Cash Learning Partnership: Turning Cash into Aid, Part 4
Kendra Hughbanks is working for ACF International as the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) Assistant. Though based in New York, she is spending a month in the Philippines to focus on case studies that illuminate emergency intervention and recovery. This post is the first in a series. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
24 hours. A single day is so easy to squander, yet it is equally easy to squeeze out every drop of opportunity. I spent just 24 hours in Cotabato and got back on the plane to Manila with a whole new perspective.
The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is a conflict-stricken, non-industrialized southern province plagued by floods. Local community members and authorities were accustomed to in-kind aid programs, but had almost no experience with cash transfers. With family feuds and failed peace talks between separatist groups and the Philippine central government, anyone could fall subject to local violence should the tension reach a breaking point. Start handing out cash and it seems like you’re asking for trouble. I came face-to-face with the delicate nature of the situation twice during my short visit. I drove past both a pro-sub-state demonstration and a homemade bomb that had exploded on the side of the road only minutes before we went by. Given this context, transferring cash may seem unwise if not impossible. But, as we proved, the right program design can overcome challenging conditions.
I had five whirlwind meetings with different parties involved in the cash transfer program (CTP) to get their true perspectives. A few common threads tied together everyone's experiences. There was a tremendous sense of pride and gratitude about involvement in the CTP. The implementation team served as the link between people whose lives had been turned upside down by floods and the life-saving aid coming from ACF. Grocery store managers beamed from having served their community. City officials were honored to have helped with such a forward-thinking program and eager to use this approach for future emergencies. They were all witness to the emotional evolution of beneficiaries: first despair over all that was lost and discomfort from seeking shelter at overcrowded evacuation centers, then excitement about receiving a cash voucher, empowerment while shopping and selecting their own items that met their specific needs, and finally relief in knowing that their families were well-fed. Everyone, especially beneficiaries, saw the value in and had deep appreciation for the flexibility of the aid and the power it gave them over their situation. Any reservations about the CTP were washed away to reveal support for this type of intervention.
The best moment of each meeting was when I asked each person to go full-circle with their experience. "This case study will be read by people that have never done a CTP," I prefaced, "so what are the most important things that they should know from your side?" It changed them into instructors, giving them an opportunity to use their 20/20 hindsight and tell me about their ideas on best practices. People who have never done a CTP can learn from what they learned and come to know what they know. While it exposed invaluable information, it also showed that every single party involved was eager about giving back to a program that had given them so much, not just in aid but in knowledge and experience.