Chicken or Egg? A Bi-directional Analysis of Social Protection and Social Cohesion in Burundi and Haiti

A limited but growing number of studies point to mixed effects of social protection on social cohesion. Relatively little is known about the role of social cohesion on access to and impact of social protection. Based on in-depth qualitative research in Burundi and Haiti, this paper explores the bi-directional relationship between social protection and social cohesion. The analysis focuses on horizontal forms of social cohesion within a particular set of comprehensive interventions that provide bundled packages of support to the poorest and most vulnerable. We find that programmes strengthened attributes of social cohesion, such as dignity and positive identity. They also hampered elements of cohesion such as sense of belonging and togetherness. Stronger cohesion, mediated through community trust and collaboration, fostered positive programme impacts. The paper concludes that social dynamics at community, family and individual levels should receive greater attention in design and implementation of social protection to avoid unintended consequences and maximise programme impact across social and other dimensions.