Applying Behavioral Science to Humanitarian Cash & Voucher Assistance for Better Outcomes for Women

Behavioral science can offer much-needed innovation because the traditional approach to program design (across a multitude of social sectors) often makes a number of assumptions about human behavior—such as that in a given situation, we weigh all available information, assess the costs and benefits of each option, make a choice that’s in our own best interests, and then act on it. Research in behavioral science shows us that this often isn’t the case—sometimes we make decisions that are not in our best interest; we act in ways that are counter to our intentions; or we don’t act at all even when we have the intention to do so. If we’re going to design more effective programs, we need to more accurately understand people and how they make decisions and take actions beyond the traditional approach—we need behavioral science.

In line with this effort, ideas42 and CARE International conducted research in three of CARE’s countries of presence—Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey—to develop a thorough understanding of the contexts in which women recipients in these settings receive, make decisions on, and use CVA to support themselves and their households. In the pages that follow, we aim to share behavioral insights that shed new light on the many challenges facing women when using CVA in humanitarian settings in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.