A new project from FRIBIS: Universal Basic Income and Gender

The Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies (FRIBIS), a network of several faculties at the University of Freiburg, has expanded with a new international team which focuses on basic income and gender issues, pulled together by Enno Schmidt. It uses as a starting point, the study by Prof. Toru Yamamori on the British women’s liberation movement in 1970’s, which was already calling for a UBI. According to Yamamori, grassroots feminist economic and political thought forms a basis of the demand for basic income, and the beginning of this can be seen during the women’s liberation movement in 1970’s Britain. For this reason, the relationship between grassroots feminist economic and political thought and basic income deserves to be re-examined, as this area has often been overlooked.

As a comprehensive research and design goal, the initiative seeks to examine grassroots feminist economic understanding and behavior and its potential in forming a new social contract with a particular focus on asic income. Based on this main principle, to amplify the voice of women in basic income research and design, the initiative seeks three objectives.. First, the further elaboration of Toru Yamamori’s study with final book publication, supported in particular by the collaboration of Barb Jacobson and Dr. Liz Fouksman in the UK. Secondly, a study and documentation on the question of women’s understanding of and behaviour in the economy and cooperation with members of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India under guidance of Renana Jhabvala. This will be supplemented by similar empirical research by Liz Fouksman in South Africa and Prof. Dr. Kaori Katada in Japan and by the experiences, data and results of basic income projects in Canada by Chloe Halpenny. As a third goal, enriched by the outputs of the other 2 goals, the initiative aims to embed their relevance in a potential new social contract for real gender equality. This is planned to be introduced as a pilot project, in a yet to be determined region in the USA under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Almaz Zelleke and others to come. However, the team is also open to new influences and directions that arise during the collaboration, for example an additional focus on China.

For these purposes, the research programme will take place in 4 stages. The first phase will include a manifesto and presentations based on research which is already ongoing and which will start shortly. At this stage, the data, interviews and questionnaires of the participating researchers will be used. In the second phase, the focus will be on the collective reconstruction and articulation of “grassroots feminist economic and political thought”. At this stage, the experiences of relevant people in the research team will be used. In the third stage, the aim is to determine the positions of the above research in academic disciplines. In this sense, theoretical and anthropological studies will be carried out at this stage and the theoretical infrastructure of the outputs of the first two stages will be established. Based on the presentation and evaluation of the nature of women’s cooperation and work, and women’s perspectives on work and economy, this will significantly benefit from the experience of SEWA, and the Basic Income Pilot Projects for women in New Delhi and the 2009-10 pilot project in Madhya Pradesh. The fourth and final stage as envisaged so far, will include the implementation of UBI and new laws in a community in the USA.

In summary, the project aims to combine the introduction of a basic income and the creation of a new social contract from the point of view of women. The output that is intended to be reached at the end of the project is the draft of a new social contract. In other words, the main goal here is to present in a holistic way a draft programme for a society based on unconditional basic income, which is necessary to bring women to equal status with men.

The research team consists of Dr. Liz Fouksman, Chloe Halpenny, Prof. Dr. Kaori Katada, Prof. Dr. Toru Yamamori, Prof. Dr. Almaz Zelleke and as actors from social society Barb Jacobson and Renana Jhabvala. PhD student Jessika Schulz is organisational coordinator of the team on the part of FRIBIS.

Further information about the initiative and the project can be found at the following links:


Endless thanks to Enno Schmidt for his valuable contribution to this article.

Serkan Simsir

The Monetary Issues of a UBI: First annual FRIBIS conference 12 October

This year, the Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies (FRIBIS) will hold its first annual conference on Monday and Tuesday, 11-12 October 2021. It aims to shed light on an emerging topic in the economics of UBI: the monetary issues of a UBI. Monetary aspects are becoming more important due to an increasing economic interest in monetary innovations and major disruptions in central banking and finance. UBI research is being increasingly influenced by this development. The biggest UBI pilots use specifically minted currencies to ensure local spending, and new strands of transformative economics propose monetary financing or community currencies as financing mechanisms for a UBI. FRIBIS acknowledges this evolution by creating research teams in order to keep up-to-date with research in this field. At this year’s conference, FRIBIS will present this teams’ research, as well as other research activities. In addition, research collaborations will be presented and there will be keynotes and panel discussions with very honorable guests.

The conference provides the audience, in addition, with contributions of other FRIBIS teams in parallel sessions. FRIBIS teams integrate in a unique way the activities of civic society actors, activists, and scientists, so that civic society actors and activists can show their contributory potential.

The conference will be held online. It will be livestreamed over the FRIBIS YouTube channel. Guests are invited to ask questions in the YouTube Chat.

Programme and links to watch the sessions (free on YouTube) are on this webpage.

UBI-Europe fundraises to send youth to Strasbourg

Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBIE), an alliance of organisations and individuals across 27 countries, is fundraising to send 20 young basic income advocates aged 16-30 to the European Parliment in Strasbourg October 8-9th, for the European Youth Event (EYE) 2021. The group this year is twice as large as the one that went on behalf of UBIE in 2018 and include many from underrepresented communities. Among other things they will be leading a workshop on ‘Policies for a fairer economy’ which will include basic income. It is also a good opportunity, they say, to advocate for UBI policies at the European Parliment and exchange their views with experts, activists, influencers and decision-makers on a high level.

Although expenses are refunded by the EU Parliament, attendees have to pay travel, etc. up front. You can make a donation here.

Bristol Festival of Ideas: 6 October conference on Basic Income

On Wednesday 6 October 2021, the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath, and Bristol Ideas are running their second virtual conference, ‘Is it time for UBI?’. The conference is free to attend.

Leading thinkers, politicians and policymakers will come together to debate and explore new approaches to macro-economic policymaking, the prospects for Universal Basic Income, and the political economy of social and economic change.

Speakers include: Kate Bell (TUC), Young Jun Choi (Yonsei University), Anna Coote (New Economics Foundation), Diane Coyle (University of Cambridge), Geoff Crocker (author of Basic Income and Sovereign Money), Sarath Davala (Indian Network for Basic Income), Anna Dent (policy and research consultant), S Mahendra Dev (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research), Martin Ford (author of Rule of the Robots), Cleo Goodman (Basic Income Conversation), Paul Mason, Jane Millar (University of Bath), Bernhard Neumärker (University of Freiburg), Thomas Palley, Nick Pearce (Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath), James Plunkett (author of End State), Sumbul Siddiqui (Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts), Kate Soper (London Metropolitan University / University of Brighton) and Paola Subacchi (Queen Mary University of London).

The programme, biographies of speakers and registration can be found on this web page.

The long march to Basic Income begins with a single step – The unusual story of Kowiti-A

Villagers gathered to celebrate their basic income in the local church building

By: Billy Juma Munda, Evans Ododa, Lena Stark

Kowiti-A is a small village in Kisumu County in Kenya. It is twenty-three kilometres away from Kisumu town and has a population of 782 people of which 415 are adults and 367 are children below 18 years. Most of the people are engaged in farm-related livelihood activities. The village population is distributed among six clans. The nearest town Ahero is about 3 kilometres from the village.

About a year ago, two teachers from this village made a chance acquaintance, through social media, with members of an organisation called Mission Possible 2030 (MP2030). The context was basic income. They had heard about the idea of basic income from a local politician and began exploring it on the internet, only to realise that a global movement for it exists. MP2030 believes that without waiting for nation states to implement a basic income policy, we should start implementing a basic income by mobilising both individual donors and communities. This conversation led to MP2030 launching a project in Kowiti called Equalize in a humble way. From September 2020, the project gave a basic income of about 1100 Kenyan Shillings(KES) (10 US Dollars) per month to 10 people randomly selected through a raffle.

To facilitate money transfers, the teachers formed a local community-based organisation called Rural Action CBO (RACBO) so that it is a community initiative and money transfers happen in a transparent way. MP2030 transferred money to RACBO which in turn transferred to individuals via M-PESA, which is the popular mobile money transfer platform in Kenya.

These ten people received money for about eleven months, when another chance acquaintance gave a big boost to the project. This time the acquaintance took place between MP2030 and impact Market. impactMarket is a decentralized poverty alleviation protocol built by impactLabs, a company based in Portugal. It uses blockchain technology to enable any vulnerable community to implement poverty alleviation mechanisms, such as for instance, an Unconditional Basic Income. The protocol uses Celo Dollars, or cUSD, a stable-coin whose value is pegged to the US Dollar.

Ordinarily, you need an app for it and therefore a smartphone. As most of the villagers have no smartphone in Kowiti-A, collaboration with Fintech partners Refugee Integration Organisation and Kotanipay were needed to make sure the villagers would receive a currency they can actually use for buying goods and services: Kenyan Shillings – KES.

M-pesa outlet in Kowiti-A

Money transfers in Kenya are relatively easy, because of the widespread use of m-pesa, a mobile payment system. After the so-called USSD integration (where the CELO dollars are exchanged for KES in the background), someone with a sim card can receive KES, and withdraw cash at an m-pesa shop in the village. One phone can have two sim cards, so two people can receive per phone line. it is not entirely without intermediaries yet, but less than 6% is lost in the transfer from CELO dollar to cash-KES.

Because of the collaboration with Impact Market and its Fintech partners, the process accelerated very quickly and by mid-August about 240 adults began getting a basic income of 7 USD a week. By end September 2021, all the 415 adults will get the basic income for a period of one year. The total amount allocated to Kowiti project is 166,000 US Dollars, i.e., KES 18.28 million. Each individual will get a total amount of KES 44,000 (USD 400). If this sounds unbelievable, the results that will flow from this initiative will be more so, several times over.

What kind of basic income is it?

It is very interesting and also surprising that this humble project almost fulfils all the five main characteristics of the BIEN’s definition of basic income.

Universal: Basic income is given to the entire adult population. Children are not included more for technical reasons – in the smart contract adopted by ImpactMarket only those who have a mobile phone line can be provided money.

Cash: The recipient encashes the transfer into the national currency at any m-pesa store in the village

Individual: Money is transferred to individuals and not households.

Periodic: Money is transferred once a week.

Unconditional: There are no conditions whatsoever that the recipients need to fulfil after having received the money.

What does this money mean for these villages?

Based on a 2015 household budget survey, Kenya defines its overall poverty line in rural areas as an individual per capita monthly consumption expenditure of less than 3252 KES (USD 30), and extreme poverty as per capita consumption expenditure less than 1954 KES (USD 18).

In this project, the recipients receive a monthly top up of 3000 KES (USD 28) which is a substantial boost to their income levels. In this first month of receiving the money, it was observed that many people who never used to eat a breakfast, have begun to eat breakfast. Food seems to be where the money is visibly going. In the coming months, this project is certainly going to have a big impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people of Kowiti-A. These narratives will be published on the website of Mission Possible 2030 in the coming months.

Billi Juma Munda and Evans Ododa are teachers living in Kowiti-A. Lena Stark is the Chair of Mission Possible 2030. For more information about the project, write to Lena at lena@missionpossible2030.com

International Basic Income Week capped with live & online Basic Income Marches

Saturday 25 September sees the penultimate day of the 14th International Basic Income Week ‘Basic Income: Forward to a Better World’ with Basic Income Marches in many cities. Although concentrated in the US and Europe, events will also be held in Jakarta, Indonesia and Brisbane, Australia.

The day will also be commemorated with an epic non-stop 24-hour Online Basic Income March broadcast which will feature 65 speakers and news in several languages from around the world. This event, organised by World-Wide UBI Advocates, will start at 12:01am GMT 25 September and end 11.59pm GMT. You can participate during the day on Zoom, using the password BIAtMove. The programme, subject to minor last-minute changes, can be found on the IBIW website.