This symposium will facilitate a critical examination of the continuities and discontinuities between the principles and practice of social protection. On the eve of a new era for social protection made possible by the SDGs, it is worth pausing to reflect on the competing ethical principles that (implicitly or explicitly) underlie different social protection policies, and their linkages to the practices of social protection. A robust ethical mandate can help to clarify the aims of social protection, and add precision to efforts to chart forward trajectories for social protection. The development of these ethical foundations in ways that are relevant for practice can be strengthened by debate between theorists and practitioners. Thissymposium will consist of a series of constructive debates between theorists and practitioners around contested issues in social protection, in the belief that a cohesive framework of principles can help to steer a way through the challenges that face social protection. The symposium will aim to draw closer together the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of social protection; to place philosophy and pragmatism in the same viewfinder. The symposium will offer theorists an opportunity to reflect on how ideational frameworks can best interact with the realities faced by practitioners. It will also offer practitioners an opportunity to learn more about ethical foundations to social protection policies, which they may be able to apply to their work on social protection. Some academic papers (preferably including case specific inputs provided by practitioners) will be published in a special issue.