This month, is excited to mark its 8th anniversary with a special campaign zooming in on the impacts of social protection. As part of this celebration, we are introducing the Social Protection Digest—a quarterly compilation featuring practitioner guides, evidence-based studies, and policy and conceptual discussions. The digest showcases recent publications available on the platform covering various topics, all meticulously curated by our team. We hope to provide practitioners, policymakers and researchers with easily digestible insights, guidance and evidence from the field of social protection.


Once you have read the Digest, help us improvee and tailor it to your needs, by answering this quick survey. It only takes 3 minutes to complete.

This section features guidance notes and tools that offer practical advice, frameworks, and principles for implementing effective social protection programmes and systems.


Rising up to the challenges of COVID-19, many governments worldwide successfully launched social protection responses, often leveraging digital technologies. However, poorly designed and implemented digital systems can lead to significant issues of their own. To avoid these pitfalls, the Digital Convergence Initiative (DCI) under USP2030, in collaboration with the Digital Social Protection Working Group of the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B), joined forces to craft the Principles for Digital Development (PDD). These nine principles have garnered widespread consensus and serve as a foundational guide for establishing comprehensive and just digital social protection systems (as illustrated by the figure below). By following them, practitioners and policymakers will be better equipped to ensure that technologies are secure, inclusive, rooted in human rights, and driven by a clear purpose.


Figure 1. Principles for Digital Development


Moving on to other subjects, a GIZ working paper provides practical guidance for governments and practitioners on conducting joint reviews of social protection systems, aiming at strengthening their shock-responsiveness and adaptiveness. It also offers methodology to facilitate joint reviews of adaptive social protection (ASP) systems with multiple stakeholders, clearly defining the phases, planning principles and necessary conditions involved. Moreover, the paper advocates for the use of assessment methodologies and toolkits, such as the Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessments’ (ISPA) Core Diagnostic Instrument and the World Bank’s ASP Stress Test tools. These resources offer foundational data and streamline cross-sectoral strategy development and planning. Practitioners might be especially interested in the paper´s recommendations regarding the essential stages for upholding robust government ownership and cohesive stakeholder coordination throughout the joint review process.

A report by M. Boulinaud and M. Ossandon, commissioned by the Global Food Security Cluster Cash and Market Working Group, explores the use of cash transfers for food security outcomes in contexts of acute food insecurity. It draws from case studies in Nigeria, Somalia, and Syria to assess elements that might enable or inhibit the effectiveness of cash transfers for food security outcomes, as well as the decision-making process and feasibility of their implementation (see Table 1 below). Particularly intriguing is the chapter discussing the decision-making factors involved in selecting the most appropriate mode of assistance. It can help decisionmakers gauge whether national circumstances are more conducive to cash transfers or alternative modalities. The study revealed that benefit recipients prioritise the use of cash transfers to meet their food needs, but the degree to which cash emerges as the optimal assistance modality depends on contextual factors, such as high inflation and economic instability. The paper offers recommendations that can inform the approaches and strategies of practitioners to enhance food security outcomes through cash transfer mechanisms.



Pioneered by BRAC and other non-governmental organisations, the Graduation approach focuses on addressing the challenges faced by people living in extreme poverty, emphasising social and economic empowerment through a holistic package of interventions and in-person coaching. A paper by M. Gollin. C. de Miranda, T. Muriuki, and S. Commins provides insights into the pillars of the Graduation approach, along with recommendations on how to design effective government-led Graduation programmes: These recommendations include: (i) tailoring the design to the context and the needs of beneficiaries; (ii) providing a proper sequencing of each programme intervention; (iii) determining an asset transfer that is adequate to the context and enough to establish an income-generating activity; (iv) establishing indicators for multidimensional well-being to measure progress, beyond just income and consumption; (v) investing in a management information system (MIS) to facilitate integration with existing government initiatives and support household monitoring; and vi) strengthening programme staff capacity.

This section spotlights emerging evidence on social protection programmes and systems, unveiling innovative findings and shedding light on unexplored areas. 


There has been a dramatic increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) worldwide. As these people often have to contend with limited or no access at all to social protection, the need for inclusive social protection systems has become more evident than ever. R. Holmes and C. Lowe wrote a paper for ODI and UNICEF exploring the key opportunities and challenges influencing the inclusion of displaced children and families in social protection systems. It recaps existing research from a displacement and child-centred perspective, across eight countries—Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Sudan, and Uganda. The identified opportunities and challenges relate to: i.) patchy or exclusionary legal frameworks that limit or hinder access to social protection by refugees and IDPs; ii.) lack of financial resources towards social protection, even for host population, as well as long-term financing strategies; iii.) gaps in operational capacity and coordination, resulting in inadequate staffing and administrative systems, alongside unreliable data; iv.) unsupportive political environment due to lack of political will for social protection or political concerns about long-term integration. For policymakers and practitioners tasked with designing and implementing comprehensive social protection systems, this paper offers practical insights into the unique needs of displaced children and families, offering comprehensive recommendations.

On another issue, a UN Women policy brief authored by T. Cookson, L. Fuentes and J. Bitterly provides a comprehensive literature review focused on social protection and violence against women (VAW). As economic insecurity is a key contributor to VAW, the brief posits that social protection systems can help prevent and respond to such violence. Evidence suggests three entry points (see Figure 2 for an overview). First, there is need for coordination across sectors (e.g., social protection education, health, gender justice) on the level of planning and mandate. Second, social protection systems can provide accompaniment and assistance to survivors of VAW, such as legal aid, community health workers, and counselling. Third, social protection systems can train front-line implementers, such as social workers and police officers, to identify and respond to VAW. Tailoring social protection interventions to local contexts and social norms is important to ensure their effectiveness in addressing VAW, and the authors suggest key design and implementation features, including reducing eligibility requirements, increasing adequacy of benefit, protecting women’s identifiable data, and strengthening linkages with other services such as childcare and housing.


Figure 2. Entry points for social protection to address VAW


Moving on to the issue of public works programmes (PWPs), A. Bagga, M. Holmlund, N. Khan, S. Mani, E. Mvukiyehe, and P. Premand reviewed experimental evidence from low- and middle-income countries to investigate their impacts and sustainability over the medium term. One of the main findings of this World Bank policy research working paper is that impacts of PWPs on employment and earnings tend to be larger in the short term, but do not persist after beneficiaries exit the programme, typically fading in the medium term, except for cases in which there were substantial impacts on savings or self-employment activities. The authors question the cost-effectiveness of PWPS and suggest topics for further research, such as: How to design PWPs that lead to broader household- and policy-level impacts, such as women´s empowerment? Which ‘public works plus’ interventions are able to effectively facilitate the transition from temporary PWPs to more steady employment? What are the optimal programme length and wage value? In addition, the paper highlights the need for better data collection to measure the outcomes of PWPs in multiple points over time.

It is commonly assumed that higher equity in government social protection spending can lead to a decrease in poverty and inequality. D. Popova empirically tests this assumption, utilising regression analysis on a dataset comprising 535 observations from 101 countries over the years 1998-2017. More specifically, the study aimed to assess whether equity in social spending, as measured by the share of spending going to the bottom quintile, can predict improved distributional outcomes (extreme poverty measured at Int$1.90 a day and inequality measured by the Gini index). The findings confirmed the assumption, revealing a more pronounced impact on poverty and inequality in low- and middle-income countries. It showed that a 1 percentage point (pp) increase in allocation to the bottom quintile is associated with a 0.37 pp reduction in poverty headcount and a 0.32 pp decrease in the Gini index. Popova proposes further research to investigate the joint effects of social protection spending and tax policies, as the effect of generous pro-poor social protection spending might yield diminishing returns depending on the amount of taxes paid by the poor. 

This section focuses on policy and conceptual discussions and analyses that shape the theoretical underpinnings of social protection strategies.


In their article “Migration and climate change – The role of social protection”, D. Silchenko and U. Murray review the literature linking climate change, migration and social protection, providing evidence of how social protection helps build resilience among rural populations and discussing its impact on migration decisions, experiences and outcomes. The hypothesis, illustrated in Figure 3, is that social protection can support households either cope with the impacts of shocks (‘hanging in’), or in invest in and diversify their livelihoods (‘stepping up’). Moreover, it may also help people plan for voluntary migration (‘stepping out’). The authors put forward that social protection can: i.) ease financial barriers to mobility and lessen stress from climate shocks; ii.) address adverse drivers that compel people to migrate as a last resort; and iii.) support the livelihoods of those who decide not to migrate. They also suggest topics requiring further research to shed light on the connection between social protection, climate vulnerability and migration.


Figure 3. The role of social protection in reducing distress migration


To establish a conceptual framework highlighting the linkages between climate change and social protection policies, A. Costella and collaborators reviewed arguments and evidence on how social protection manage risks arising from climate change. Four roles emerged regarding how social protection can contribute to climate-resilient development (see Figure 4):  i.) reduce overall climate vulnerability; ii.) respond to climate shocks; iii.) compensate for negative impacts of climate change responses; and iv.) underpin climate change adaptation and mitigation responses. In order to enable social protection to fulfil this role, the authors recommend investing in knowledge and guidance for practitioners to integrate the social protection and climate change policy sectors. More specifically, they call for (re)designing social protection schemes considering climate vulnerability and climate objectives, as well as adapting these schemes to the political economy of policy reforms.


Figure 4. Mind map of social protection functions for climate risk drivers


On another subject, Ashish Dongare, a post-doctoral fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE), has developed a Multidimensional Social Protection Index (MSPI) that offers a comprehensive approach to reviewing and assessing social protection programmes. This index, rooted in the life cycle approach, comprises three sub-indices: the Young Social Protection Index (YSPI), the Adult Social Protection Index (ASPI), and the Elderly Social Protection Index (ESPI). These sub-indices assess the degree to which programmes achieve objectives related to livelihood, education, and health, and are structured around the principles of adequacy, coverage, and efficacy (see Figure 5). This paper discusses the methodology for constructing the MSPI and its practical value by evaluating social protection initiatives within Indian states. This innovative index can help in the monitoring and evaluation efforts of various initiatives, supporting policymakers establish benchmarks, identify gaps, allocate resources, and design more effective social protection programmes. You can see a video presentation of the MSPI here, featuring Dr. Doongare himself.


Figure 5. Conceptualisation of MSPI-LC: Flowchart



Did you like this content? Is it useful for your work with social protection? What would you like see more of/less of? Please answer this quick survey and help us improve this Digest so it is tailored to your needs. The survey only takes 3 minutes to complete.


For more curated suggestions on reading material and social protection news, check out:

  • The Weekly Social Protection Links by Ugo Gentilini. This weekly newsletter comes out every Friday, with a curated selection and discussion of social protection resources, from academic articles to podcasts.
  • The STAAR Evidence Digest is a monthly collection of articles compiled by the Technical Leadership Team at the STAAR Facility, related to both social protection in crises and gender-responsive social protection.


* This first issue of the Digest compiles resources uploaded to from January to August 2023. Upcoming issues will showcase resources collected over the 3 months leading up to them.

* The resources listed in this Digest were curated by the following members of the team: Krista Alvarenga (Research Analyst), Roberta Brito (Researcher), João Bregolin Dytz (Researcher) and Isabela Franciscon (Researcher).

* This issue of the Digest was written by Roberta Brito, João Bregolin Dytz and Isabela Franciscon.


Your questions and suggestions are very welcome: [email protected]

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Active labour market programmes / Productive inclusion
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
  • Programme design
  • Programme implementation
  • Programme performance / impact analysis
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Adaptive social protection
  • Digital social protection
  • Gender-sensitive social protection
  • Shock-responsive social protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Child Protection
  • Climate change
  • Gender
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Humanitarian–social protection nexus
  • Inequalities
  • Migration
  • Poverty reduction
  • Productive / Economic inclusion
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not's