Social Cash Transfer Programme Zambia

The Centre for Social Protection (CSP) at IDS is currently working on this large-scale study, which provides an opportunity to carry out work systematically on under-researched aspects of social protection delivery and impact.

Members of the CSP have been working with partners in a range of developing countries, including in Zambia, to develop an innovative methodology that rigorously engages with the views, experiences and perceptions of cash transfer programme beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries, and also explores the wider social and political impacts of social cash transfer programmes.

The UK-based team includes four research staff, one dedicated project manager and one communications officer from IDS, plus key partners that include the Zambian consultancy company RuralNet Associates, the Department of Development Studies at the University of Zambia (UNZA) and the NGO Platform for Social Protection (PSP) Zambia.

The proposed research will be organised around three research themes:

  1. Programme Processes
  2. Impacts and Social Dynamics
  3. Community-led Assessments of Changing Wellbeing

The three themes will be systematically and rigorously studied using a human wellbeing framework and an innovative methodology that has been developed for this approach and that has been used in an increasing range of developing country contexts (including by the partners in Zambia). The human wellbeing framework provides an approach to monitoring and evaluation that combines both quantitative and qualitative methods; that makes systematic use of both objective and subjective data on programme processes and impacts; and that generates an account of the dynamics of these programmes and their effects in particular community contexts.

The three research themes can be summarised as follows:

1. Programme Processes

Programme processes explores both the objective and subjective experiences of recipients and non-recipients in social cash transfers (SCTs). By engaging with both the actual experiences along with the participant and non-participant views of their experiences, the study methodology provides grounded and validated insights into various features of cash transfer programmes, including programme design, systems operation and implementation.

The research will explore how people experience the implementation of the cash transfer programme through all steps of the programme cycle, and examine how programme design (intended and/or actual) promotes or constrains transformative change at individual, household and community level. The findings in this theme will guide adjustments to programme delivery and policy based on valid and legitimate community feedback on issues of efficiency and effectiveness in programme delivery.

2. Impacts and Social Dynamics

Impacts and social dynamics focuses attention on a set of effects that are usually under-researched by large-scale quantitative approaches to impact evaluation. While attention must be made to the immediate and second order material impacts of SCTs, research has demonstrated that for the success of such programmes it is also necessary to focus on their effects on wider sets of relationships and on issues beyond the immediate material effects.

This study will examine the impacts of cash transfers over time on social relations within households (genders and generations), between households (recipients and nonrecipients), and on social institutions (e.g. informal risk-sharing mechanisms). The research will distinguish and identify a range of effects, most likely both diverse and complex, and will analyse the social dynamics that are stimulated by the interventions.

This analysis of wider impacts and dynamics will determine which if any SCTs represent progress towards sustained transformative social change (particularly with regard to gender relations). This theme will provide significant new insight into the social impact of the programme, and also into very important aspects of the sustainability of its effects.

3. Community-led Assessments of Changing Wellbeing

Community-led assessments of changing wellbeing focuses on developing mechanisms to increase community articulation of voice with regard to the impact of the cash transfer programme. This goes beyond recipient commentary on programme delivery, to the articulation of wellbeing, of perceptions of barriers and facilitators of change, and of commentary on how cash transfers can support sustainable and transformative change.

The research will directly explore theories of change underpinning the cash transfer programme as perceived by recipients and non-recipients, and compare these to theories of change as formulated in programme objectives.

The research will simultaneously provide an opportunity to investigate and test mechanisms, methods and tools for integrating such community-led analysis and perspectives into the on-going management of cash transfer programmes, through participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM&E).This theme provides significant insight into the relevance of cash transfer programming.

Key contacts

Project details

start date
1 June 2012
end date
31 December 2015


In partnership with
RuralNet Associates, Zambia

About this project

Programmes and centres
Centre for Social Protection