Skip to main content

Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

We are sorry but the page you are looking for is not available in the language you have selected, please go to the corresponding homepage
  1. Home
  2. Resources

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 22 of 182 Glossary terms

Safety Nets (SN) or Social Safety Nets (SSN)

Safety nets target the poor or vulnerable and consist of non-contributory transfers, including cash, in-kind transfers, social pensions, public works, and school feeding programmes. They can be conditional or unconditional. Safety nets are a sub-set of broader social protection systems and are still largely associated with the idea of a short-term buffer. ‘Social protection’ is a newer term that incorporates safety net programmes but also includes a role for renewed state involvement, emphasizes longer-term development, includes social assistance and social insurance, and is often advocated as a right rather than a reactive form of relief.

[Partially adapted from] and IFPRI (2004)]

Sector-Specific Intervention (key term)

This refers to an intervention designed to achieve sector-specific objectives. Sector-specific assistance can be conditional or unconditional. Vouchers (restricted transfers) might be used to limit expenditure to items and services contributing to achieve specific sectoral objectives. Labelled cash transfers might also be used to influence recipients’ spending to align with sector specific objectives. Cash and/or vouchers may also be used alongside other activities to achieve sector specific outcomes as part of a complementary approach.

Segregation of functions

‘Segregation of functions’ is an operational model in which different organisations are delivering the same project(s) but are allocated different specific activities within the project cycle. This model can either be initiated by the organisations themselves (e.g., the Common Cash Delivery Platform) or by the donor (e.g., DG ECHO guidance on large-scale transfer).

[Sourced from Cash assistance – How design influences value for money]

Service Delivery (key term)

The provision of services to affected populations e.g., water and sanitation, healthcare, education, protection, legal, etc. In crisis contexts humanitarian agencies might independently deliver services, or work in partnership with state/public service providers.

Shock Responsive Social Protection

Shock responsive social protection refers to the ability of a social protection system to anticipate shocks to maintain its regular programme/s, to scale up and/or to adapt to accommodate new populations and needs resulting from shocks, and to contribute to resilience building of individuals, households, communities and systems against future shocks. This encompasses building shock responsive systems, plans and partnerships in advance of a crisis, and supporting households once a shock has occurred, ideally complementing other emergency response interventions. The term ‘scale-up’ refers to a range of options including but not limited to introduction of new governmental programmes; expansion of existing programmes; and use of some or all components of the programme operational system by other ministries (especially DRM) and/or other humanitarian actors to deliver humanitarian assistance.

[Definition adapted from UNICEF (2019) ] and DG ECHO (2022)]

Simplified Due Diligence (SDD)

Also known as minimal Know-Your Customer (KYC); can be a feature of a card product. National regulations will influence when SDD can be used.

Single Registry (and associated Integrated Management Information System (IMIS))

An integrated system for information management “enables the flow and management of information within and between social protection programmes and sometimes beyond to other sectors”. This is made up of two ‘components’, a single registry database “houses comprehensive information on potential and actual beneficiaries”, and application software which “systematically transforms data into information, links it to other databases and analyses and uses the information”.

[Definition from Barca et al (2014)]

Situation Analysis

Situation analysis comprises an overview of available secondary data and early primary data such as initial needs assessment and other contextual information. A situation analysis following a crisis typically looks at key crisis drivers, affected areas, the number and type of affected people, the ways in which people are affected, the most urgent needs and available capacities.

Smart Card

A smart card is a device that includes an embedded integrated circuit chip (ICC) that can be either a secure microcontroller or equivalent intelligence with internal memory or a memory chip alone. The card connects to a reader with direct physical contact or with a remote contactless radio frequency interface. With an embedded microcontroller, smart cards have the unique ability to store large amounts of data, carry out their own on-card functions (e.g., encryption and mutual authentication) and interact intelligently with a smart card reader. Smart card technology is available in a variety of forms including plastic cards, fobs, subscriber identity modules (SIMs) used in GSM mobile phones, and USB-based tokens.

[Sourced from Secure Technology Alliance]

Social Assistance

Social assistance constitutes predictable transfers of cash or goods and/or service provision on a long-term basis to vulnerable or destitute households or specific individuals (e.g., the elderly, pregnant women), with the aim of meeting their basic needs and/or building assets to increase resilience against shocks and vulnerable periods along the life cycle. Social assistance is non contributory, may be conditional or unconditional, and can include social transfers, public works, fee waivers and subsidies. It usually refers to government assistance, but funding may also be provided by humanitarian/development actors.

Social Care Services

Social care services include non-cash interventions such as family support services to prevent family breakdown, child protection services to respond to abuse and neglect, alternative care for children, and social work support to people with disabilities. The importance of psychosocial support is recognised in some quarters. In many countries the provision of this type of service is low. These services may also be variously called, or subsumed under ‘social services’, ‘social welfare’ or ‘social work’.

[Adapted from OPM (2018)]

Social Insurance

Comprises insurance programmes that are managed or supervised by government and funded by contributions paid by (or on behalf of) participants or taxation. Programmes generally serve a defined population to protect against economic risk caused by a shock, and participation is either compulsory, or the programme is subsidised such that most eligible individuals can participate.

[Definition from OPM (2018)]

Social Protection

Social protection is defined as the set of policies and programmes aimed at preventing or protecting all people against poverty, vulnerability, and social exclusion throughout their lifecycles, with a particular emphasis towards vulnerable groups. Such policies include social insurance; social assistance; social care services ; and labour market regulations/policies. Regarding governance arrangements, social protection is often framed as being state-led and/or aiming to increase state capacity. However, this distinction doesn’t always hold and the lines can be blurred. In conflict situations, development activities may be absent from places that need long-term assistance
because of insecurity; in these cases, non-governmental humanitarian agencies may deliver services that might otherwise be expected to be part of regular development programming. NB. The definition of social protection is somewhat fluid and varies from organisation to organisation, influenced by factors such as political and ideological perspectives and organisational mandates.

[Adapted from Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessments (ISPA) and OPM (2019)]

Social Protection Floor

Nationally defined sets of basic social security guarantees which secure protection aimed at preventing or alleviating poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion

[Definition from ILO]

Social Protection System

Three levels can be considered in terms of what constitutes a social protection system : 1) the overall components that steer everything that is grouped under ‘social protection’: the ministries and other agencies and their mandates, their coordination bodies, their policies and strategies, the laws and regulations they issue, the sector budget and the way its distribution is prioritised; 2) The individual programmes that are the visible face of social protection for households in a country: e.g., the cash transfer programme, the school feeding programme etc.; 3) the delivery systems that underpin the programmes: registration processes, databases, payment mechanisms, M&E frameworks, etc.

[Adapted from OPM (2019)]

Social Registry

Information systems that support outreach, intake, registration, and determination of potential eligibility for one or more social programmes. While originally defined in the context of information systems used social protection schemes, these registries can also potentially be used to inform the design of programmes providing humanitarian assistance (both government-provided and schemes of international humanitarian actors).

[Adapted from Leite et al., 2017]

Social Transfers

Predictable direct transfers – usually provided by governments – to individuals or households, both in-kind and cash to protect them from being affected by shock and support the accumulation of human, productive and financial assets.

[Definition from UNICEF (2019)]


Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies designed to have a relatively stable price, typically through being pegged to a reserve asset such as a fiat currency or exchange-traded commodity e.g., gold.
Stablecoins are designed to reduce volatility relative to unpegged cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Store of Value

A store of value is an asset that reliably maintains its value without depreciating over time and incurring significant losses in terms of purchasing power. Many different types of assets have acted as stores of value (e.g., fiat currency, precious metals, cryptocurrency, stocks, and bonds), although with variations in their reliability and effectiveness.

Subsidies and Fee Waivers

Fee waivers and subsidies , such as food or fuel subsidies, are an indirect means of increasing the value of household income since they reduce the cost of services and items purchased by the household. However, they risk being regressive, delivering greater benefit to less poor households who consume more.

[Adapted from OPM (2018)]

Supply Chain

A supply chain is defined as the entire process of making and selling goods, including every stage from the supply of materials to manufacturing, to distribution and sale. A supply chain can be contained in a single location or spread across a wider geographic area. It can be very simple (for example local egg production) or quite complex involving many firms and crossing international borders.

The use of the term “supply chain” in most humanitarian market analysis focuses strongly on the market actors involved, the linkages between them, and how these linkages might have changed or ruptured over time, for example due to a shock. Steps such as product design, marketing, consumer support, etc. that feature heavily in value chains are largely irrelevant to most market analysis in acute humanitarian crises.

[Partially adapted from REACH and Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS) – Third Edition]

Survivor and Community- led Crisis Response (sclr)

Named by a community of practice under the Local to Global Protection initiative, survivor and community led crisis response (sclr) is an approach for community-led and community driven responses to complement otherwise externally-led humanitarian responses. Sclr can be implemented in long-term, protracted crisis settings; rapid-onset emergencies; slow-onset emergencies; and in resilience programmes. It includes a group cash transfer (GCT) component that it calls “group micro-grants.”

sclr as abbreviation is not capitalised since the approach is not considered a standard method. It is an evolving set of guidance that is constantly amended and contextualised. More information is available here.

[Sourced from Group Cash Transfers Guidance and Tools]

Cash 101: Cash and Voucher Assistance Explained

Explore the Cash 101