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Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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Theories of Change for Cash Transfers

2013 — By Evie Browne

While there is a large body of literature examining social protection and cash transfers’ (CT) impacts on poverty reduction and development, there is much less on understanding the mechanisms and pathways by which this happens. This report gathers together examples from the literature which attempt to explain how and why change happens as a result of CTs. It adopts a broad understanding of the concept of ‘Theory of Change’ (ToC) as including pathways, causal relationships, and underlying assumptions about how change happens. Most programme documentation does not use the term ‘theory of change’ to describe planning, and few programmes express an understanding of this conceptual area at all. A detailed literature review might be able to pick out the fragmented evidence on understandings of change, but this rapid response report has focused on the literature which has well-developed ToCs. Examples are mostly drawn from academic and theoretical literature rather than programme documentation, and often they look retrospectively or conceptually at existing programmes to analyse how change occurred. Most literature acknowledges the need for more in-depth research specifically looking at ToCs and pathways of change.


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