The social protection mid-term strategies of two big monsters, World Bank and DFID, tell us that cash transfers will be one of the most popular poverty reduction approaches in the coming decades. That is a right thing for the poor.
Looking back into the rising trend of cash transfers in the 2000s, we hardly forget the boom of ‘evidence-based-approach’. That happened almost the same time. Traditionally, researchers focused on the project impact while practitioners stressed the smooth process of project implementation. Cash transfer programmes bridged the awareness gap.
Without almost any exceptions, cash transfer programmes contain an impact evaluation component. The IE commonly adopts the randomised controlled trial (RCT). Then, the boom of RCT and CCT came. When the governments or development agencies like World Bank pilot a cash transfer programme, now it is usual to see the presence of universities or research institutes like the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab to assess the impact. The implementers would then scale up the programme once having the good evidence from the research results.
Evidence-based-approach had been certainly commonplace and nothing new for the research community as creating evidence was a life work for researchers. But as usual, the practitioners need some years or decades to digest a new idea, convince stubborn senior managements and finally implement it. Now the time has come with RCT and cash transfers.
Do cash transfers marry researchers to practitioners? Yes, they do. We are sure that the rising approach will lead poverty reduction policies in this decade. What researchers need to do is to understand the practitioners demands and find the research gap within social protection or cash transfers. What practitioners need to do is to use evidence to design policies and implement programmes with higher impacts.