Impact assessment review of IFPRI’s research program on social protection, 2000–2012

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the CGIAR Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) commissioned and recently released an ex-post impact assessment review of the IFPRI’s social protection research program for the period 2000–2012. Completed by the group of experts from TANGO International, the report and accompanying brief are now available online and can be useful for researchers, partners and stakeholders interested in social protection research and programs in developing countries.

IFPRI’s research program on social protection seeks to understand the impact pathways of alternative interventions for building human capital and reducing poverty, and how this can contribute to innovative policy and program design that enhances the quality, reach, and impacts of such interventions in the short- and long-term. PIM supports this work through its Flagship 4: Improved Social Protection for Vulnerable Populations.

This assessment includes an extensive review of public goods produced by the program and stakeholder perceptions of those public goods, as well as case studies and policy changes that resulted from this research between 2000 and 2012. Over 40 interviews were conducted with national stakeholders, donors, IFPRI staff, government officials, and individuals who participated in or had knowledge of IFPRI’s activities regarding social protection during this timeframe.

Main findings

Between 2000 and 2012, IFPRI’s social protection research activities led to over 350 publications—journal articles, policy briefs, reports, discussion papers, etc., many of which are published in good quality journals and/or are highly cited. Together they provided relevant, high-quality, evidence-based research on a wide range of topics related to social protection broadly and contributed greatly to the body of knowledge regarding social protection and social safety nets, and particularly of conditional cash transfers (CCT). By mid-decade, the program was considered by stakeholders to have contributed to a global “evaluation culture” in regard to social-protection and safety-net programming. Additionally, stakeholders felt that IFPRI’s research activities influenced government policies in a number of countries:

  • In Mexico, IFPRI’s work with PROGRESA was key to government acceptance of the importance of using evidence in developing social-protection policies and programming. Although now known as Prospera, many of PROGRESA’s original elements remain intact nearly 18 years later.
  • IFPRI’s work with the Red de Protección Social in Nicaragua provided the government with evidence that would be used to make adjustments in implementation between the pilot and expansion of the program, such as eliminating a weight-gain requirement, increasing communications and monitoring to improve understanding of program elements by beneficiaries, use of geographic rather than household targeting, and provision of a small benefit to teachers from nonbeneficiary households with children.
  • As a result of IFPRI’s evaluation of the Bolsa Alimentaçao CCT program in Brazil, its successor program, Bolsa Família, changed its targeting approach to no longer target households with underweight children. IFPRI’s influence also resulted in inclusion of a monitoring and evaluation system.
  • IFPRI’s evaluation of Bangladesh’s Rural Rationing Program in the early 1990s resulted in its replacement with one of the first ever Food-for-Work programs, which provided a monthly ration of grains conditional on school attendance by primary-aged students from poor households. IFPRI subsequently conducted several assessments from which the Government of Bangladesh would make informed policy decisions regarding both its primary and secondary school educational systems, including better targeting in its primary and secondary schools, providing stipends to boys from poor households at the secondary level, and increasing the transfer amount to include opportunity costs of attending school.
  • IFPRI conducted several studies on food versus cash transfer programs not only on school outcomes but also on food security and livelihoods, the findings from which influenced the World Food Programme's (WFP) social-protection policy (for example, the type and size of transfers).
  • Recommendations from a recent IFPRI performance evaluation of the World Bank-funded Employment Generation Program for the Poorest to be implemented by the Government of Bangladesh include better targeting, a quota for female participation, direct deposit of payments, and improved program monitoring systems.
  • In Ethiopia, IFPRI’s studies suggest that social safety-net programs can in fact be effective in poor countries where administrative resources and capacity, as well as physical infrastructure, are often limited. IFPRI’s multiple studies of the Productive Safety Nets Programme (PSNP) have influenced the appropriate wage for public works beneficiaries, graduation criteria, targeting, and the timing of payment to beneficiaries.

Featured image: Jefferson Rudy/Agência Senado, Flickr

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