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CVA, plus information: what happens when cash recipients are kept in the loop?

Max Seilern and Hannah Miles from Ground Truth Solutions reveal the positive impacts of simply being more open about cash programming with cash recipients.

15 March 2021 — By Hannah Miles, Max Seilern

A closer look at recipient feedback in Nigeria and Somalia 

Ground Truth Solutions examined feedback from CVA recipients in Nigeria and Somalia, collected in September 2020 , and the implications were both interesting and useful. The feedback reveals that when recipients feel informed – about available aid, targeting criteria, or the duration of assistance – they are more inclined to feel positive about their experience of cash and voucher assistance (CVA)This blog examines why this happened, and what can be learnt from these results.  

In the driver’s seat without a map – why CVA without information misses the point 

It’s often said that the most important benefit of CVA is that it shifts decision-making from aid providers to aid recipients. After all, needs assessments may be incorrect or slow to reflect changing realities, while aid recipients are best placed to allocate resources to meet their own needs and should be in the driving seat. But although cash undoubtedly does confer power and choice to recipients, without information about the system supporting them, the road ahead is uncertain. 

When recipients feel informed, they are better able to meet their needs 

In Somalia, the cumulative impact of climate and conflict-related shocks, combined with the socio-economic impact of the pandemic has pushed people to the brink. Fifty-six percent of CVA recipients say they are now less able to cover their most important needs than before the pandemic, having lost jobs, aid, remittances or all three. In Nigeria, the pandemic has exacerbated an already fragile context, caused by over a decade of conflict and violent insurgency. More than half the population of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states required humanitarian assistance in 2020.1 In both contexts, those who feel informed about the aid available to them also feel more able to meet their most important needs.   

Figure 1: The relationship between feeling informed and ability to meet basic needs 

Information also improves perceptions of fairness. 

 In Nigeriaaid recipients who feel informed about how decisions are made also feel that aid reaches those who need it most. In 2019, 90% of CVA recipients surveyed in Borno State told us they did not know how aid agencies decide who receives aid and who does not. A similar percentage (88%) reported not knowing how long the assistance would last. After the Cash Working Group doubled down on efforts to communicate programme details, we returned a year later to find improvements across both metrics – people reporting that they understand targeting criteria had increased by 9 percentage points, and those who knew when their CVA would end by 12 percentage points. As these numbers improved, so too did assessments of aid fairness.  

This tells us that when recipients are in the dark about programming, the positive foundation of CVA can be undermined. 

Without knowing how long they will receive CVA, recipients cannot plan for what to do when it runs out. Without insight into how recipients are selected, those who qualify accept blindly what is given to them without further explanation from aid providers and with little recourse where problems occur. Those left wondering why they do not qualify are starkly reminded of the power disparity between aid providers and recipients 

What do these results mean for CVA actors? 

 One obvious way to ensure that people understand programming decisions is to involve them in making such decisions in the first place. It also means ensuring that, at the very least, CVA recipients have the information they need. Communicating clear selection criteria means recipients and non-recipients are more likely to accept decision-making and can hold CVA providers to account. Ensuring recipients are notified when their final transfers approach will help them to prioritise their spending for the months ahead 

Ultimately, CVA promises people choice. But choices cannot be made without information. Transparency and the free flow of information is crucial to reaping the benefit of CVA – shifting the role of humanitarians from providers of aid to facilitators of recovery.  

To find out more about the concerns of affected people and how their perspectives can inform a more effective roll-out of cash-based assistance please take a look at Ground Truth Solution’s Cash Barometer.




Max Seilern is a Programme Manager at Ground Truth Solutions, where he explores the experiences of cash and voucher assistance recipients across different contexts. He focuses on the Cash Barometer, an independent accountability mechanism that combines standardised face-to-face surveys with user-centred approaches to allow cash recipients to provide feedback on cash and voucher assistance, and participate in decision making.  

Hannah Miles is a Statistical Analyst at Ground Truth Solutions, where she is responsible for the analysis and visualisation of data from crisis-affected populations. Her research and analyses span many projects and contexts, including the Cash Barometer, where she focuses on the factors driving the perceptions of cash and voucher transfer recipients. 

To find out more about the concerns of affected people and how their perspectives can inform a more effective roll-out of cash-based assistance please take a look at Ground Truth Solution’s Cash Barometer.


In the Photo: Mobile cash transfer distribution in Maiduguri. Photo: WFP/Inger Marie Vennize. March 2018.