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Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

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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 12 of 182 Glossary terms

Paper Voucher

A physical voucher, usually denoting the monetary value of items or specified commodities for which it can be redeemed. Vouchers tend to be retained by the merchant/vendor upon redemption or have two portions – one to be retained by the merchant/vendor, and a ‘receipt’ portion for the recipient.

Personal Account Number (PAN)

The full 16-digit number on a credit, debit, or prepaid card.

Personal Identification Number (PIN)

A numerical code used in many electronic financial transactions, such as payment cards, mobile money, wallets etc. PINs may be required to complete a transaction.

Piggy backing (on social protection systems or programmes)

‘Piggybacking’ refers to an emergency response, delivered by either a government or its partners, which uses part of an established system or programme while delivering something new – for example the programme’s beneficiary list, its staff, or its payment mechanism. ‘Piggybacking’ is part of a typology of options for shock responsive social protection, for conceptualising possible linkages between humanitarian assistance and social protection.

[Definition adapted from OPM (2019)]

Point of Service/ Sales (POS) Device

A point-of-sale (POS) system is defined as the device used to complete transactions, either in person or online. It’s a combination of hardware and software that accepts payments, produces receipts, and tracks sales. POS hardware can include computers, scanners, card readers, monitors, tablets, other mobile devices, etc. Cloud-based POS software is increasingly popular as it offers greater flexibility and cost effectiveness, although reliable internet access is a critical factor to consider in terms of feasibility and whether some offline functionality may be required.

Price Elasticity

Price elasticity of demand is a measurement of the change in consumption of a product in relation to a change in its price. A good is elastic if a price change causes a substantial change in demand or supply. A good is inelastic if a price change does not cause demand or supply to change very much. The availability of a substitute for a product affects its elasticity. If there are no good substitutes and the product is necessary, demand won’t change when the price goes up, making it inelastic. Supply elasticity is the responsiveness of the quantity of a good supplied by traders and others relative to the change in its price (price elasticity of supply) or other factors (e.g., income of the supplier).

[Definition adapted from Investopedia]

Price Volatility

Describes price fluctuations of a commodity. Volatility is measured by the day-to-day (week-to week or month-to-month) percentage differences in the price of the commodity. The degree of variation – not the level of prices – defines a volatile market. Since price is a function of supply and demand, volatility is a result of the underlying supply and demand characteristics of the market. It can be induced, for example, by weather changes, production and import, storage levels, delivery constraints, market information or seasonality. Volatility provides a measure of price uncertainty in markets.

[Definition sourced from WFP Glossary]

Private Sector

The private sector includes any actor that generates income / profit through their business operations. This ranges from individual traders and micro-enterprises, small firms employing temporary labour, cooperatives with numerous ‘members’ or shareholders, through to multinational companies. The absolute criteria for what is/isn’t the private sector is blurred, as many private firms are owned by governments, and some enterprises – for instance ‘social enterprises’ – have business plans that generate a profit which is invested back in to society.

Propensity to Consume

Propensity to consume is an economic term used to describe how much of a given amount of money a household has (e.g., income) it will spend on a given set of goods and services. Households can choose what to spend on, as well as how much to use/consume (i.e., spend), and how much to save and/or invest in future income possibilities. The marginal propensity to consume is the amount EXTRA that a household intends to spend due to receiving more cash. It is used in calculating multiplier effects.

Public Goods and Services

Public goods and services are those which are provided by the government. For instance, major infrastructure, like power supply, roads, water works, health facilities or school buildings. Individuals are not ordinarily expected to pay for public goods or services – though some public services may charge a nominal or subsidised user fee. Access to public services or goods may carry a charge however, for instance bus-fares to travel to a health centre.

Public Works Programmes (or Workfare)

Where income support for the poor is given in the form of wages in exchange for work effort. These programmes typically provide short-term employment at low wages for unskilled and semiskilled workers on labour-intensive projects such as road construction and maintenance, irrigation infrastructure, reforestation, and soil conservation. Generally seen as a means of providing income support to the poor in critical times rather than as a way of getting the unemployed back into the labour market.

Purchasing Power

At household level, purchasing power generally refers to the financial ability to purchase goods (usually defined by income). In economic terms it is the value of a currency expressed in terms of the number of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Inflation generally decreases purchasing power – i.e., the number of goods or services you would be able to purchase.
[Partially adapted from Investopedia]

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