GiveCrypto Monthly Update — October 2019: RCT Announcement, Postprogram Crypto Penetration Rates & Recipient Spending Report
With phase three of our Venezuelan Ambassador Program wrapping up this month, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on what we accomplished and learned during the month of October.
During phase three, we distributed cryptocurrency to more than 2,000 people in two locations. We also made a number of platform improvements, including:
- Setting up multiple vendors to accept crypto
- Establishing cash-out partners in each location
- Enabling automated payments to participants
- Quantifying fraud rates
- Improving our on-boarding and surveying processes
While phase three gave us a lot of wins, it also taught us that we still have some technical issues to resolve.
The most pressing issues revolved around collection of participants’ survey responses. In this phase, survey collection was optional, which caused our number of responses to drop from 100% to 21.5%.Additionally, a bug prevented the collection of a number of pre-surveys. We were able to implement a hot patch that collected a high percentage of these responses, but this is something that we need to tighten up for phase four.
Rolling out our first randomized controlled trial in Venezuela
At GiveCrypto, we’re primarily focused on measuring food security and psychological well-being. In phases one, two, and three, we’ve measured these outcomes through a “pre-post” evaluation, which asks participants questions before and after they receive our help. The difference between the before and after answers gives us a directional sense of our impact.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t include a control group, which means we can’t definitively say that our work caused the change. For instance, it is possible that food became widely available for everyone in Venezuela around the time of our “post” measurement, for reasons unrelated to our program (e.g., new government program). This would result in us measuring changes in the food-security system but would not allow us to link them directly to our project.
For this reason, we are planning to launch a randomized controlled trial (RCT) for phase four, which uses a control group to isolate the effect of GiveCrypto. We are still working out the specifics of the potential trial, but the tentative plan is to have four arms:
- Weekly crypto payments of $10 per week for 26 weeks
- Up-front, lump-sum crypto payments of $260
- Weekly cash payments of $10 worth of bolivars per week for 26 weeks
- A control group that receives funds only when they complete a survey
We’re aiming for about 700 participants in each group, and we will measure impact before, during, and after the program. We will also be able to measure the impact of these transfers on the friends and neighbors of our recipients, which gives us information about the “spillover” effects (either positive or negative) of our work.
We’re excited about this opportunity to better measure our impact. But we know there are a number of challenges that will come with setting up an RCT in Venezuela, including:
- How to ensure that people answer our questionnaires and provide accurate information
- How to avoid spillover effects between groups
- How to measure spillover effects
- How ambassadors communicate the specifics of the program to recipients
- How to assign recipients to the different groups so that the groups are the most representative
Over the next few months, we’ll be finalizing the details of and implementing the RCT. We’re looking forward to sharing the results of this experiment and using the data to improve our ability to help more people at scale.
Measuring post-program crypto usage
While our immediate goal at GiveCrypto is to help people improve their access to day-to-day necessities using cryptocurrency, our long-term sights are set on improving the economic standing of people. In order for this to work, we need to measure the benefits — and use — of direct crypto transfers after our programs end.
We have now sent crypto to more than 3,000 wallets, some of which stopped receiving payments from us more than 6 months ago. We recently did some analysis of those addresses to see if any of them were active. We define active as having received a deposit after our last donation.
The table below shows the percentage of wallets from phase one and phase two that were active (received a deposit) after the conclusion of the program. While these numbers are not huge, it is encouraging that some percentage of the initial participants are still “using” their crypto wallets.
We also looked at the addresses that were sending funds to the wallets. The pie chart below shows the breakdown of participant vs. unknown addresses. Participants are ambassadors or recipients, and unknown is an address outside of our program. Almost half of the transfers are from other participants, suggesting that a good percentage of these “active” wallets are being used for person-to-person payments. We have also called a subset of the owners of these active wallets and have confirmed this data verbally.
While this data comes from early sources, it’s promising to see that some of our recipients continue using crypto after we stop sending funds to them. This not only shows that the donations have been helpful, but also that crypto has a degree of stand-alone value in the microeconomic systems within the communities we’re helping.
What recipients are buying with their crypto funds
As part of our ongoing work to reduce fraud and see how crypto is being used on the ground in Venezuela, we ask our participants to upload photos of receipts from their crypto purchases.
So far, we have been able to collect about 4,000 receipts. We are in the process of manually itemizing the purchases and hope to automate this process in the future.
Here is a summary of the data we have collected to date (for the 20 most-purchased items):
You can see that the vast majority of the purchases are for staples like sugar, cheese, eggs, and cornmeal. It is interesting to note that sugar and candy are the two most-purchased items, suggesting that recipients might view our funds as a way to treat themselves after being able to afford the basics.
It’s also notable that all of the top purchased items are household pantry, food, and hygiene products. This could show that, while recipients may use crypto as a way to treat themselves to items they can’t afford, the funds are still being used to meet basic household needs.
It is important to note that receipt uploading is currently voluntary, so it is possible that we are seeing a self-selective subset of the receipts. While we didn’t see any alcohol in any of the receipts, we did see a few cigarette purchases.
It will be interesting to see how these funds are used as we start our RCT in phase four and change up the distribution options of crypto to include lump-sum payments and equivalent payment amounts in local currency.