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Glossary of Terms

First published in 2011, the CALP Glossary is designed to facilitate a common understanding and harmonized use of terms and definitions for cash and voucher assistance (CVA). 

It should be noted that these definitions apply to the use of CVA in humanitarian programming and may not reflect how some terms are understood in other contexts or by other audiences. 

The glossary, last updated in 2023, is available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish in both an online and PDF format. 

It is also available in German and Portuguese but in a PDF format only. 


Showing 26 of 182 Glossary terms

Magnetic Strip Card

A plastic card with a magnetic stripe capable of storing data using tiny iron-based magnetic particles on a band on the card and secured by a PIN , a signature, or biometrics to verify the identity of the recipient before granting access to the funds.

Management information system (MIS)

In social protection, practitioners often use the term MIS to refer to systems (or software applications) that manage information for the functioning of registration and eligibility systems – or for the operation of specific programmes to deliver benefits and services (e.g., payments transactions, conditionalities monitoring, etc.).

[Adapted from Leite et al. (2017) Social Registries for Social Assistance and Beyond: A Guidance Note & Assessment Tool”]


A market refers to any formal or informal system or group of market actors (not necessarily a physical space) in which buyers and sellers exchange goods, labour, currency, or services for cash or other goods. The word ‘market’ can simply mean the place in which goods or services are exchanged. Markets are sometimes defined by forces of supply and demand rather than geographical location, e.g., ‘imported cereals make up 40 per cent of the market’.

[Partly adapted from: Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS) – Third Edition]

Market Actor

Market actors comprise the organisations or individuals who are active in a market system not only as suppliers or consumers but also as regulators, developers of standards and providers of services, information, etc. Market actors include organisations in the private and public sectors as well as non-profit organisations, representative organisations, and civil society groups.

Market Analysis

Market analysis is the process of analysing and understanding the key features and characteristics of a market system or marketplace based on the data collected during the assessment. The information can be used to formulate predictions about how prices, availability, and access will develop in future, and to inform decisions about whether or how to intervene.

[Definition adapted from MISMA]

Market Assessment

Market assessment is a diagnostic process that identifies current, recent, and pre-crisis market conditions and trends; supply and demand for goods and services; the characteristics and bottlenecks of supply and value chains; the impacts of crisis on markets; the viability of various income-generating opportunities, occupations, and business development; and the extent of access and barriers for crisis-affected populations.

[Sourced from: Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS) – Third Edition]

Market Development

Market development is generally understood as a type of market-based programming in which development programmes take a longer-term perspective on supporting the private sector, particularly micro and small enterprises. Recognizing that micro and small enterprises do not operate in isolation, this may require programmes to work not only at the level of individual small enterprises or households but also with larger enterprises, associations, or government institutions that engage in and influence markets. The ultimate goal of market development programmes is to stimulate sustainable economic growth that reduces poverty, primarily by ensuring that small enterprise owners and their employees take part in the growth and reap high rewards.

[Adapted from: Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS) – Third Edition]

Market Integration

Market integration occurs when prices among different locations or related goods follow a similar pattern over a long period of time. For example, if markets are well integrated, price changes in one location would lead to price changes in other locations, because people can freely move between markets to compare quality and price.

[Sourced from: Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS) – Third Edition]

Market Map

A market map is a visual depiction of how an entire market system works, including all the actors in the market, how they relate to each other, the volume of produce being traded / exchanged by different actors, and prices. Market maps contain the following three elements: a) the market chain; b) market services or infrastructure; c) the enabling (or dis-enabling) environment, rules, and norms.
See also Enabling Environment, Market System and Market Support Services

Market Monitoring

Market monitoring refers to the regular collection of data from marketplaces and market vendors to better understand the prices of key goods and services, the functionality and accessibility of markets, and any dynamics preventing the market system from working smoothly. Market monitoring is useful to verify whether markets are sufficiently functional to support CVA, whether there are underlying issues that can be addressed through market-based programming, and whether aid distributions may be distorting markets in areas of intervention, among other uses.

[Definition sourced from REACH]


Market Support Intervention

Market support interventions are a type of market-based programming (MBP), which aim to improve the situation of crisis-affected populations by providing support to critical market systems on which the target population relies for goods, services, labour, or income. These interventions target specific market actors, services, policies, and infrastructure. They can take multiple forms, including activities that support market actors, market infrastructures and services. They can seek to address both obstacles to supply/availability and demand/access. Market support can be embedded in sector-specific and multisectoral programming.
[Adapted from CALP (2018)]

Market Support Services

Market support services (also called business services, key infrastructure or supporting functions) refers to any service – public or private – which helps a market function. This market ‘support’ can have wider benefits for a community. For example, a road helps traders transport goods, but is also used by people to access hospitals, schools, visit family etc.

Market System

A market system is the complex web of people, trading structures, and rules that determine how particular goods or services are produced, accessed, and exchanged. It can be thought of as a network of market actors supported by various forms of infrastructure and services, interacting within the context of rules and norms that shape the business environment. Different goods and services all have unique ‘market systems’, although they are often interconnected (where they share the same set of enabling environment / rules / norms and business / support services).

[Adapted from: Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS) – Third Edition]

Market-Based Programming

Market-based programming (MBP) refers to any type of humanitarian or development programme, in any sector, that uses, supports or develops local markets. It involves implementing interventions to meet immediate humanitarian or longer-term recovery needs, in a way which does not undermine existing economic relationships and activities, so as to facilitate economic recovery and ensure lasting impact. The most common form of market-based programming is cash and voucher assistance (CVA), but many other types of direct and indirect interventions can be planned to support market actors or systems.

[Definition from Markets in Crisis (MiC)]


A marketplace is where exchanges happen. This is typically a physical place where different wares or goods (and sometimes services) are bought and sold – such as a village or livestock market. Online platforms also increasingly provide marketplaces for buying and selling. Marketplaces are a common starting point to assess the potential to fulfil demand for many consumables from food items to soap and clothing.


Medium of Exchange

A medium of exchange is something commonly accepted in exchange for goods and services and recognized as representing a standard of value. In modern economies, the common medium of exchange is money, represented by currencies.


A merchant buys and sells goods, and/or supplies services. Merchants may be contracted by a humanitarian organisation to participate in a voucher intervention whereby recipients can redeem vouchers for products or services from them. Processes for selecting merchants to participate should take account of both their capacities and potential vulnerabilities to avoid adversely affecting the business of smaller or more vulnerable merchants. The need for market support interventions might also be considered in tandem.


A sub-segment of microfinance that focuses on giving small loans to low-income people for the purpose of allowing them to earn additional income by investing in the establishment or expansion of microenterprises.


A market-oriented economic activity with – in most definitions – 10 or fewer employees (including the owner and unpaid family members).


The provision of financial services adapted to the needs of micro-entrepreneurs, low-income persons, or persons otherwise systematically excluded from formal financial services, especially small loans, small savings deposits, insurance, remittances, and payments services.

Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) (key term)

A Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) is an operational tool. It is used to identify and calculate, in a particular context and for a specific moment in time, the average cost of a socioeconomically vulnerable household’s multisectoral basic needs that can be monetized and accessed in adequate quality through the local market. Goods and services included in the MEB should enable households to meet basic needs and minimum living standards without resorting to negative coping strategies or compromising their health, dignity, and essential livelihood assets. An MEB can be calculated for different household sizes. It is not the same as the transfer value but is an important tool to inform their calculation.

There are three main approaches to MEB development. A rights-based approach uses assessed needs and standards (e.g., rights as protected by international human rights and humanitarian laws, Sphere Standards, national technical standards) to define the composition of the basket, and local market prices to define the cost. An expenditure-based approach focuses on effective demand by using local consumption patterns to define the composition and cost of the basket. A hybrid approach is a pragmatic option combining rights-based and expenditure-based elements. Most MEBs are hybrid to some degree.

A Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB) is a lower value subset of the MEB. A SMEB requires the identification and quantification of goods and services that ensure a household’s short term minimum basic survival needs only. Delineating the threshold for survival and differentiating a SMEB from a MEB is not currently a standardized process. While a SMEB might be used for various political, technical and/or funding reasons, it is better practice (including for advocacy purposes) to develop a full MEB that enables people to meet all basic needs and minimum living standards. Then, if necessary due to a funding or other constraints, develop a final transfer value that covers only part of the gap.

Mobile Money

Mobile money uses mobile phones to access financial services such as payments, transfers, insurance, savings, and credit. It is a paperless version of a national currency that can be used to
provide humanitarian e-cash payments.

Modality (key term)

refers to the form of assistance – e.g., cash transfer, vouchers, in-kind, service delivery, or a combination (modalities). This can include both direct transfers to household level, and assistance provided at a more general or community level e.g., health services, WASH infrastructure.

Multiplier Effect

Positive indirect effects of cash transfers whereby increased expenditure by recipients contributes to income growth for non-recipients, expansion of markets for local goods, or increased demands for services. The ‘economic multiplier’ is the estimated number by which a change in some other component of aggregate demand is multiplied to give the total amount by which the national or local income is increased due to direct and indirect benefits from that change in demand.

Multipurpose Cash Assistance (MPC/MPCA)

Multipurpose Cash Assistance (MPC or MPCA) comprises transfers (either periodic or one-off) corresponding to the amount of money required to cover, fully or partially, a household’s basic and/or recovery needs that can be monetized and purchased. Cash transfers are “multipurpose” if explicitly designed to address multiple needs, with the transfer value calculated accordingly. The extent to which a cash transfer enables basic needs to be met depends on the sufficiency of the transfer value and should be considered when terms are applied to specific interventions. MPC transfer values are often indexed to expenditure gaps based on a Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB), or another monetized calculation of the amount required to cover basic needs. All MPC are unrestricted as they can be spent as the recipient chooses. Note that a “multipurpose voucher” is not possible given the inherent restrictions in all vouchers.

Note: Multipurpose Cash Grants (MPG) is a synonym of MPC/MPCA but is less commonly used now.


Describes a process, approach, response, programme, etc. which involves multiple (i.e. more than one) sectors (e.g. food security, shelter, protection, nutrition, education, etc.).