Last week, I wrote on the PDT blog that it would be more effective for people to buy a cheaper product and give the rest to an organization that will support local economies rather than buy the latest pair of TOMS shoes, water bottle from Starbucks or t-shirt from (RED). The next day Melissa Kushner, founder and Executive Director of Goods for Good and also a partner with TOMS, published a rebuttal to critics of TOMS in GOOD. I do not take it to be directed to me, but the timing drives me to address some of her points made in GOOD.
Kushner points out that interventions by TOMS and Goods for Goods are paired with existing government interventions in Malawi as a means to strengthen what is being provided..
As a bit of an postscript to my post, I really am not a fan of sitting with the same subject for too long. Especially when I am writing from a place of criticism or skepticism. However, the questions raised about TOMS model have yet to be adequately addressed. Partly, I believe there needs to be some more research into the impact of introducing free goods into a market. My hypothesis is really my best guess, but it is possible that handing out a free good might have a positive or no impact on local businesses.
To me, this is a prime subject to perform an RCT. You can measure health and economic outcomes in various communities that are introduced TOMS. Heck, toss in school attendance and measure family expenditures while you are at it. It will not provide the definitive answer, but could at least bring about a better understanding of what works best.
Any researchers want to take this on? TOMS, want to contact a researcher to do an impact evaluation?