The background of BOTA Foundation was explored in previous posts. Starting with this post I would like to explain what BOTA actually did in its five and a half years of operation.
The American NGO chosen in 2008, after a selective tender process run by the World Bank, to launch and operate BOTA was IREX (www.irex.org) which partnered with Save the Children. IREX brought decades of experience working in education and grants, particularly in the Former Soviet Union, to BOTA, while Save the Children was valued for their deep understanding of child welfare issues.
The initial design of BOTA was done by the World Bank which handed off an operations manual to the IREX/Save team. This manual was continually updated based on innovations and lessons learned. The Foundation’s mission statement was straightforward: BOTA will improve the lives of vulnerable children and youth suffering from poverty in Kazakhstan through investment in their health, education and social welfare.
BOTA carried out three main programs. In this post I will briefly explain its largest: the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program. CCT provided direct grants, training and support to over 150,000 individuals living in 95,000 households in six of Kazakhstan’s regions. Besides offering eligible households supplemental cash payments, CCT was designed to address a key need associated with ameliorating poverty — increasing access by poor families to health, education, and social services.
The program delivered regular cash payments to four categories of beneficiaries within poor households: those with children aged four and over up until they were eligible to start school; pregnant women, or women with infants up to the age of six months; and households who had children with disabilities up to the age of 16. The fourth category of target beneficiary was young people aged 16-19 who’d completed school and had not yet found employment.
The payments, equal to about $30 to $45 a month per household beneficiary, were “conditional” in that the beneficiaries (or their parents) had to take actions associated with their category in order to receive payments. Parents of 4 to 6 years old had to send their children to preschools, for example, while pregnant women had to go for health check-ups.
Participation in CCT was completely voluntary. BOTA staff and over 2,000 volunteers monitored, and delivered tens of thousands of training, to beneficiary households. All payments were done electronically directly to beneficiary bank accounts to eliminate the possibility of middle man “leakage.”
CCT was BOTA’s main vehicle for restituting the money in the Pictet and Cie Swiss bank account associated with James Giffen and President Nazerbayev, with more than $56 million of the available funds given to poor households through CCT grants. BOTA was one of the only foundations in the world to operate a CCT program, which are more typically undertaken by governments to reduce poverty while improving “human capital.”
BOTA’s two other programs will be briefly explained in the next post.
Aaron Bornstein was the Executive Director of BOTA Foundation, employed by a Washington, D.C. based NGO called IREX, from 2011 until its close in 2014. He is a foundation and international development professional who has worked in 8 different countries on a variety of civil society strengthening, poverty alleviation, and other projects. Aaron is interested in receiving institutional support for the more extensive documentation of the BOTA experience that he is working on. Please send your suggestions, along with your feedback on the BOTA series, to [email protected].