like we are about to experience another MARCH MADNESS.

Yesterday the news reporter said we are likely to enter, dare I say it, a depression. The economy has captured our attention. Madness is prevalent. Questions are popping up on the internet: Is Obama doing it right? Has America once again slid the world in to yet another precarious round of jumping through hoops? Global warming, auto industry failures, steroid investigations, redistributing cash flows, grants, loans, bailouts etc.; all buzzwords being heard above the din of just trying to survive.

In the meantime Laura Rawlings (Country Sector Leader for Central America-World Bank) and Gloria Rubio (Deputy Director of Social Programs Evaluation-Mexico)—both research people from the World Bank—tell us about how many of the world’s poor are helping to create an alternative model. It is a model so simple that it risks getting lost in the mayhem. The following words appeared in The World Bank Research Observer (2005),

Several developing economies have recently introduced conditional cash transfer programs, which provide money to poor families contingent on certain behavior, usually investments in human capital, such as sending children to school or bringing them to health centers. The approach is both an alternative to more traditional social assistance programs and a demand-side complement to the supply of health and education services. Unlike most development initiatives, conditional cash transfer programs have been subject to rigorous evaluations of their effectiveness using experimental or quasi-experimental methods. Evaluation results for programs launched in Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Turkey reveal successes in addressing many of the failures in delivering social assistance, such as weak poverty targeting, disincentive effects, and limited welfare impacts. There is clear evidence of success from the first generation of programs in Colombia, Mexico, and Nicaragua in increasing enrollment rates, improving preventive health care, and raising household consumption. Many questions remain unanswered, however, including the potential of conditional cash transfer programs to function well under different conditions, to address a broader range of challenges among poor and vulnerable populations, and to prevent the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

That last line is the clincher, the prevention of intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Perhaps it is time to look again at March Madness. Perhaps it is time to declare who the teams are and what the ultimate prize will be.

For over 20 years when The Back Door first began it was interesting to see who the opposition was. It was interesting to hear what reasons were used to say the concepts of contracts and bonuses just would not work. It was interesting to see and hear the criticism from both the right and the left. Now during March Madness the same words used in the creation of the contract and bonus process are being used to describe the economics of the global setting.

In the words of the NCAA: March Madness is about to begin. The clock is ticking. The countdown is happening. The teams are about to be chosen. In our efforts to see global economic change will we allow all the winning teams to play? Perhaps it is time to look again to recognize that an underdog could upset the whole show. Perhaps it is time to pay attention to the game plan being modeled by the poorest of the poor.

It’s not about the money, or is it?

It was a cold day in Calgary. The sun was hidden behind the clouds. The word was on the street, go to this youth project and get $15. Who would get on the train, ride through multiple communities just to get $15?

That question is being asked all over the world these days.

Oxfam, Unicef, The Back Door are all giving small amounts of money to people to consider how to build their lives.

Over 20 years later young people are still getting off the street and many more people are responding to the offer to make changes in their lives.

Oxfam, Unicef, The Back Door are moving ahead in ways that are unpredictable.

Over the last few years the use of contracts and bonuses has traveled to Minnesota. Each of the agencies that have used this process has seen very positive responses by the people participating. One of the interesting results deals with the statistics coming out of the Minnesota work. 43% of the contracts created are about dealing with everyday crisis. 29% of the contracts deal with finding and maintaining safe housing. The contracting has shown how people have become tenacious to continue not only setting their goals but to keep trying.

The use of money in social change has often been contested and the debate will no doubt continue.

For one moment I want to challenge the reader to stop and look at something else. In North America social programming has often failed to be empowering. The Cash Transfer concept has grown like wild fire in countries all over the world. Perhaps those thirty young people in 1988 that dared to experiment with alternatives to their life on the street have something to say to the rest of North America. Cash works.

…And the beat goes on!

The cash transfer programs have become a very positive way to deal with empowering people to make positive strides in their lives. Once Mexico adopted this process many others came on board.

NEW YORK: In a September 2007 Work Bank Presentation an initiative using Cash Transfer Payments spearheaded by Mayor Bloomberg is presented in clear detail. This program created for New York highlights a detailed effort to bring a broad application to the social welfare system.

TURKEY: Another search turns up an effort in Turkey. As the Cash Transfer Program was being used it was refined into a CCT Program. Conditional Cash Transfer allows for program people to identify a specific use of the funds. A World Bank document states that in 2000 and 2001 the Turkish economy was hit by two economic crises that increased poverty and unemployment. At particular risk were poor families who might cut back on their expenses by keeping children out of school or reducing doctor visits. This would have had long-term effects, even after the crisis ended.

CHILE: The Cash distribution program in Chile is another illustration of a refined approach to the CCT. After a major flood the Red Cross was involved in helping people and families to set short term goals to give directives to overcoming a crisis.

The objective was to support the rehabilitation process and to contribute to early recovery activities by supplying monetary resources to 225 of the most vulnerable families affected by the flooding in the municipalities of Lincantén and Molina.

The following list gives a specific process to help people in Chile in using Cash Transfer Payments to help overcome a local tragedy:

Reinforce the economic security of the household;
Contribute to safe living conditions through drying and repair of houses;
Prevent the selling of assets to face the situation;
Avoid health related issues through improvement of sanitary conditions;
Allow for the restart of family-sized agricultural plots;
Alleviate the effects of lost wages combined with material losses;
Boosting of local economy.

CTP’S and the rest of the world!

HALLELUJAH, let’s have a party. People investing in people. Let’s get all excited and see what can be learned when people invest in people. The World Bank is picking up on the work of others and helping to carry it to impoverished communities.

Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs)

MEXICO: Mexico’s Oportunidades Program

Description:
The World Bank describes Oportunidades as the principal anti-poverty program of the Mexican government, which helps poor families in rural and urban communities to invest in human capital—improving the education, health, and nutrition of their children-by providing cash transfers. The program’s ongoing evaluation process has strengthened its legitimacy in Mexico, leading to its expansion into urban areas, and to its support across political administrations and donors. So far, the results are extremely positive in the areas of school enrollment, health clinic attendance, education, and nutrition. The success of Oportunidades demonstrates that conditional cash transfer programs of this nature can be effective in reducing current poverty while improving children’s futures. In addition, it showed that it is feasible to carry out a targeted conditional cash transfer program on a very large scale even in poor isolated areas with few services, and in particular in a developing country with a limited welfare system.

CCTs are a recent, but popular, tool in the field of international development. CCT programs are designed to alleviate poverty in the short-term by providing additional income to poor families, and to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty in the long-term by promoting greater investments in human capital. CCT programs originated in the late 1990s in Mexico with the creation of a program called Progresa Oportunidades, which serves more than 20 million Mexican families, and has been replicated in more than 20 countries. Progresa and other CCT programs have been subject to rigorous evaluation, which has documented reductions in the incidence and severity of poverty, as well as improvements in school enrollment and completion, health outcomes, and the incidence of malnutrition.

BRAZIL: Bolsa Familia Program Scaling up Cash Transfers
Author: Kathy Lindert, Senior Economist, LCSHS – World Bank

Executive Summary:
In 2003, the government of Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva launched a comprehensive program to stimulate growth and social progress. On the social side, the centerpiece was a sweeping reform of Brazil’s social safety net, the Bolsa Familia Program (BFP), which integrated four cash transfer programs into a single program under the umbrella of a new Ministry of Social Development. The transfers are made preferentially to women in each family. The program supports the formation of human capital at the family level by conditioning transfers on behaviors such as children’s school attendance, use of health cards, and other social services. Since its launch, the Bolsa Familia Program has grown exponentially, and by January 2005 had expanded to cover about 26.4 million people. By the end of 2006, about 44 million people are expected to be covered, at least two-thirds of whom are extremely poor. In terms of numbers of beneficiaries, the Bolsa Familia Program is by far the largest conditional cash transfer in the developing world. Its systems for beneficiary selection, monitoring and evaluation, quality control, and scaling up have implications that extend well beyond Brazil.

PHILIPPINES: Conditional Cash Transfer by Gill Bautista

“Give someone a fish, and they will eat for a day. Teach someone how to fish, and they will eat for a lifetime.” This is the opening phrase written in the recently approved government project, the Philippine Conditional Cash Transfer Program or Phil CCT. This program is aiming to alleviate the quality of living of the poorest citizens all over the country. The program is already operational as of this moment.

WORLD BANK: Evaluating the Impact of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs by Laura B. Rawlings

Laura Rawlings is the Country Sector Leader for Central America in the Latin America and Caribbean Human Development Department at the World Bank.

Several developing economies have recently introduced conditional cash transfer programs, which provide money to poor families contingent on certain behavior, usually investments in human capital, such as sending children to school or bringing them to health centers. The approach is both an alternative to more traditional social assistance programs and a demand-side complement to the supply of health and education services. Unlike most development initiatives, conditional cash transfer programs have been subject to rigorous evaluations of their effectiveness using experimental or quasi-experimental methods. Evaluation results for programs launched in Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Turkey reveal successes in addressing many of the failures in delivering social assistance, such as weak poverty targeting, disincentive effects, and limited welfare impacts. There is clear evidence of success from the first generation of programs in Colombia, Mexico, and Nicaragua in increasing enrollment rates, improving preventive health care, and raising household consumption. Many questions remain unanswered, however, including the potential of conditional cash transfer programs to function well under different conditions, to address a broader range of challenges among poor and vulnerable populations, and to prevent the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Where we fit in “CTP” and the World Bank

The World Bank has identified the use of “Cash Transfer Payments” as a way to bring change in people’s lives. This is the starting point for us. In 1988 when The Back Door staff began using cash bonuses this was considered very risky and outside the traditional way of thinking. As a person follows the work of the World Bank it can be seen that the use of cash has proven to be very positive. If there is a debate it is over how cash will be used. In many situations a reward will be given to achieve a task. At The Back Door we chose to say a person will be “rewarded” for intentionally choosing to think through and make a decision to better their own lives. This action comes before the accomplishment of a designated task. The reward actually becomes an incentive to begin a longer term plan to design a goal structure. Many would debate that this is a moot argument. It is however our contention that much of what goes on in the social service arena deals with imposed agendas. After a while “clients” learn the system and a reverse incentive is actually created. “Clients” become “rewarded” to participate in a welfare mentality.

Our world is full of agendas. Many of our young people have known lives of imprisonment, dysfunctional families, addictions and uncertainties due to the ebb and flow of social service and political systems. At The Back Door the emphasis was on giving back life. When a person chose to get a job or find a place to live, that action was deemed a reward in and of itself. We gave $15 to the person who said ‘I’. When a person chose to say they want to take control and responsibility for themselves that is what was/is rewarded. We did not pretend that we live in a world full of people and programs that were able to deliver on “hope filled” promises. Our young people had become graduates of systems that were not sustainable. Program after program started and then ceased to exist. For that reason our contract was created to be with oneself. You are your own program. Use and take advantage of what others have to offer but remember when they are gone it is still your life. Say thank you and be ready to move on.