About the Social Protection and Social Policy Programme

The Social Protection and Social Policy Programme supports the design and implementation of effective social protection policy and systems.
women's self-help group provide access to micro-finance loans (Flickr: mckaysavage http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/2229752965/)

Social protection – which encompasses the range of publicly mandated actions that seek to address risk and vulnerability among poor and near-poor households – is an important mechanism to reduce poverty among the poorest, particularly those excluded from the benefits of mainstream growth. Even if the Millennium Development Goals are met, more than one billion people will still live in poverty. Inequitable global growth means many are excluded from its benefits, yet social protection is not a priority in many poor countries.

We therefore work in partnership with stakeholders that play a role in shaping and funding social protection in these countries to better enable the development of effective social protection policy and programming.


The way we work - our methods and services

We aim to support the design and implementation of effective social protection policy and programming in poor countries.

The variety of interests and backgrounds in our team is central to the way we work. We follow a core methodology to encourage cross-disciplinary work - this draws on a wide range of methodological and analytical tools, from Drivers of Change analysis to econometrics and modelling.

Cutting-edge inter-disciplinary research and poverty analysis

Drawing on a wide range of methodological and analytical tools – including qualitative and quantitative tools and economic, political and social analysis - we use high-quality applied research to explore appropriate social protection policy and programme design which addresses risk, vulnerability and poverty at the community, household and intra-household level. Our use of sound poverty and social analysis is also informed by our work experiences in a variety of country contexts – post-conflict, fragile states and low income countries - to ensure a solid contextual analysis. Our completed projects and research reports demonstrate the high-quality research previously carried out by the Programme.

Policy advisory work

Our high quality applied research is used to provide practical policy advice to governments, donors and other international agencies. Recent examples of our work in this area include:

  • DFID (Department for International Development UK) – providing Central Policy Division and Country Offices policy guidance on the linkages between social protection and agricultural growth.
  • UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) – providing policy recommendations to West and Central Africa Regional Office and national offices to inform the development of UNICEF’s regional and national social protection strategies.
  • A stock-take of social protection programmes in Malawi commissioned by the World Bank contributed to the development of Malawi’s National Social Protection Policy

Policy and programme design and implementation

We have contributed to the design of social protection policy and programmes in a wide range of countries:

  • Government of Uganda Pilot Cash Transfer Project

  • Oxfam Emergency Cash Transfer Project in Malawi and Zambia

  • Social protection components of rural livelihoods programmes in India

Monitoring and Evaluation

The Social Protection Programme is regularly commissioned to undertake social protection programme evaluations. Recent work includes:

  • World Vision commissioned study on the impact of a pilot cash transfer programme on gender relations in Lesotho, 2008

  • Impact evaluation of the Malawi Fertiliser Subsidy Programme, 2007

Supporting and facilitating policy dialogue

Our programme contributes to national and international debates on social protection both directly and indirectly.

We work directly on policy dialogues with development partners, where we are contracted to a) synthesise or generate new evidence to support policy decision-making; b) provide policy advice, and c) facilitating policy dialogues or providing lesson-learning/training opportunities.

Indirectly we aim to communicate and disseminate our research findings to wider audiences to inform wider policy debate and appropriate social protection programme design by tailoring our messages and channels of communication. ODI publishes a range of resources on social protection, including publications, and a number of public meetings and events.

Our partnerships in ODI and beyond

Our team also works across ODI and in partnership with a range of stakeholders that play a role in shaping and funding social protection in poor countries.

  • With the Growth, Poverty and Inequality programme we focus on the role of social protection in supporting inclusive growth.

  • Our policy research and advisory work with the Social Development Programme focuses on improving the understanding of the specific nature of economic and social vulnerability among particular social groups to enable better policy and programme design and support better targeting.

  • We have a number of integrated research projects with the Humanitarian Policy Group where we explore policy and programming options for social protection across the relief/emergency – development continuum.

  • In partnership with the Protected Livelihoods and Agricultural Growth Programme we are exploring the role of food and cash-based safety for tackling hunger and food prices shocks, and the role of social protection in building labour markets and migration.

  • With the Rights in Action programme we are exploring the rights-based case for social protection and the role that a rights-based approach could play in improving social protection delivery.

  • We work with the Climate Change, Environment and Forests Programme to strengthen analysis on the potential for social protection to support climate change adaptation.

Our external partners include a range of donor agencies, country governments, research organisations in developing countries, and international and local NGOs.