European Commission - SPaN (2019) Operational Note 1: Benefit Modalities

This Operational Note is part of the Supplementary Volume of 10 Operational Notes to the Reference Document No 26 on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus. A Game Changer in Supporting People through Crises. It was produced as part of the ‘Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian- Development Nexus’ (SPaN). It is the outcome of an initiative jointly led by the European Commission’s Directorate- General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR) with the support of DEVCO Unit 04 and the MKS programme. Numerous Commission staff members working in various Delegations of the European Union (EU) and ECHO field offices provided comments on early drafts. Further comments were received from EU Member States, United Nations agencies (such as WFP and the World Bank) and reputable Think Tanks (such as OPM) and research institutions (e.g. Witwatersrand University). As this is an emergent field of knowledge, the guidance and recommendations of the Operational Notes reflect the independent views of the authors. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. 

About this Operational Note:

Social protection is included as a central pillar in a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), most notably Goal 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. Furthermore, as the Reference Document for this operational note mentions, there is now a clear international consensus and commitment to utilising social protection and social protection systems in fragile and conflict-affected environments to more effectively, efficiently and sustainably respond to affected populations. These commitments are embodied in global commitments such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Grand Bargain. The EU commitment to move from food aid to food assistance in humanitarian contexts, including cash and voucher programming, provision of relevant services, inputs, skills or knowledge, provides the historical context for the discussion in this operational note on benefit modalities. In addition, the relationship to the role of social protection in EU development cooperation is outlined here. 

This operational note is designed to give the reader a more detailed understanding of the actual and potential use of different benefit modalities when using social protection approaches to programme across the humanitarian – development nexus. It is designed to be short, practical and field-focused, providing a think piece that raises key issues while signposting the reader to further resources. This guidance is not designed as a ‘how to’ for modality programming – these resources can be found elsewhere, with some key ones included in the resources section under ‘Emerging guidance and tools’, below. Rather, this guidance note attempts to draw together the emergent learning around using social protection tools for programming in contexts of fragility. To better understand the concept of using ‘social protection across the nexus’, and the part played by benefit modalities within this nexus, we begin by explaining some of the jargon. First, ‘benefit modality’ essentially refers to those noted in Annex II of the reference document: cash and/or voucher, in-kind or subsidised (e.g. food, agricultural inputs), service delivery (e.g. primary healthcare, education, welfare services and accompanying measures (e.g. advocacy, trainings, public works programmes). 

Benefits can be provided in multiple modalities, directly to households or to communities. Other commonly used terms for complementary programming that can include one or more benefit modalities within a package of interventions to achieve multiple objectives are: cash plus, graduation, resilience or shock-responsive social protection. These are also discussed here, but the primary focus remains on the role played by the modalities themselves. A benefit modality needs to be understood in relation to a delivery mechanism, which refers to the means of delivering a benefit modality (for example a smart card, mobile devices and agents, bank card/accounts, cash in envelopes, food distribution etc.).

Note to reader

For updates on SPaN, readers are invited to join two specific communities of practice created to offer a direct link between learning and performance:

• The global, open online community on ‘Social protection in crisis contexts’ on, 

• The unrestricted group, mainly for EU staff members and on ‘Social Protection across the humanitariandevelopment nexus’ on capacity4dev.

These spaces are exclusively designed to collectively and progressively build the knowledge base around the nexus between social protection and humanitarian assistance. Through these groups, readers can share ideas and news, ask questions, share experience through testimonials, upload and access documents, take part in online events, expand your network and much more.

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