GiveCrypto Monthly Update — March 2019: Diving Into Our Venezuela Project
- Funds Distributed — $4,851
- People Impacted — 567
- New Projects — 0
Starting next week, we’ll be shifting our focus to a new, ambassador-driven project in Venezuela.
To better direct funds and energy, we’ve been phasing out our previous projects. For this reason, our funds distributed and people impacted numbers have decreased as we focus on making a greater impact in a single community.
Once the project has launched, we will provide more granular impact, fraud and usage numbers as well as share weekly transaction information on our Twitter account, so stay tuned there.
Transparency vs. Security
At GiveCrypto, transparency is one of our core values. We believe sharing as much information as possible grows an organization that donors, participants and supporters can trust.
However, our decision to focus on Venezuela has raised some interesting questions about the appropriate level of transparency for us. In the case of Venezuela, it’s possible that there may be too much of a good thing, as too much transparency can limit our impact and put participants in danger because of the unstable environment.
While the work we are doing isn’t illegal, the rule of law in Venezuela isn’t applied consistently or predictably. Moreover, we aren’t necessarily going to follow the rules of a repressive and corrupt dictatorship like the Maduro regime. We’re skeptical of the regime’s legitimacy and don’t believe they’re operating in the best interest of Venezuelans.
We’ll soon launch a pilot in a number of locations in Venezuela. And, while we would normally share a lot of information about the pilot — location details, names of participating vendors, and photos of ambassadors and recipients — in order to minimize the chance of negative repercussions, we’ve decided not to release any identifiable information about the pilot. Instead we’ll release summarized impact, fraud, and usage data.
We’ve also incorporated some obfuscation into our platform and operations. For example, we need to tell recipients and ambassadors where they can purchase food, medicine, and supplies with the crypto. However, sharing the details of participating vendors could put the vendor (and participants) in danger. Rather than list the participating vendors on a web page, we’re building a feature that sends a text with the information exclusively to recipients and ambassadors. This minimizes the chance somebody outside of the pilot will discover the identity of participants.
We would love to be 100 percent transparent about all of our activities, but we need to make some trade-offs for the effectiveness of the pilot and safety of our participants.
Fraud Prevention and Detection
Since we’re effectively giving away free money, fraud detection and prevention are two of our biggest challenges. We know that people will get creative in their attempts to game the system. We need a fool-proof way of identifying new attack vectors and developing systems to prevent them from being exploited.
For the first phase of the trial, field operations contractors will manage each location. We’ve recruited our current field operations contractors via trusted personal contacts. However, this isn’t scalable and, in the medium-long term, we will need to evolve our process so that we aren’t dependent on our personal networks.
One of the primary responsibilities of the field operations contractor is recruiting and managing ambassadors, who will perform recipient selection. The current ambassador recruiting process is:
- The candidate completes an application form — They’re asked for contact info, a photo of ID card (cedula de identidad), their social media profiles, and open-ended questions (i.e. how do you define need, how would you find recipients)
- Field ops conducts a 5–10 minute phone interview with the candidate — They discuss answers from the application and ask more in-depth questions (i.e. work history and community service experience)
- Fields ops has a 20–30 minute face-to-face interview with the candidate — This takes place in the candidate’s home to verify the information given, explain how the pilot works, and answer the ambassador’s questions
Ambassadors are primarily responsible for selecting recipients. Our plan is to have the ambassadors at the recipient’s house when they invite them to the program. This way we can compare the GPS location of the ambassador’s phone at the time of the invite with the address the recipient gave us on their application. Additionally, the recipient will be asked to provide a photo of their ID card (cedula de identidad), which will be manually reviewed by the field operations contractor. We will also ask both the ambassador and recipient for details about how they know each other, and investigate any discrepancies.
Purchase and Blockchain Analysis
Each time the recipient makes a purchase, we’ll ask them to upload a photo of the receipt. We’ll compare the date, time, and amount on the receipt to the transaction information on the blockchain. Additionally, we’ll passively monitor all downstream transactions from our recipients. If we notice suspicious behavior (i.e. multiple recipients pooling into a single address or transfers to foreign exchanges) we’ll investigate.
Backchecks and Abuse Reporting
Field operations contractors will perform random backchecks on recipients, ambassadors, and vendors. They’ll check the self-reported information, ask about activity, and make sure prices are not being inflated for our participants by vendors. We’ll also provide all participants with a way to anonymously report abuse.
All charities should provide evidence of their impact. The Venezuela pilot is our first attempt at recording and sharing detailed impact data, beyond superficial metrics like funds transferred and number of people impacted.
There are some limitations to the conclusions we can draw. By looking at participants before and after, we may be able to gain a directional sense of impact. However, there are limitations to this estimation strategy because there could be other factors that contribute to the observed differences in outcomes (e.g. changing economic conditions in the country). In addition, the recipients are not being randomly sampled (meaning that they are not representative of the overall population), which limits our ability to make claims about the effectiveness of the program for anyone beyond these recipients. Similarly, because the cryptocurrency is given to everyone in the sample, we are unable to estimate the causal impact of the project.
Given the above constraints, we’re planning to use the initial estimates to get a sense of how this project impacts recipients. We’ll consider more rigorous forms of impact analysis (i.e. randomized controlled trials) in future phases of the pilot.
We’ll track impact through quantitative and qualitative surveys with the recipients and ambassadors. The following light-touch surveys will be administered:
- Baseline survey — This survey will be administered at the beginning of the project, after pre-selection but before the recipients and ambassadors receive funds.
- Endline survey — This survey will be administered at the end of the project. Depending on our needs, we might also administer this several weeks or months after the end of the survey to get a better picture of what has happened in the long term.
- Backcheck survey — This survey will be administered by the field operations contractor to double-check the answers provided in the surveys. These surveys will be conducted on a subset of the initial responses (e.g. 10 percent) and will be chosen at random.
We will ask the following categories of questions to determine impact (with a few sample questions):
- Income — types of income, how much has your household earned in the past 30 days
- Savings — types of savings, total amount of savings
- Food Security — has anybody in your household gone without meals, have household members had to purchase food on credit
- Psychological Well Being — how stressed are you about health problems, illness, government instability, currency instability, value of savings, etc.
We’ll share summarized impact data at the end of phase one and share summarized usage data on a weekly basis while the pilot is being conducted.