IMPACT

What We Need To Do Before Scaling Costly Anti-Poverty Programs

NAIROBI, KENYA - AUGUST 26: Angela Mutila sits at the vegetable stand she started with a cash grant August 26, 2009 in the Ki
NAIROBI, KENYA - AUGUST 26: Angela Mutila sits at the vegetable stand she started with a cash grant August 26, 2009 in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Angela is one of dozens of Kibera residents to start a local business with the assistance of cash grants. The non-governmental organization (NGO) Concern, in cooperation with local Kenyan groups, has launched a campaign to provide the urban poor with cash grants to start a business or get back on their feet after suffering disproportionately from post-election violence in 2007. The money is transferred to the recipients via a mobile phone which insures a safe and simple financial transaction to customers who don�t have bank accounts. Hairdressers, grocery stores and food vendors are just some of the businesses that have been financed through the program. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The past year has produced evidence on some of the most successful anti-poverty programs in history. “Cash, livestock, and training” seems to be a simple and scalable way to help thousands and maybe millions out of poverty. This is great news. But while we should celebrate, we should pause before pouring millions into these programs. Paternalism and high price tags could mean that the charities are helping only one person when they could be helping two, three or four.

About two weeks ago, I opened the New York Times to see a full-page ad from a private charity called FXB (at left, click to expand).

“We know how to end global poverty” read the ad:

There’s now a proven approach. The journal Science just published a study proving what works to raise people permanently out of extreme poverty. It worked. And was cost-effective, paying for itself many times over.

Read more on www.washingtonpost.com

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