Development of the overall conceptual framework:
Save the Children UK and UNICEF experience indicated that social transfers could have a major impact in Africa. In 2008, UNICEF and Save the Children UK identified a potential stumbling block to expansion and effectiveness of social transfer programs in Africa. Despite expanding programs in sub-Saharan Africa, many decision-makers both from national governments and donor governments remained unconvinced that such programs are a worthwhile investment. Many questions were also held by local civil society organizations and the general public, who influence these decision makers and have a stake in government decisions.
In addition, the pressure to further roll-out and scale up such programs is over-taking the evidence base needed to inform such an expansion. Without better evidence there is a risk either of opportunities being missed to roll-out better-designed programs or of a “chicken-and-egg” blockage with the lack of evidence being cited as a reason not to do the scaled-up programs that would provide such evidence.
UNICEF and Save the Children UK therefore began to look at supporting Governments to invest heavily in quality monitoring and evaluation of social transfer programs, as a way of resolving debates about the usefulness and appropriate design of cash transfers and of providing clear useful guidance to decision-makers.
From September 2008 – May 2009, Save the Children UK and UNICEF began a design phase for The Transfer Project. This phase was funded by UNICEF, Save the Children UK and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). During this time, a research team overseen by a reference board comprised of international experts, developed a high quality research design that ensures evidence relevant to decision-makers can be collected during Phase 2 (implementation phase) in a way that is robust and credible and is coordinated with existing monitoring and evaluation of the social transfer programs.
Objectives for the design phase:
- To map existing program design, data collection, and evidence gaps in the five countries, to inform the design of the subsequent evidence-generation project (“Research Phase”).
- To develop an overarching methodological framework for the Research Phase which details the key indicators, data collection and analysis methods, accompanied by bespoke country-specific plans which take into account unique design issues.
- To establish and strengthen key relationships at international and national level to facilitate data collection and analysis, and to ensure that evidence produced is relevant and credible to policy makers and stakeholders.
- To develop a costed, detailed implementation plan for evidence collection, analysis and dissemination, and for translation of this evidence into policy-relevant information for civil society and policy makers.
In total, the research team spent 11 weeks visiting transfer programs in five countries and consulting with some 277 stakeholders from government, donors and civil society. In addition to this, site visits were conducted in each country, where focus groups and semi-structured interviews with beneficiaries were held. During each country visit, the research team, consisting of the lead researcher and research advisor:
- Developed a clear understanding of the country’s transfer program(s), their management and operational structure;
- Consulted with key stakeholders in country on the design of the framework, the development of indicators and methods for collecting and disseminating relevant data;
- Documented details of the country’s transfer program (including data collection systems); identified information gaps and key policy questions; and recommend potential options for filling those information gaps;
- Identified possible in-country partners and existing social protection fora
Five detailed country reports were produced and workshops with key stakeholders held to discuss the findings. Local research partners were also identified. In addition to work at country level, the design phase:
- Established an external reference group consisting of: Harold Alderman, World Bank; Michelle Adato, International Food Policy Research Institute; and Germano Mwabu, University of Nairobi.
- Organized a final design workshop in Nairobi to finalize research framework and implementation plan. Participants included UNICEF and Save the Children UK country teams, government transfer programs and relevant ministries, and external reference group.
- Based on existing evidence, engaged with international stakeholders in order to identify key questions and map evidence gaps, and to begin the process of building broad buy-in and interest in the project’s research, policy engagement and learning objectives.