Social Protection

  1. Targeting Social Protection
  2. Evaluation of Social Protection
  3. Economic Development and Social Protection
  4. Food Security and Social Protection
  5. HIV and Social Protection
  6. Graduation

Targeting Social Protection

In the early 2010s in the context of the highly contested promotion of the Proxy Means Test (PMT) approach for targeting social protection provision, by the World Bank, I was commissioned, by the Bank, to look at the literature on alternative targeting approaches,building on the seminal work by Margaret Grosch, David Coady and John Hoddinott (Coady, Grosh, and Hoddinott, 2004).

The result was Community-based targeting in the Social Protection sector, an overview of the outcomes documented for a range of targeting approaches which offered an interesting and measured critique of the blanket promotion of PMT and suggested a practical basis for thinking more inclusively about alternative approaches, including community-based targeting, depending on the context. Although it was reviewed positively by Margaret Grosh as a valuable extension to the debate, administrative delays meant that the report was not published by ODI for several years and it has not been widely read or cited.

Key reads

Community-based targeting in the Social Protection Sector. ODI working paper 514. ODI, 2013

This working paper finds that community-based targeting (CBT) is valuable for the community knowledge it can bring to the targeting process that is inaccessible in other forms of targeting, and that the results of CBT are generally perceived as legitimate by the community. Meta-analysis indicates that CBT outcomes are most frequently progressive, but are affected by a number of contextual factors, relating to the nature of the tasks ascribed to the community, the nature of the community representatives carrying out the targeting and the nature of the broader community. Performance is adversely affected where communities are large or widely distributed, or there are high levels of transience, heterogeneity and lack of social integration, where the community may not possess the requisite information to target effectively. The CBT approach is subject to its own inherent limitations and risks, including those related to lack of transparency, discriminatory practices, exclusion of the poor considered ‘undeserving’, and elite capture. Failure of CBT outcomes to conform to performance yardsticks based on external definitions of poverty may not represent an objective failure of targeting, but may rather take into account factors not captured in external definitions, including social, cultural and political considerations. CBT is primarily used in combination with other forms of targeting, and the legitimacy of CBT outcomes may be compromised where alternative targeting approaches are subsequently used that introduce beneficiary changes on the basis of externally defined criteria.

Evaluation of Social Protection

I have carried out many evaluations of social protection programmes and PWP, but most are not in the public domain for obvious reasons. However, I have completed two pieces of work for the European Commission examining indicators for measuring social protection performance.

I have also worked with Simon Levine and Eva Ludi at ODI on developing an innovative and pragmatic methodology for the appraisal of the impact of PWP assets as NRM resources in their own right, and their impacts on livelihoods, to test the easy and uncritical assumptions made particularly by donor agencies, about the impact of assets on livelihoods and sustained poverty reduction. This was through the LIPA programme (Livelihoods Impact of PWP Assets) funded by DFAT. The challenge we were trying to address is set out in the attached PPT, ‘Developing Practical Methodologies to Assess the Spatial, Temporal and Socio-economic Distribution of the Impacts of Public Works Programme Assets’. We hope to share an updated version of the research findings in the coming months.

Key reads

Economic Development and Social Protection

While it is often assumed that social protection in general, and PWP in particular, will deliver economic development outcomes as well as reducing the immediate poverty of recipients, the realities of limited programme scale and duration, the low value of the transfer, and in the case of PWP, poor selection, execution and maintenance of assets often means that the anticipated ‘spillover’ benefits in terms of economic development are not observed. I carried out some work in the mid 2010s to explore the conditions under which such benefits might be observed, and the factors which inhibited such outcomes as part of a wider project ODI project looking at the hoped for synergies between social protection and economic development. The issues of PWP asset impact on individual livelihoods and community development are also explored in the LIPA programme, discussed above.

Key reads

Food Security and Social Protection

As part of a wider initiative exploring food security and social protection led by Rachel Slater at ODI, I examined the role of PWP in contributing to resilient food systems in the paper below.

Key reads

HIV and Social Protection

At the time I started work on PWP, in the early 2000s, HIV was still high on the development agenda, and I was commissioned to carry out two pieces of work, the first by UNICEF and the second by ILO, looking at lessons relating to PWP and Social Protection interventions more widely, in terms of how they might be designed to support those infected and affected by the virus.

Key reads


Social Protection and Graduation through Sustainable Employment in IDS Bulletin, Volume46, Issue 2.  Special Issue: Graduating from Social Protection? (eds Devereux and Sabates‐Wheeler) March 2015

This article explores the role of social protection in contributing to sustainable employment in the context of the broader graduation debate. Many efforts to achieve graduation focus on the household or community level: helping households reach a certain asset and productivity level at which they are able to survive, and perhaps prosper, without support from cash transfer programmes; building assets at community level to provide public goods that increase economic productivity; and making communities more resilient to specific shocks and stress (for example, by supporting community soil and water conservation). However, it remains critical to focus on broader questions of employment and labour markets to understand how social protection programme design might impact on recipient households’ wider job prospects, and to recognise that the feasibility and scale of graduation depend on wider factors such as labour demand and labour market structures, as well as on improving individual capacity and productivity.