From practice to policy: Book Launch- Social Protection- Lands of Blossoming Hope and lessons for policy influencing for stronger COVID response


Lessons from implementation seldom feedback into practice of influencing policy within a time span where they are still relevant. It is rare for a book to be written almost in realtime. But this new book on 'Social Protection: Lands of Blossoming Hope’ comes very close to it. Usha Mishra Hayes, Chief of Social Policy with UNICEF Nepal, boldly put pen to paper during her a break in service from the UN and teased out lessons from her work across six countries to provide topical insights into what works when it comes to moving the proverbial needle of policy.

This webinar brought together key practitioners and thinkers to discuss the book and its lessons for our practice. This is about the confluence of the action plus reflection and the implications for our work on policy and programmes. It’s about linking practice to policy.


Abstract of the BOOK:

Against the backdrop of COVID-19 and UN’s WFP being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, ‘Social Protection: Lands of Blossoming Hope’ a book by long term career UN diplomat, Usha Mishra Hayes, is of topical relevance. It provides a sneak peek into the workings of organizations that have rightly, though rather belatedly been recognized for promoting world peace. The book is rather unusual in many ways. First it is a take full of hope- a rare perspective in today’s world full of grim news, with increasing apathy and frustration. It presents the possibility of national reform by the UN and by zealous, committed UN staffers. Second, it provides intimate insight into an otherwise rather obtuse world of workings of the UN in general and the works of policy influencing.

The book recounts the workings of the governments and their interface with the UN with a breathtaking sweep- from the tropical plains of Bangladesh to the ocean flanked, scenic Tanzania. From the stable, upcoming Cambodia to the fragile, exploding Afghanistan. These countries come to life, with stories of how the governments consider bringing in a policy to deal with problems of street children as in Ethiopia or when elections are used as an opportunity for creating some positive news for the government while achieving important policy reforms/ advance on long-lagging issues as in Tanzania. In India, the challenges that of challenging the status quo, modernizing programmes while developing an overarching vision.

Each country covers a different aspect of policy making, making each chapter uniquely interesting and rich in insights, that are casually and effortlessly shared, without much ado. Important alliances get formed among the World Bank, UNDP and UNICEF in a casual meeting by the residents’ swimming pool as in Cambodia and high-ranking secretaries break into open verbal warning, aiming to draw in UN officials, as in Afghanistan.

Arriving at decisions regarding scope and design of programmes for the poorest often is made at UN offices, using extremely sophisticated analysis and planning tools.  

The book is slim and easy to read but also leaves you asking for more. It also makes us wonder how much of policy making in the developing countries is inspired by the good Samaritans within the UN. Whether we are supporters or critics of this international entity, one can acknowledge that the UN does provide free, high quality technical expertise for many countries that otherwise would find it difficult to mobilize such talent. This book recounts some of the deft ways in which this expertise aligns and challenges the national policy agenda to make it more pro poor. It is a book of hope, a constructive take on international efforts at addressing some chronic national challenges.


Hossain Zillur Rahman, Chair person, BRAC

Sanjukta Ghosh, Artistic Director, SOAS South Asia Institute

Usha Mishra Hayes (Author), Chief of Social Policy UNICEF
Michael Samson - Managing Director, Economic Policy Reaserch Institute
Subir Sinha -  Senior Lecturer in Institutions and Development with UK’s SOAS University
Pedro Arruda, Senior Researcher with International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth
Abdul Alim, Regional Adviser, UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia