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116: What Really Happens When You Just Give People Money?

Published on
June 14, 2022
Show notes

In Episode 116, Quinn wants to know: why is simply giving people money the most effective way to 1) help them make positive changes to their lives and 2) erase global poverty along the way?

To help him understand the answer, he brought on Caroline Teti and Michael Faye from GiveDirectly.

Caroline Teti (or just Teti, as she likes to be called, we swear) works on the ground in Kenya, Nairobi, handling recipient advocacy for GiveDirectly’s global operations. She’s our new favorite person, sorry Michael.

Michael Faye is the co-founder and president of GiveDirectly, and he’s great too. Seriously! You’re great. So great. But Teti, wow.

Anyways! There’s so many amazing programs out there helping folks in extreme poverty by providing food, water, clothing, medicine, and more.

But different people need different things on different days. Michael and Teti have done tremendous work to explore the data behind poverty and how to fix it: and it turns out the best way to get people what they need is to give them the resources -- namely cash -- to make those decisions themselves.

None of us will end poverty, individually. But anyone can lift just one person out of poverty, so listen in and let’s do this thing.

Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.com

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Important, Not Important is produced by Crate Media

Transcript

Quinn:

Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett and this is science for people who give a shit. We give you the tools you need to feel better and to fight for a better future for everyone, the context about a specific issue facing everybody right now straight from the smartest most effective people on earth and the action steps you can take to get involved and to support them. Our guests are NGO directors, scientists, doctors, nurses, journalists, engineers, activists, farmers, CEOs, we even had a reverend once.

Quinn:

This is your friendly reminder, you can send questions, thoughts, and feedback to us on Twitter @importantnotimp or you can email us at questions@importantnotimportant.com. Second, you can also join tens of thousands of other smart folks and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter at importantnotimportant.com, that is all of the most important science news of the week, how we can help you think about it and what you can do about it, of course. Third, a new thing out there, very exciting, if you are interested in working directly on the front lines of the future, doing something impactful every day ranging from clean energy production or installation to maternal health or mental health or antibiotics work or carbon removal or any of these things, electric vehicles, you can now head to importantjobs.com where I'm very proud to say we've got an incredible number and selection of curated companies and organizations that are doing that work and their best roles for you guys to find.

Quinn:

And for those of you who are listening, if you're looking to hire some incredible human to bolster your team, to take you to the next level, if you're a legacy company that needs to hire a sustainability manager for the first time or measure your carbon footprint or someone who's skilled in working with sustainable consumer goods, whatever it might be, battery technology, there is no better community than you could get in front of than our shit givers here. And jobs are not only posted on the board, we feature the featured jobs in our newsletter every week and we also share them on social media where they get a ton of incredible impressions. And we've had some really awesome stories so far.

Quinn:

So again, that's at importantjobs.com. Folks, this week's episode, boy, it's simple, but it's also really profound and it asks why we should just be giving people money. Why it's the single most effective way to help people change their own lives and also erase global poverty along the way. Our guests are Caroline Teti and Michael Faye from GiveDirectly. And I'm very excited for you to hear their story and find out how you can get involved and contribute as well. Let's go. My guests today are Caroline Teti and Michael Faye, and together, I want to know why we should just be giving people money. Caroline Teti and Michael, welcome.

Caroline Teti:

Thank you.

Michael Faye:

Thanks so much Quinn.

Quinn:

Absolutely. Michael, you just really endeavored to make this happen there in the end. I sincerely appreciate the obstacles you've overcome today.

Michael Faye:

I figured out how to work the computer just once.

Quinn:

Teti, as you did request that we refer to you, and Michael, could you just tell us real quick who you guys are and what you do?

Caroline Teti:

Yeah. I can go first. So my name is Caroline Teti. I'm here in Kenya, Nairobi, and I work for GiveDirectly. Today I'm actually marking the fifth year since I was hired here. My role is recipients advocacy for our global operations. And what that means is monitoring, safeguarding and risks associated with the cash that we are delivering to beneficiaries and also being a representative and a voice for our beneficiaries in whatever way that I can. And this work has never been more exciting.

Quinn:

Sure. I imagine. Michael, how can you measure up to that?

Michael Faye:

I can't. I'm just a recovering PhD who had the incredibly creative idea of giving people money to make them less poor.

Quinn:

Sure.

Michael Faye:

I'm the Co-Founder and President of GiveDirectly. And I've spent the last two years building organizations that help move money to those in most need.

Quinn:

Awesome. I love it. Well, thank you guys for sharing. I'm very excited to dig into the how of what you do and the why of what you do and again, why it matters. So we do like to start with one vital question to set the tone for this conversation. We feel like it's explanatory, it's helpful telling but we'd like to ask each of you, if you don't mind, instead of saying, tell us your entire life story, if you could answer why are you vital to the survival of the species? And I encourage you to be bold and believe me, most people start with laughter.

Michael Faye:

I'm going to start with Teti.

Quinn:

You have Teti.

Caroline Teti:

Yeah. Quinn, that's not an easy question because you know what? The world, it's a huge place to be in. And to imagine that you are that person who can create the change that the world is looking for is such a big calling. However, I believe I fit in that little knob where one human being is required to create change in the world today because I have a past that has experienced the life of some of the people that we are giving cash today, I have enjoyed the privilege of getting out of that situation and I have had also the opportunity to be able to interact with the world in different ways in which I feel like is something that I can share with the world, whether that is in terms of information, empowering them and facilitating the process of creating change and where we are today in delivering cash to people living in poverty.

Quinn:

That's so wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. I really appreciate it. Michael, once again, good luck.

Michael Faye:

And I've lost this game. I would say we live in a world with enough resources for everyone to meet their basic needs and yet we also live in a world where a billion people can't do that and live in extreme poverty. And extreme poverty is extreme. It's people living on the equivalent or less than $1.90 a day, which if you take a second to think about, it's almost impossible to imagine certainly for those of us on this call. So we live in a world with those resources and yet such poverty exists. We're helping at some level at its most basic level to fix that. And we're just playing a small role where we're just really a vehicle for people that want to transfer some resources to others to get them above the poverty line to do so. And what I say is giving shouldn't come from guilt.

Michael Faye:

It's actually a remarkable opportunity to think about it. You can give another human a dollar a day, which used to be the price of a cup of coffee, now it's like a sip of your cup of coffee and take that person above the poverty line just purely mechanically. If you give them a dollar and they have a dollar, they're now at $2, they're out of poverty. And I think that's transformative for each life and as a generation and as a planet, why not take the step? Why not take the gamble of trying to end it?

Caroline Teti:

Yeah. And Michael, that is something that is really, really powerful that as I grew up, I didn't have any idea of there is so much web out in the world. And it's really been humbling for me interacting and seeing the reality of how wealth redistribution can have such a huge impact on people's lives. And just having an opportunity to see how the common resources like natural resources that have been extracted and all the work that lots of people have done have generated so much wealth, yet we still have so many people living in abject poverty, poverty that sometimes you cannot explain. Like I have seen a woman cooking stones for her children. And you wonder like doesn't somebody just have $10 to enable her to get food to the table for her children.

Michael Faye:

Teti, it reminds me of a story, you say you didn't realize how much wealth there was. And you probably know this story. It was in a slum in Nairobi, I think we were together, and one of the recipients came up to me and he says, "You've really changed my view of life." I said, "Oh, tell me." And he said, "For decades and decades, NGOs have been coming and giving us stuff and they'll give us soap and they'll give us this small thing. And it was helpful, but it wasn't much. And I just figured they didn't have that much money, these NGOs, and now you come and you give us all this money and I think to myself, why isn't everyone giving us money?" So now every time an NGO come, that group of people say, "Well, why don't you just give us the money? We'll buy it. We can buy soap here. We'll be okay."

Quinn:

Wow. That's amazing.

Caroline Teti:

How true.

Quinn:

It seems so fundamental and so basic and yet it seems like it hasn't been so far. And I want to get into that stuff. So thank you both for sharing that. I appreciate it. Here's why I wanted to have this conversation today and where I hope we can go with it. And of course there's entirely possible we go off in 40 different directions which I'm always game to do. So at least especially in the Western world and the global North, there's been a fair amount of dark humor joking at least since Trump was elected in 2016 that this year is the worst, we can't wait to be done with this year, right? And then two years later we all look back fondly on 2017 or 2018 because at least there wasn't a pandemic in that year, right?

Quinn:

It's all about perspective, but you don't have to be a Steven Pinker completist to understand even very broadly, superficially that life has generally improved in the past quarter century on this only known habitable planet in the galaxy. But we definitely still have a long way to go. And we've also got this ticking clock that we've never really had before, right? So we have these big systemic problems, these global problems with these intensely local and varied ramifications, but we have made progress, right? So I was looking through one of my favorite websites, Our World and Data, I'm not sure if you guys are familiar with that organization at Oxford, they do a fantastic job. It's basically data for making progress. And they talked about how 300,000 women die from pregnancy related causes but that's declined from half a million.

Quinn:

And the share living in extreme poverty is 10% globally, but that's down from 21%. And the number of primary school aged kids, not in school, I believe is 60 million, but that's down from 110 million. And then looking at things like malaria, it's like almost 4% of all kids die before they're five years old, but that's down from 9%, which is just wild. So we've made a lot of progress, but we still have such a long way to go. And as much as, again, especially in the global North and in the West, we talk about these tech-based solutions or these global scale nature-based solutions, these economy-wide levers to pull on these systemic issues but many of the items we talk about in this show and I've tried to focus on more and more come back to people just not having the means, these very basic few things to survive. To be able to go to school requires your family to have enough money that you don't need to work, bed nets, birth control, stuff like that.

Quinn:

And so I have been so blown away by the incredible effectiveness of giving people money since I began to try to understand it better and where it's going during the pandemic and after. And I really want to help this community understand how they can most effectively contribute, because at least again in America, where we argue over everything and don't get a lot done, it's one thing to work in hunger specifically or building wells or in malaria to say, "I believe everybody should have water." Right? Nobody can really argue with that. We can get over the semantics of how but you're not going to argue with that. And it's another thing though to say people should just have the money to take care of themselves. And for some reason, for some folks that's more complicated despite all the evidence and especially here in the US. So that's really where I want to focus today is about giving people money like why is it so effective and why can it be so complicated?

Quinn:

So if we could just set some context first, what does it mean? I want to talk about what it means to live in poverty globally in 2021 and why has that changed over time? So we'd like to say that places like Los Angeles, where I spent half my time, are insanely inequitable, and it is just terribly so. And it's infuriating and it's a choice. It's a policy choice, but there's a different standard obviously in Africa to this day, what are the primary reasons why people still don't have the money for and clean food, air, water, and shelter in 2021? Could you just give us some context for that?

Caroline Teti:

Today in 2021, when we have so much technology and so much ability to see so many people living in poverty, why haven't we got the solution? And it's a multifaceted question. And you can start from one, the policy landscape, and we want to ask ourselves, do we have the right public policies that respond to the needs of the people living in poverty? And even as you ask that, it's been decades. Like there has been a lot of investment in aid with the hope of reversing the situation of poverty for millions of people across the globe, but aid has not been that effective. And one of the reasons could be because aid effectiveness is just a question which people have not yet embraced to get the right answer to.

Caroline Teti:

That so much has been given... And I would talk about Africa, for example, where I'm coming from, there has been so much that has been pumped into Africa to respond to the situation of poverty through aid and external support but it's not getting better. Like when you say percentages have gone down, you also want to think about if they went down from 2017, world population has actually risen, which means in absolute numbers, we could actually be talking about more people living in poverty. And the nature of poverty is not even getting better. It's getting worse.

Quinn:

Thank you. That's helpful to understand.

Caroline Teti:

Yeah. And it's time for us to ask questions whether what we have been doing year in year out in terms of reversing the situation of poverty is responding to the actual need of the people. And the answer lies in the paternalistic nature of aid that yes, we see people who are poor, yes, we have the numbers, but then we also make the assumptions that we have the answers to their problems. And I like the fact that you've asked about water as a basic need, why do people still don't have water? Why do people still don't have food? And that is because we have resources that are purposed in the wrong way. And wrong way in the sense that basic needs will remain basic, water will remain basic, food will remain basic, shelter will remain basic but the basic requirements for different people vary over time in quantities also that one person requires food today, but right next door, another person requires water and then next door, another person requires shelter.

Caroline Teti:

But then we come with this whole bundle of wealth and policies and say that everybody in this community should be given water or everybody should be given food. And sometimes we give the wrong food or the wrong water. I will close with an example of a situation sometime in Mozambique in a place called Beira where orphaned children were in dire need and they needed support. And there's this Italian donor who came with truckloads of food and that food was expired. Like there was yogurt and there was cheese. And I can tell you, they don't need cheese. They don't even know to eat cheese, but you've carried cheese there and it's expired. And you suspect maybe the time taken to transport this food across the shores might have contributed to the expiry, they're perishables. Like that's unbelievable. That's money right there been wasted or people being given what they don't need or people being given what they need but now expired.

Quinn:

No, that's profoundly illuminating. Absolutely that gets to the root of it pretty quickly, which is different people might need different things on different days and in different moments in their life. So just showing up to build wells. And then Michael I can see you're just taking furious notes over there, but I think about this idea of like of this progress we've made and you're right, it's important whether we're talking about relative percentages or absolute numbers, I imagine there has been some low hanging fruit, but then you really have to get into what is each person's lived experience and what are they lacking? And it seems like the best way to fix that is to allow them to make the decision for themselves on how to deal with it. Michael, please go ahead. Sorry to interrupt.

Michael Faye:

Oh yes. I mean, the big surprise is that each person has their own individual lived experience and as it turns out their own individual needs. Like if you go into a village and say, "Let's find the one thing that everybody in this village needs." Good luck.

Quinn:

Sure.

Michael Faye:

Right? You can go to your 10 neighbors and say, "We're all getting the same Christmas gift. Let's just agree on it." Not going to happen. You know why? These people need different things. And the person that knows what they need is often the person themselves. Quinn, I was going to go back to your question of why is there still poverty? So when I was doing the PhD, there was an entire literature on kind of what causes growth? What helps poverty reduction? What is the cause of poverty? And then there's a debate, right? Is it the geography of countries? Is it the government and so on and so forth? The reality is, at an individual level, it doesn't matter because do you know whose fault it is not? The individual and the recipient.

Michael Faye:

If you are living in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, you are poor because you are living in rural Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. And we don't need to debate the cause of kind of the structural thing. It is useful and it is absolutely something to talk about at a macro level, but at an individual level, it's not relevant. And it's not relevant because if I were to give that person money, that person would become less poor. And you don't need a PhD for that. There's no math behind it. Poverty is a lack of resources. If I give you more, you have more. Obviously, poverty can be complicated and have other aspects, but it is easy to forget this kind of structured finite aspect of the problem that giving people money makes them less poor.

Michael Faye:

Now, a lot of people bring a Western lens to it. If you walk down the street of New York City, you might see people on the street and they might be asking for money and also drinking out of a brown bag. And poverty in the US is more complicated. You may have interactions with mental illness, substance abuse, other aspects and that's not to say cash doesn't work because there have been studies in the US where cash works. But at some level, it's even less complicated in the places that we're working, which is not associated with any of those things I mentioned. You are poor because you are born there. And that's what we're trying to sort.

Quinn:

Yeah. I was just reading... There's this fantastic black American writer, author, poet, the historian Clint Smith, who just had a new book came out and I just finished it this morning called How The Word Was Passed. And he usually writes for the Atlantic. Just tremendously smart human being. One of those you read the book and you're just like I'm just not going to do anymore writing. I give up. But he made this point and you talked about you're poor because you're born into and you're growing up in rural Democratic Eastern Congo. And he talks about how there's this thing... Basically the book is this exploration through, I think, five or six different places throughout America that are part of the real story of how the slavery operation worked here and how it got here logistically and how it worked here from plantations to prisons to all of the above.

Quinn:

And in one of the last places he goes, he goes back to Senegal and is talking about how it's important to understand that it's not just there isn't a single... And I'm calling you from colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, there isn't a single moment in America's history where the economy wasn't based on free labor and marginalized people at the very least. But it's also a zero sum game because those people that built America, black slaves, were taken from countries, which means those countries had their ancestry of workforces removed from them.

Quinn:

And so you have to understand that those people weren't able to build up and spend generations now, 250, 300, 400 years building on the things that we've been able to build on here for free, which we've enabled. And it's important, I think, especially again, for people in the West to constantly remember that when we're saying like, why are we giving so much whether it's US giving aid or when George Bush was sending money for aids work or whatever it might be it's like, well, because we took all of that and that matters and we have to keep reminding ourselves of that. Anyways, I was just reading that part this morning and-

Michael Faye:

Yeah. Your point about giving too much is actually an interesting one. So I'm not sure if you've seen these surveys. But if you ask people, "Do you think we're giving too much abroad?" You'll often get the answer yes. And I forget the exact numbers, but a majority will say, yes, we are giving too much. And I say, "Great, how much do you think we should be giving them in aid abroad? What percentage of global GDP do you think that we should dedicate this?" People say, "I don't know, 5%, 10%." I say, "Great. The actual number is closer to 1%." We spent a lot of time getting to 0.7%. Now, if you think we're at 10, we're not doing that much. And it would not take a tremendous amount to actually end poverty. Two facts for you talking about the world getting better or worse, if you look at two graphs or one graph, two lines, it's quite powerful.

Michael Faye:

So the poverty gap has been falling for some time. It has likely increased in the last year with COVID but before that, it had been falling. What the poverty gap is, is the amount of money that would be required to get every person above the poverty line. And it's theoretical, right? So if you're living at a dollar 20 and the line is at dollar 90 we'd assume it's 70 cents and we just add that up over all the people. So the poverty gap has been falling. The amount of development assistance, which is the aid that we send abroad has been increasing over the same time. So those are two great facts, poverty gap falling, aid increasing. For the first time about 15 years ago, those two lines crossed.

Michael Faye:

And the amount of aid we send is more than the amount that would be required to close the poverty gap. Where we are today is that the amount of aid is about double what would be required to close the poverty gap. So if you just close your eyes for a second and imagine we just took that money and we could magically put it in the hands of those under the poverty line, poverty would be over. That I think is both provocative and motivating. Now, of course, the world is more complicated.

Michael Faye:

I don't know exactly how far below the poverty line each person is. I don't know exactly where they are, but as a starting point, I think it's a really important one is if you reframe it for what should we do with our resources to what should we do with the global resources, the poorest resources, imagine those resources weren't our, the donor communities, to spend but they already were distributed with the poorest, wouldn't we feel comfortable going to them and saying, "You know what? I'd like to have some of your money back." They'd say, "Well, why do you want my money back?" "I'm going to I buy you a cow in the US. It's going to be a beautiful cow. And then we're going to ship it back to you. And we're going to spend three times the amount of money it would have taken you to buy a cow locally."

Quinn:

Right. Do you know much it takes to ship a cow? Right.

Michael Faye:

Right. That's crazy.

Quinn:

Sure.

Michael Faye:

But that is still what a lot of it is.

Caroline Teti:

What Michael is saying is almost reflective of some of the things that I see here that is done using aid. And you sit back and ask yourself if we've been spending twice what we need, and we still have poverty, then what has happened to all that aid. And I see examples of where some of that aid has gone, that money has been put to drill wells for people living in poverty, because somebody sat somewhere and imagined that these people needed water. But then even the person who has been given the responsibility to dig that well doesn't actually dig a well, they go into a river bed that has dried up and they dig a hole. Because they're going to reach a very shallow aquifer, a donor will be told that a well was dug.

Caroline Teti:

I have seen this, nobody has told me this. Now, that person will have sunk in there between 30 to $40,000 for a well that will not work absolutely zero. They will also report that they have used 50, $70,000 for that same well. So there is money going to waste in terms of what has been spent on the wealth and money going to waste in terms of the real well that is actually supposed to be helping people. So you ask yourself, where is aid going? Why isn't it helping people? Some of it is just not spent the right way.

Michael Faye:

Agreed. And it's not for a lack of good intent.

Caroline Teti:

Exactly.

Michael Faye:

And a lot of donors... And Teti and I see different pieces of it. I think a lot of people are well motivated. I think it is hard to do a well. A lot of aid has done well or bed nets, deworming. There's certainly aid that has been wasted. And the question is not only how do we do better, but how do we empower the recipient versus making choices for them? Quinn, you mentioned water hunger and it's sort of interesting, which is that's exactly the way the sector has split, right? There's an organization dedicated to hunger. That's the objective they solve. There's an organization dedicated to water, shelter and so on and that's what they solve. But that's not the way people make decisions. They don't say, "You know what? Husband and family, this month we're only going to focus on hunger. I know you're sick, but next month is health. We've decided that we're on hunger this month."

Caroline Teti:

That's the best Michael.

Quinn:

This month, no more water.

Caroline Teti:

No that is the best example.

Michael Faye:

But the beauty of cash, it's like every NGO in one, we do water, we do health, we do education, we do it all, but we let the recipient choose.

Quinn:

Yeah. We know that your work is so effective. And like you said, this image of aid increasing and the poverty line, and now we're spending double to what it should theoretically take. And the analogy, again, it's not quite apples to apples but it's certainly related again, certainly in America, it's this idea of everybody needs whatever. I mean, "needs to be healthy, 2000 calories a day and Americans to waste X amount", right? It's like it's way up. Everyone's like, "We got to make this much food to feed 30 years, 10 billion people." It's like, we can, we already do. That's not the problem. It's distribution, it's waste, it's yields, yada, yada, but so much of it's waste. It's an incredibly complicated systemic problem. But you talk about that image and those numbers being provocative.

Quinn:

I want to talk just for a moment about storytelling. Stats don't always, as we know, move the needle. Stories, whether it's Teti's personal story or something like that seem to have the most effect. I mean, storytelling is what we do, right? We've been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years. I think about how... And we're wrestling with this here as part of the US's COVID relief was enhancing this child tax credit, which could totally change lives for black Americans and brown Americans. It is giving families money to start with to pay for these necessities as they see fit, but also to possibly even put in a savings account or do things like that could let these families have access to compounding interest, which usually goes against them, right?

Quinn:

But the point is, again, poverty is this policy choice, whether it's here or anywhere else. When we do have success like with this child tax benefit or you guys just giving money, it's important that we learn how to most effectively tell stories about that progress. Because if anything else, it increases the number of people who are just giving money to GiveDirectly to give it away. I wonder you guys, and Teti I know this isn't your specific job, but how much you focus on this mission of what you do and why you do it and how you, for lack of a better word, sell it, how you mark change and how you tell stories about that to increase the overall effectiveness of what you do. Does that make sense or am I doing rambling again?

Michael Faye:

No. It's such a good medic question. And it's something we ask ourselves a lot. It's hard because for anything you can dream that a recipient done, I can assure you I can find one at this point that has done it. Whether it's shut down their distillery business because they didn't like being hassled by the police by distributing illegal alcohol to going from collecting things from the garbage dump to actually making electronics out of them. There's everything there. What we have done is we have launched a site called live.givedirectly.com, which actually shows a live feed of recipient stories, but not in our words, in those recipient words. And I think it is fascinating. It's got a search bar, search for your favorite, whatever you want, bed, alcohol, whatever word you want, and you could hear it in their words.

Michael Faye:

And I think one of the reasons why it's been hard often for stories to break out is that for a long time the stories have not been the recipient stories, they have been stories told by donor agencies. And I'll give one story that I heard. An NGO had on their website something that said for 30 cents you can save a life. 30 cents just doesn't seem like much money, how do we get the 30 cents? How did we get the story? Well, I looked at the other NGOs and that's what they had on their website. And I hate to be this cynical, but we've often told the stories that donors want to hear. And even when I go to a village and Teti I'm sure you've had the same experience, you ask people, "What do you do?" Everyone sort of starts with what they think you want to hear. "Oh, I started a vegetable stand and my life is completely different."

Michael Faye:

I said, "No, no. Okay. You don't need to tell me that story. I've heard that story a few times. What do you really do?" "I put a tin roof over my head." "Tin roof? Why did you put a tin roof?" There's a bit of a Western judgmental side thinks is the tin roof the Kenyan equivalent of the marble bathroom in uptown Manhattan. Is this just a... But then you hear the story and say, "Well, actually I can collect clean water from the tin roof so I don't need to walk a mile to collect it every day. And it turns out that tin roof doesn't fall down twice a year. So I don't need to spend all this money replacing it. But you know what's most important to me? I don't have to watch my children get rained on every night."

Michael Faye:

And there's no metric for that, but that's often the most powerful. And if there's anything that just speaks to the decency importance in getting people to a standard, not watching your children huddled up getting rained on because you bought a tin roof underscores that's so deeply to me. But Teti gets to do this every day. I'm very jealous of Teti's job because she gets to this every day and talking to recipients.

Caroline Teti:

Yeah. And Michael-

Quinn:

So Teti I wonder if-

Caroline Teti:

Sorry.

Quinn:

Yeah, go ahead please. I'm really curious to hear your perspective on that because what you do is fairly unique.

Caroline Teti:

When you talk about recipients in their stories and whether we do enough to capture our work through recipients stories, you want to also GiveDirectly side-by-side with a typical traditional nonprofit here in Kenya. A lot of nonprofits have the opportunity to show physical structures. They can show you competition. They can show you maybe a water pan that is dug. They can show you physical things. We cannot show you human beings and point to them that those are the people we sent money. They have to speak for you to know it actually worked.

Caroline Teti:

We have to tell their story. Every day of our work, there's no better way of us talking about the work that we do except for letting the recipients themselves say it. And I think each and every day, we look for the most innovative ways to get them as close as possible to speaking to the people who want to hear their story than us telling the story. So Michael just talked about GD life. We have brought donors down to come and find firsthand experience talking to this recipient. We have recipients who speak English who can come to platforms such as this, and we can facilitate them and ask them, "Come and speak to someone who wants to hear what this means to you." And that is so powerful. If we were to start telling the story of our recipients each and every day, there's a new story.

Caroline Teti:

When I was coming to this podcast, we had a list of stories that we've had and we thought this would be a very good story to share until I got here today and I was asking the teams that came from the other side of town, and I'm like, "What's happening in that side of town, what have you had?" And they tell me about this old man who got the transfer from GiveDirectly $550 and in his own mind and choice, he bought a machine that hatches eggs and he says he's hatching like a 100 eggs every week. Somebody sitting somewhere, one, could never choose for him that as a project, two, may think that because he's living in poverty in a rural interior part of Kenya, he might not have an idea such as that hatchery or that he may not be able to manage it because it might be too complicated a technology, he might not have electricity, but they have their innovative ways of turning things around.

Caroline Teti:

To the story of housing that Michael has just talked about, having a tin roofed of house is an achievement here, but you will come and find that so many people have built tin roofed houses, but if you went to their stories, each of them has a different motivation for why that roof is most important to them. There's a story of like three women that I spoke to at one point when I was asking myself, "Tin roofed houses, why are so many people building tin roof houses? I need to speak to some people to just hear their story." And I chose three women. One woman told me, for her, building a tin roof meant security for her daughters because she was fearing about sexual assault. And you know that out here, there are people who have put a lot of programs to protect girls from sexual assault. Good job, but nobody will tell you that we are going to build your house so that you can protect your daughters from being assaulted sexually.

Caroline Teti:

For another woman, for her, a house meant that for her sixth birth... So she was a mother of five and she said, "For all my five children, anytime I wanted to deliver, and it's home birth, anytime I wanted to deliver a child, I have to go and beg for a house from my neighbor. I am tired of begging. I am embarrassed of begging. Today, I have found a relief, a house where I am going to get privacy, a house where my child is going to be delivered in dignity." To a third woman, having a tin roofed house meant that the years that she has spent in her marriage with her husband living in the state that they were living in and being a polygamous man, three women, they were forced to live in the same house. For anybody listening to that or watching that woman, you would assume that what a loving husband, wow, what loving women these are, what a peaceful family, these women, they can live together in the same house.

Caroline Teti:

Of course living in one house as co-wives is such a difficult thing. For this woman, a tin roof was a liberation. She says, "This marriage has been a bondage. I've never had privacy. I have never had independence. I have never had to choose even what to eat because we have to eat the same thing because we're in the same house, a tin roof is liberation for me." When people make decisions about their lives, they know which part of the shoe that pinches most they're easing. Each person needs a solution for their problems. And these stories are so many, Quinn, we can't tell all of them, but most important when you get the recipients themselves to talk about them, it's more liberating.

Quinn:

Thank you for sharing that. It's just so illustrative of the fact that we each have a... I mean, besides just the pure logistics of, like you said, we can't have water month and health month and shelter month and that's not the way a person works much less a family unit, much less an extended family unit. But I come back to this word you used of liberation. And again, not to just bring it back to the US but I'm trying to think of how broken things are here as well. And coming back to thinking about... I always try to get to this why and part of the American dream that doesn't necessarily exist for most people, but is this idea of freedom and liberty, right?

Quinn:

But we're so paternalistic to use a word that you guys used earlier, which just applies to everything about America. It's so contradictory because the idea of liberty and the idea of agency is that you're in charge of your own story, but we're so paternalistic to everyone else about how they get to use that if they get to use it at all. And that's why it's so surprising to so many people every time I talk about... I'm not sure if you guys are familiar with Project Drawdown, which is one of the most comprehensive and effective models of the best ways we can draw down carbon emissions measured by category from onshore wind to offshore wind to transportation, whatever it might be. But in the top six, I think, at least as of a year or so ago are educating girls and family planning.

Quinn:

And there's no other category that stops, especially men in their tracks as when you tell them of this list of a 100 things we need to do to essentially save the world from all catching on fire and seas rising and monsoons skipping or sticking around longer or hurricanes being better is educating girls and family planning. But it's because we are so eager to say that, well, if you come here, you get liberty or you think you do and then you say, "Well, I should get liberty but we're not going to do UBI because we don't trust people to do what we think is the right thing because we have this our own definition of what that is."

Michael Faye:

But it's been-

Quinn:

No, I was just going to say, but it's... I mean, this idea of liberation is that each person should... Being liberated, earning your own liberation means you should be able to define that for yourselves. And whether that's again, giving girls and mothers money so that girls can be educated so they don't have to go to work and family planning so that they don't have to get pregnant if they don't want to. I mean, you just go back down the list, but we just never stopped to ask why and asking somebody, "What do you need and how can I help?" Which I have found to be like the most effective question either for this business or for my own marriage, just literally how can I help? But I just-

Michael Faye:

We're not going to dive into that.

Quinn:

No, no. In fact, that's a separate podcast. I'm going to need you guys to stick around for it though.

Michael Faye:

Yeah. [inaudible 00:45:08].

Quinn:

But thank you for sharing those stories. It seems to be this universal thing where we don't trust each other to handle our own business, our own liberation and yet when you hear these very personal, remarkable stories, you find out how much more powerful that really is when you have that agency.

Michael Faye:

And I think it's been something that's been powerful in COVID, right? So we all want liberty yet when it comes to others we're so naturally paternalistic. And I think there is this natural othering. That was the disaster in Goma. The volcano happened to those people in Goma or that was the take. And what happened in COVID is we had a disaster that happened to all of us. We were all part of it at some level or not. And I think it's not that surprising that cash became more popular in COVID because when you take a step back and say, "Wait a second, how would I want to be helped in a disaster? Would I want to open up a box of ragged teddy bears that someone else sent and maybe some canned Campbell's soup?"

Quinn:

Cheese. Like Teti's cheese.

Michael Faye:

And we're in a real moment, cheese?

Caroline Teti:

I know.

Quinn:

Nobody needs it. Nobody needs that cheese that day.

Michael Faye:

Who doesn't want moldy cheese? What do I want? Money because I may need to buy a new car, my neighbor may need to fix their house. And you saw a huge uptick in cash programs, right? So I think there's over 150 new cash programs started around the world during COVID. We got to a level where about 15% of the world's population was getting a cash program. Now some of that is certainly necessity, right? Digital cash, which is what we do is operationally quite convenient when you can visit pizza because I can sit here in a desk in New York and send digital money to someone in a refugee settlement. I don't need to go visit them per se. And it's also scalable. And I think the operational bit is one of the reasons why, but I also think there is something about that there was something deothering about the COVID crisis.

Quinn:

It is. I mean, there's another... Again, I hate to keep harping on it. There's a gentlemen, a fantastic science anthropological writer named Ed Yong, a British gentleman living in the US who just won a Pulitzer last week. So incredibly proud of him for his coverage in the Atlantic of COVID. And he wrote another piece last week, which we'll put in the show notes, and I can send to you guys about how America's biggest issue is still we're still going with this thing is that we have made this even with the doing administration, who, again, you assume the best intent, at least this administration is we've made it about individuals.

Quinn:

We dropped our mask mandates and we said, you have a choice, you can wear a mask, or you can get a shot, go get it. Which completely ignores the fact of generations of distrust of the medical establishment or the fact that you can't get time off to go get a first shot, much less the second shot, or that there isn't, it's a vaccine desert like the same people who live in food deserts in the US or have had their water turns off. He ignores so much of this support system that we refuse to provide.

Quinn:

And that's what I think about, again, going back to that low hanging fruit of there are systemic paternalistic things that actually can be done for good. Like we have to cancel out these industries that are poisoning the air of people in America, but then let's give them cash to do the things they do because cash in their pocket isn't going to make the roads cleaner. So there are things we can be doing, but I keep coming back to this idea of like giving people the power to do that thing because if you want to be individualistic about it, let's go all the way. Let's let them do that then. And we refused to do it. And it seems like that is again with good intent somebody might be building all the wells in the world, but they might not need a well this month, they might need tampons or...

Michael Faye:

Well, it's funny that you bring that up because that actually also reminds me of a story. But going back a second, I'm glad you brought it up because it's an important point, which is cash is not going to solve everything. There are structural problems. Cash does not... I think this is your example, it does not pave roads. Cash does not discover vaccines. Cash does not provide national defense, right? There are a lot of things that you require coordination. Public goods are important but there's a lot of ways for these individual type interventions that still exist, which can be replaced by cash.

Quinn:

All right. We know how well your programs work. We know how it works. To focus on you two for a minute because I always want to get to this point of our community being able to... They certainly sympathize, they empathize, they support it, but to see themselves doing work like this, that's incredibly effective, it's a less measurable question of course. And Teti maybe we can start with you here, why does it matter so much to you to do this specific form of work, of support and even more specifically what you do within the organization? Can you talk about that?

Caroline Teti:

Yeah. I think I have three phases of responses to that answer. And the first phase is I have learned and I have learned out of the work that I have done elsewhere. I have been in the aid sector 16 years now, I have implemented programs of different kinds. And I can tell you this for free, as I worked in different organizations, missions moved me differently. I'm a very value-driven person. And I remember there's this organization that I worked in and five months later I left. I just couldn't take it anymore. And I have changed jobs, but today I can tell you, if somebody gave me an option to go elsewhere from GiveDirectly, I don't think I'll fit well because I have not yet figured where other place is. And this is-

Michael Faye:

That's so great.

Caroline Teti:

I'm telling you this from the bottom of my heart. It's five years and I can do another five years. One time I asked my husband, "How do you stay in one organization for 11 years? You don't get bored?" Today, I want to stay more. I want to stay even 20 years. It's when you see that you have spent so many years doing the wrong thing, and one day you realize, oh my God, if I had spent all those years doing this specific thing, I would get this inner motivation as a person. But even more important is that when I go back to the communities and this is why I love talking to recipients and that's my second point that I have learned so much from the communities. You don't have to write it in an encyclopedia. A 70 year old woman told me, "Were you angels or was it God? Because I don't understand how a beautiful organization like yours, with a beautiful program selected my village in the middle of nowhere. People have come here, but I've never seen anybody come with anything like..."

Caroline Teti:

For her, she looked at us like angels dropping down from the heavens. And for me, it was not so much about what she saw, it was me now asking myself, what is that I've been doing? Why hasn't somebody ever told me that I was an angel? Why were those other programs I was doing, they just considered it that NGO that came here, that NGO. I don't want to mention names, but they would call those organizations by their names. They would call the interventions that they brought that water belongs to this NGO, that well belongs to this NGO, that's school belongs to this NGO. Nobody has ever called GiveDirectly's money belonging to GiveDirectly. That NGO that brought us money. And they have never asked us that I made a mistake when I used your money like this, but you will go back to these villages and they will tell you, but they came and they sank latrines, the pit latrines trains, the toilets. They have never come back to make it again. Nobody asks you that about cash because they make personal decisions about what they do with the money.

Caroline Teti:

Why do I want to stay in the sector? Why do I believe in what I am doing? Because I have seen the journey of poverty and I know how difficult that journey can be, I know dehumanizing it can be. And when you hear people say the things that they have done after realizing the power of money... Let me tell you, Quinn, in some of these communities, there are people who don't even know the power of money. They live each day as it comes. If it comes with hunger, that's it. If it comes with goodies, that's it. If it comes with money, that's it. And most of the time it's somebody else's money directed to be used in another way.

Caroline Teti:

It has given me the conviction that you know what? If we were to have lifelong today, we should do more of this. We should touch more people's lives because I know when we do it here, tomorrow when I am not there, somebody will tell the story of the right thing to be done. A child who was educated with GiveDirectly is money, tomorrow will be a champion for the right programming for his community or her community when Michael and myself will not be here. That's it, Quinn.

Quinn:

It's you're empowering people.

Caroline Teti:

Exactly.

Quinn:

And like you said, some people don't even know the power of what you're giving them ability to do yet. And you can't really do that. Again, there's well-meaning people in organizations the world over, but you can't really do that with a well you don't revisit or latrines that nobody comes back to. But if somebody is hatching a 100 eggs a week, you do the secondary math in second order effects of it's not just those 100 eggs a week or it's not just a tin roof, but where does it go from there? Like what does it do to children when they don't have to huddle under the rain anymore? What does that mean next week, in a month, in a year, in a couple of years, just because you gave them some digital cash? And you're not in control of that, they're in control of that. And that's a totally different ball game. Michael, what about you why this specific thing? And your answer can not be because it works. I know that already.

Michael Faye:

I'm like Teti, my story is incredibly boring too. Grew up public school teacher parents, public school, growing up. I hadn't left the country until I was in college and really saw poverty for the first time on a trip to Ecuador where I was teaching English. I had tried medicine like all good kids at the time and realized that was too squeamish and blatant. Then tried education like the parents but it was hard not to think about the structural reasons for inequity and just poverty. What pulled me to poverty was a few things. One is the magnitude of the problem is great. I think it's one of the kind of great crimes of humanity right now that there are a billion people living in extreme poverty. So it is hard not to be drawn to that is one of the big problems facing our generation.

Michael Faye:

And there are obviously others like climate change and so on. But the thing about focusing on poverty was it did feel so addressable. You could see it at the individual level. You can sit with someone in poverty and you can help them at poverty. And I'm an impatient person and I like seeing results quickly. And to be able to see that impact forces you to think about what could you do. Seeing that impact at the individual level forces you to ask the question at a global level. And what you realize quickly is that this is a finite problem. Every person you take out of poverty is one less person in poverty. And it's tautological to say that, but it's really important to realize we could count down to the end of poverty and should be doing that. And once you realize that, it's hard not to focus on that opportunity.

Michael Faye:

Now, I was also in some ways kind of at the right confluence of things. So I happened to be doing a PhD at a time when academics first started studying what worked in poverty reduction. And it turned out a lot of what we thought worked didn't work, giving people money did work. And the second part was the mobile money revolution, right? The ability to send money directly to someone's phone is something relatively new, that didn't exist before I think mid 2000s. Sending physical dollar bills across oceans is not easy and it turns out easy to get robbed, easy to lose money, easy to get it wrong. So you have these two threads, one, the evidence to the technology that actually makes this possible for the first time. And it just seemed tremendously obvious to do.

Michael Faye:

We had no intent of doing it at the beginning, we were just looking to give away some of our own money, like this is the way we want to give our money. Let's call a bunch of people and see who's going to do it for us and nobody was able to do it for us. So we did it the most mechanical way we could. We got on planes and walked around refugee settlements and IDP camps in Kenya asking people for their phone number to send money. And that's how GiveDirectly started and it scaled from there.

Quinn:

Wow, there's something about that conflicts of you're not going to be a doctor. I mean, I'm the guy who swerves away from squirrels that are already dead. To be clear, I can't handle the blood either. It's not pretty. You're not going to be a doctor, you tried to be a teacher, you got to do some travel. You were public school kids so I'm a huge believer that there's something very fundamental especially in the formative years about being exposed and exposing yourself to such a different stratification of life wherever you might be. But there's something so compelling about that conflict. I was thinking about this the other day, there's an environmental writer for Bloomberg Green, which is their sort of climate focused section who I've had on the show a couple of times, just brilliant gentleman named Akshat Rathi. And he had this tweet a couple of weeks ago that was essentially where he realized our age and I'm 38, I think, going on 90 and that if we need to decarbonize as soon as possible, but definitely by this 2050 number, then if I'm this age like that is the work of my lifetime.

Quinn:

And while we needed to start so many of these things decades ago, when we knew, when Exxon already knew and all these places, there are some things that are available to us now that weren't before. We can use satellites to actually look and see and measure forests and deforestation and methane leaks. Like literally being able to find methane leaks is like six months old, these things, but then a company it expands overnight and somebody goes like, "Oh, we're going to build on that and we're going to track those for whatever the purposes are." But there's something to look at those. It's like a podcast. I always joke like my children are going to say, "When the world was on the line, what did you do?" I'm like, "I had a podcast. You're welcome."

Quinn:

But it is a medium that I think works and is helpful, but things like GiveDirectly, like you said, it is not advantageous to try to ship buckets of cash over literally on boats and in planes but these networks that exists and these cheap mobile phones that exist to be able to do it on the continent of Africa, which probably has a higher prevalence than it doesn't America at this point is now. And so if you're someone that can understand that and speak to that and then use that data that works and has the why of why to do it, you almost have to do it, don't you?

Michael Faye:

Yeah. And it's an opportunity. And I think you're doing a lot, Quinn.

Quinn:

Well, that's not what this is. It's not a therapy session. Thank you though.

Michael Faye:

Oh, you're helping us find the next generation of folks that are going to help deliver cash with the job listing board. And if there's anything people take away, you individually may, not you Quinn, but any of us individually are not going to end poverty, but you can do that for one person. Like go donate the $32 or whatever it is a month to one person and that's it. And then get one or two of your friends to do the same. And maybe if there's just enough of us to do that, we can end poverty in our lifetime.

Quinn:

And like you said, man, and maybe it's just the way specific people are built, but I'm the way you are. And this is why I love... This is horrible. This is why I like doing dishes because there's a stack of dishes and at the end there's no dishes.

Michael Faye:

Me too.

Quinn:

And I can do this thing. And you said this poverty problem, because it is a choice wherever we are and because it is so functional and measurable, you can look at this number and go, "Oh, I have the opportunity to make that go down and get all these stories that Teti is telling us." You'll probably hear one 1000000th of them, but it's like this reinforcing flywheel of I'm making this measurable number go down, but we're getting these stories and what else is out there and you have to do that, right? So I'm curious, in an organization like GiveDirectly and we talked about the job board a little but in general sort of a brief overview, what roles exist in an organization like yours in 2021 and for the next five, 10 years. And I guess, have those changed over the past few years? Are they going to change? Where are you looking to attract folks? What do you need or what are the things you don't know you need yet? If you can fill that out.

Michael Faye:

Everywhere, if you're talented and you care, I'm almost sure there's a role for you and we'll help you navigate.

Quinn:

Sure.

Michael Faye:

We've got over 500 people now, and I forget how many jobs are posted online.

Quinn:

That's incredible online.

Michael Faye:

And it's everything from someone in Liberia helping deliver cash, to someone on Teti's team helping audit the fact that it's an honest process and effective process, to people help kind of raising the word on the growth side, whether it's talking to individual donors or help building the website and apps that are going to help us tract people, to the engineers and data specialists that make sure we're targeting the right people and that we're keeping track of everything to make sure we know exactly where your money is and can track it along the way. I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot, but that just gives you a sense of the range of folks on our team.

Caroline Teti:

But also important, Michael, to what you're saying about what's available is we have a very open organization and we know that our horizon is not exhausted yet. So as we continue to serve people who need our services most, we know that the terrain is going to adjust and change in different ways. You never know, we may just need new labor people. So I think visiting our job postings, visiting our website will be the best way for people to catch up with what's next on the radar for GiveDirectly. There are roles we did not have five years ago. Today, they are very important roles within the organization. So that evolution also is a very important thing for our listeners to know.

Quinn:

I think that's so helpful because I've talked about a lot and I think this is how I've sort of where at least this Job Board focus kind of came from, which is certainly nothing unique. It's just our prism of how we're framing these things is. But we just get this question whether it's climate or COVID, especially in the past year or it's black maternal health in the US or whatever it might be. People just go, they hear, they start. Whether you've ignored a large systemic problem, because you don't have that lived experience or you've just started to heard of it, whatever, at some point you get to this point of, oh, they listen to this and they've listen to, no offense, Michael, but they listened to Teti tell these stories and they go, "What can I do?"

Quinn:

And when you say, "If you're smart and you care, we'll find a place for you," that's the equivalent of when I go to people and say, "Well, what can you do, Michael?" Like what do you give a shit about? What are you good at? What were you interested in in grade school or what drives you on a humanities level? Because we need all of it on the grander scale but especially at a place like GiveDirectly, like you said, from purely auditing to technology, to organizational, to remote stuff around the ground. And I think that's attractive to folks as they try to find their place in it. It's one thing to be attracted to the story, but it can be hard to find your way into something if you're just like, well, there's this thing, but who needs me? I'm a designer. So I think that's probably-

Michael Faye:

Totally. And everyone has a role to play, right? And maybe there's not a job, maybe have your friends over for dinner and talk about giving people money to make them less poor. I can promise you, it'll be an interesting dinner conversation and at least one person will raise the possibility. They'll just drink the money. Follow us on Twitter, share a story or two with someone that may not know as much about what's happening, you can do small things and they all matter.

Quinn:

So the two... I'm going to get to these last couple of questions that we ask everybody before I get you guys out of here. And I thank you so much for your time and your patience especially Teti as we waited so diligently for Michael to restart his computer. So it seems like the two places for folks to go or is it givedirectly.org? And then what was the other one, was it live.givedirectly for the stories?

Michael Faye:

Live.givedirectly.org or follow us @givedirectly.

Quinn:

Okay. That's awesome. That's super helpful. So guys, these are the questions we ask everybody. You can answer however you see fit. It could be brief, it could be longer, whatever you'd like. When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful? What was that first moment?

Caroline Teti:

So sometime back when I was in high school and I would say high school would be equivalent of grade 10, I think it was just like a light bulb moment. And the power to change doesn't mean you have the resourcing, it's more of the inner conviction that you can actually do something. And I did not figure out like whether there was a job I was going to be doing in my life or that I was ever going to have money or the knowledge to change the world but I knew that there was something I needed to do.

Caroline Teti:

And the driver at that point I remember was a journey that I made from home. I had come from home. I had stayed home for like two weeks and people were in school and when I came in, so much had gone on in my absence. And that moment, it's really strange, but it's the reality, it hit me when I was in the bathrooms. And I said, you know what? You got to think about how you can change this world. Things cannot continue like this. That was my light bulb moment things. The other things that have followed have followed organically, but that moment was a moment of conviction for me.

Quinn:

I love that. And you're right. It's important that especially for a lot of folks who want to do as we say around here, do better or do better or better, which I think is exactly what GiveDirectly does, that just because you have the conviction doesn't necessarily you have the means, but that doesn't mean it also can't be transformative in the moment. Michael, what's going on?

Michael Faye:

I'm still thinking. It is hard to think of a single moment. And I think for me, it's more about watching what other people have done and what impact they've had on my life and others to be totally honest. I think one of the most powerful things I remember growing up, my mom taught pre-K so she had real young kids. And they would test quickly or not quickly. They would test shortly thereafter for the gifted program. Her class always did really well and they read and they would go to the gifted programming and you could follow their trajectory of their lives being so different. And I would remember meeting some of the kids later on in high school, later in high school college and saying, "Wow, just one year with one person had this dramatic of an impact on these individual's lives." And if that doesn't convince you that you can also, I don't know what does. So I don't remember the moment, but I remember that feeling.

Caroline Teti:

Wow.

Quinn:

That's pretty awesome. That's pretty awesome. We need to pay teachers millions of dollars. Who is someone in your life that's positively impacted your work in the past six months?

Michael Faye:

I'll tell a story on this, but I won't mention the individuals yet because I'm not sure I can. When we started GiveDirectly, we pitched google.org on a project for I think we asked for maybe a $100,000, $200,000 and they said, "Guys, you really do need to think a bit bigger. Can you ask for more money? And your target shouldn't be moving a few million dollars to the poor, it should be moving a few billions."

Quinn:

Yeah, sure.

Michael Faye:

So that was a decade ago, fast forward 10 years and recently a few individuals have challenged me to think even bigger than the billion. So GiveDirectly as an organization has raised, I think, over 700 million now. So we're approaching the billion. And they said, "What would it take to end poverty?" Let's think about the resources billionaires alone have, forget the world. Let's put those all together, what would it take? And we can quibble over the numbers, but you start to look at the numbers and say, "Wow." If we just took all the wealth of billionaires alone, let's just be billionaires, put it in a fund and just gave out the dividends to the poor, we could do this. Like this is imminently doable. And let's take a crack at that. And we don't know what that looks like yet, but challenging us to think bigger and think about that counter and taking it from the billion to zero over the next decade or so, that person I think changed not only the way I think about it, but hopefully changed the organization and what we're able to do more broadly.

Quinn:

I think I might have an idea of what you're talking about because I read a letter posted online a couple of days ago by a significant person like that who listed a couple of hundred organizations that she gave an incredible amount of money to.

Michael Faye:

She has certainly changed it. There are many tremendously generous people. And one thing I can say about GiveDirectly donors, in many ways there's nothing more humble than giving cash. And it turns out that a lot of our donors are some of the humblest, most generous people I know. They don't want their names out there. They're anonymous, they're quiet. And it makes it more challenging for the promotional stuff but, gosh, it's awesome.

Quinn:

That's special though when people just, they don't need their name on a building.

Michael Faye:

Totally. Yeah. We're the opposite of the name on the building. If you don't want to put your name on the building and you don't have-

Quinn:

Go to givedirectly.org.

Michael Faye:

Please do.

Quinn:

Teti, is there somebody out there?

Caroline Teti:

I think for me it's not mind blowing in billions like what I'm hearing from Michael, but definitely something that has really influenced one, the way I think and also the way I do my work. It's not somebody I've met, but somebody I've read an article that he's written. So earlier this year I was reading an article about some of the things that determine the success of the people we see succeeding. And the one inspiration I got from there is the breadth of knowledge that they have in reading a lot and their conviction not to be boxed in specialization.

Caroline Teti:

And at that point I figured, oh my God, we are working in a sector where you cannot actually say you're specializing in anything, but we can only do well once we know the different facets of life and explore the different ways in which we can do good at different times without having to say like, I am in this sector or I am good in doing work in this way. And that was just... And I remember I was reading this article at night and I couldn't sleep. Like I sent it... I have two daughters, Michael know I have two adult daughters, and I said, "Guys, you have to read this. You have to read this because if you're going to be a change tomorrow for this world, this is for you to read."

Quinn:

That's incredible. Will you send that to me so I can put it in our show notes and share with everyone.

Caroline Teti:

Yes. I'm going to send it to you. I'm going to send it to you.

Quinn:

Awesome.

Caroline Teti:

Very inspiration reading.

Quinn:

Thank you. I totally empathize with the reading something at night and sitting there and going like, "Oh no, I have to do something about this right now." It's a real problem when you're trying to get to sleep. All right. Last two are a little more lighthearted and fun. Teti, to start with you as you're on your retreat hiding from the hippos, as you said, who are not as dangerous as advertised apparently, what is your self care as they put it in between all of your incredible work and this difficult year? What do you do to take care of yourself and make it easier? Because I know there's a lot of folks out there who're when you're doing NGO work or things like that it's easy to make it your entire life, 24/7. How do you take a step back?

Caroline Teti:

Yeah. That's an interesting question. I'm sure this is going to be surprising for Michael also. So it's true.

Michael Faye:

I'm intrigued, Teti.

Caroline Teti:

Yes. I know you're waiting to hear about this Michael. But when we did COVID work, that was one year when we lifted real loads of work, really loads of work. And I remember working from home, you don't want to work next to your partner. And my husband would come where I'm working and he's like, "Caroline, wake up. You've been sitting too long. You can do this for yourself. It's going to be too dangerous." This year, I said I'm going to create something that will make me wake up and not touch my computer and not touch my phone. And today I am potter. Michael, I'm making pottery. I know.

Michael Faye:

What? That's so cool.

Caroline Teti:

I know I should send you some of the pots I've made.

Michael Faye:

That's amazing, Teti.

Quinn:

That's such a cool thing to choose.

Caroline Teti:

And I make sure like when I'm doing my team debriefs Monday evening, I give them an update of milestones with my pottery, so now they're also giving me updates of the things they're doing. There are people who are doing guitar, there are people who are singing and they're like, "Okay guys, let's see where are we going to get with this?" And just love the fact that there is something that keeps me off work deliberately, but also gives me an opportunity. Like being potter, it's almost like a meditative moment. You touch something and you can use it to have this deep thinking moment.

Quinn:

I love that. Michael, are you also a potter?

Michael Faye:

No, no.

Caroline Teti:

Certainly not.

Michael Faye:

Self care for me starts at bedtime. I don't read deeply emotional things right before bed.

Quinn:

Smart choice.

Michael Faye:

I do sleep eight hours every night. Mine's less interesting than pottery, I do anything related to water, kayak, swim, surf, take a very long shower. It's all in the mix to replenish but I do. The reality is we joke, but I do find the work more motivating than anything. There's a few things I like than kind of getting stuff done on a weekend day.

Quinn:

That's awesome. I get it. It's hard. It's a hard one. That's really cool.

Caroline Teti:

I've seen you going to the water sometimes, Michael. I've seen with your tools going, those moments.

Michael Faye:

I know. Everyone sees me hiding away in Jinja, Uganda or somewhere else.

Caroline Teti:

Yeah.

Quinn:

I love it. Last one team, what is a book you've read this year that has opened your mind to a topic you hadn't considered before, or that changed your thinking in some way? We've got a whole list of recommendations we've got from past guests, we throw it on a big list, something like that.

Michael Faye:

I enjoyed the Obama book recently, but the one I'm sure others have said that, The Biggest Bluff, it's a great book about poker and life.

Quinn:

Oh, I've got to do that one.

Michael Faye:

We have a fair number of poker supporters, which has been awesome. It's an empirical field obviously. They've been big supporters of GiveDirectly, and it's a neat book. It's opened my eyes to the world of poker and made me think about life through the lens of poker in a way that I hadn't before.

Quinn:

Super cool.

Caroline Teti:

Wow. I want to read that. So there's this book that I picked from the bookshelves and when I went to read it, my intention was to sharpen my skills in the work that we do, which Michael knows, which is auditing anything that could be going wrong in our programs. The book is called The Art of Mind Reading. And so I thought that it would give me this ability to be able to know people deeper and be able to understand the unspoken when I meet people but it ended up teaching me a lot about emotional intelligence instead.

Quinn:

Interesting.

Caroline Teti:

So it's such a mind-blowing book. I think I'm in the second cycle. I'm reading it again.

Michael Faye:

Wow.

Quinn:

Those are the best.

Caroline Teti:

Yeah.

Quinn:

I love that.

Caroline Teti:

The Art of Mind Reading.

Quinn:

Awesome. Well, we will throw both of those on the list for sure and share them with everyone. Well, I've kept you for just an enormous part of your day. Teti, you're on this beautiful retreat and it's got to be almost 10 o'clock at night there, I apologize. But I cannot thank you both enough for not just your time here, but obviously for everything you're doing to empower people who are unjustly below the poverty line as we define it to empower themselves to do what they need to do to take care of themselves, which is about as powerful as it gets. So thank you so much. Thank you for doing it so impactfully and efficiently and for sharing your stories of the organization and why you do it. And I think folks are going to really be very heartened by what's possible.

Michael Faye:

That's very kind, Quinn, and thanks. Keep doing what you do. It's so important to just get the word out there and open these conversations.

Quinn:

The least we can do. Thanks to our incredible guest today, and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish washing or a fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Brian:

And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @importantnotimp.

Quinn:

Just so weird.

Brian:

Also on Facebook and Instagram @importantnotimportant, Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. So check us out, follow us, share us, like us, you know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcast, keep the lights on. Thanks.

Quinn:

Please.

Brian:

And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website importantnotimportant.com.

Quinn:

Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening and finally, most importantly to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

Brian:

Thanks guys.

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