A framework to assess the role of social cash transfers in building adaptive capacity for climate resilience

Climate change is increasingly affecting vulnerable groups and resulting in dire social and economic consequences, especially for those in the Global South. Managing current and emerging climate-related risks will require increasing individual’s and communities’ resilience, including enhancing absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities. Policymakers are now considering the role that social protection policies and programmes can play in building climate resilience by contributing to these capacities. However, there is a limited understanding of the extent to which social protection instruments can influence these three resilience-related capacities. Lack of assessment tools or frameworks might contribute to limited evidence of social protection’s ability to increase climate resilience. In particular, there appear to be no frameworks or tools that help assess the role of social cash transfers (SCT) in building adaptive capacity. Based on a multi-staged literature review, we develop an adaptive capacity outcomes framework (ACOF) that can help assess SCT’s contribution to building adaptive capacity, and, consequently, resilience. The framework is then tested using impact evaluation and assessment reports from SCT programmes in Indonesia, Zambia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Tanzania. The exercise finds that SCTs alone have a limited contribution to adaptive capacity outcomes, but interventions that combine cash transfers with other components such as nutrition or livelihood training show positive impacts. We find that the ACOF can support assessments of SCT’s contribution towards adaptive capacity. It can help build evidence, evaluate impacts, and through further research, can facilitate learning on SCTs' role in increasing climate resilience.