Social protection, community participation and state-citizen relations: Evidence from a cash transfer program in south-central Somalia

This study investigates whether social protection programs can increase participation in community-driven development programs and examine how this affects state-citizen relations. Using a randomized controlled trial in south-central Somalia, it studies the impacts of one-time unconditional cash transfers to vulnerable households that were specifically designed to encourage participation in community development. While the cash transfer is relatively small as a share of annual household expenditure, it is more than sufficient to cover households' anticipated community development contributions. The transfers were funded by an NGO but delivered through state institutions. It collected survey data before and after the intervention with almost 600 individuals eligible to receive cash transfers. It finds no substantial differences in participation in community development projects for cash transfer recipient households relative to non-recipient households. However, it does find positive impacts of the cash transfers on citizen perceptions of clan elders and the local government. Our findings suggest that relatively small social protection interventions may face challenges in increasing vulnerable households' participation in community development and decision-making, while also highlighting potential positive spillover effects for state-citizen relations and beliefs about the capacity of local institutions where states institutions are involved in program delivery, even if they do not finance the program.