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Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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State of the World’s Cash 2020 Chapter 3: Quality programming


The focus for improving cash and voucher assistance (CVA) has gradually shifted from increased scale, to improved quality and is now moving towards quality defined in terms of outcomes for recipients.

Consensus is emerging among CVA actors on what constitutes quality
in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability.

Aid recipients have different perspectives to humanitarian actors on what they value in aid.

Seeking and acting on feedback from CVA recipients and affected communities throughout the programme cycle can improve programme quality. The question is whether humanitarian actors are both willing, and able, to do this.

The focus must be on overall quality programming, not only quality CVA. Ensuring quality in CVA can be a catalyst or entry point for exploring ways to improve quality across responses.


The recognition that CVA implies changes in how humanitarian actors work together has driven more, new, and evolving approaches to collaboration. These include consortia, shared payment mechanisms, and efforts to increase the interoperability and integration of systems and processes.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, nor is there automatic ‘value for money’ in collaboration for cash at scale. Determining the right CVA operational model and what to invest in will depend on contextual factors including the type, duration, and complexity of a response.

There are trade-offs in quality when delivering cash at scale. It is necessary to understand where and when quality components (e.g. improved accountability) justify costs in the context of limited budgets.

It is likely that the number of actors involved in the delivery of cash ‘at scale’ and end-to-end CVA programming will shrink. Other agencies will have important roles to play but need to be flexible and develop ‘added value niches’ that drive quality.


  • Operational agencies and donors should collaborate and share learning on operational models and agree on the benefits and limitations of different models in different contexts.
  • Humanitarian actors should develop and use common metrics to assess effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability.
  • Relevant humanitarian actors should collaborate to pilot systemic integration of an independent, people-centred approach to capture recipient perspectives, and independent MEAL functions at response level.
  • Operational agencies, donors and researchers should generate evidence of the benefits and costs of ‘quality’ components such as third-party monitoring.
  • Donors and operational agencies should acknowledge the trade-offs between quality and scale and agree on what is possible in different contexts.
  • Donors should revise award guidelines to recognize and support components which foster quality programming, enabling agencies to develop specialized roles.

Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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