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Transforming cash transfers: beneficiary and community perspectives on social protection programming

Transforming Cash Transfers investigated beneficiary and community perspectives on cash transfer programmes in five countries – Kenya, Mozambique, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (both Gaza and West Bank), Uganda and Yemen.

This DFID-funded study employed participatory and qualitative approaches, including participatory photography, to amplify marginalised voices that otherwise might not be heard. In using a variety of approaches and facilitating alternative means of expression, a rich body of research was generated alongside tailored programme and policy recommendations which can complement more standard quantitative impact assessments.


The Transforming Cash Transfers synthesis report and briefing are available here, while other outputs from this project are listed at the bottom of this webpage. 

Country Reports

Click on the pins on the map below to access links to the country reports. Or, links to the reports are available via the carousel below the map. 

Frequently asked questions

What are cash transfer programmes?

Cash transfer programmes are being widely adopted by governments in developing countries to tackle extreme poverty.  Instead of transfers in kind (typically in the form of food), poor households receive a small cash subsidy to help cover their basic needs.

Frequently asked questions

What are the advantages?

  • Households have more choice over what the cash is used for
  • Cash is more easily delivered than food
  • Once set up cash transfer programmes are relatively cheap and easy to administer
  • Centralised data systems enable more accurate targeting of those most in need and the potential to make linkages to complementary services (e.g. reproductive health services, legal aid, etc.)

However, opinion is divided on several counts. For instance:

  • Do cash transfers represent the best approach to social protection compared to say microfinance?
  • Is access to social protection a basic human right that should be provided by governments?
  • Do cash transfers create a culture of dependency?
  • Should cash transfers only be an emergency response?
  • Rather than promoting social inclusion, could cash transfers actually have socially divisive effects?
  • How much impact can cash transfers really have in contexts of widespread poverty and social need?
  • Should beneficiaries meet certain conditions in order to receive cash?
  • Is cash on its own a sustainable solution?
  • Are cash transfers expecting too much out of women for too little reward?

Frequently asked questions

Are there any examples of success?

Yes – just look at Latin America where CTs reach over 100 million people and, in addition to reducing extreme poverty have:

  • Reduced inequality
  • Increased children’s attendance at school and health clinics
  • Allowed households to accumulate small savings to better cope with health shocks, or to invest in housing or livestock.

In Malawi, the Zomba Cash Transfer Programme (ZCTP)  which incentivises schoolgirls and recent dropouts to stay in or return to school with ten US dollars per month has had some tangible successes:

  • After 1 year there were significant declines in early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and self-reported sexual activity.
  • For those girls that were not in school at the beginning of the programme, the probability of getting married or becoming pregnant declined by more than 40% and 30%, respectively.

Further positive effects include:

  • Being able to afford to send children and grandchildren to school
  • Increasing access to credit when needed
  • Feeling a greater sense of self-respect and social-standing when they no longer need to depend on others for charity
  • Reductions in intra-household tensions

However, for all these positive effects of cash transfers, it is those programmes linked to health, nutrition and education services, as well as access to legal aid and information about rights, and which help households to secure sustainable livelihoods which have the greater potential to tackle poverty and transform lives.

If poverty is the result of a lack of education, skills and jobs combined with precarious livelihoods then tackling poverty effectively ultimately depends on CTs being part of an integrated approach to social protection and providing poor people with routes out of poverty.

Photography by cash transfer beneficiaries

ODI worked with PhotoVoice, a charity specialising in the delivery of participatory photography programmes, to facilitate  workshops in Kenya and Mozambique. As well as being an empowering tool in itself the techniques helped to generate rich insights into the lived experiences of cash transfer beneficiaries. 

Frequently asked questions

What is Photovoice?

Photovoice is a form of participatory photography and is a collaborative methodology in which often-marginalised or disadvantaged participants are supported to generate their own photographic work in order to share lived experiences and present the world as they see it.  In doing so, individuals and communities gain tools and opportunities to create knowledge, understanding and imagery about the issues that are affecting them. By creating alternatives to mainstream modalities of expression, individuals are facilitated to speak, be heard and be seen having previously been excluded.

Frequently asked questions

How does Photovoice work?

Initially, a facilitator will work with participants to teach camera and photography techniques as well as deliver fun learning activities to stimulate creative thought around using photos to express emotions and opinions. Participants are then free to photograph aspects of their environment, relationships and daily life as they see fit, and are  supported to tell the stories behind their photos. At times these stories can very literal in relation to the images shown, at others they may evoke more symbolic or abstract narratives. Whatever the case, participants choose what they wish to share and develop their own captions.

Frequently asked questions

How did we use Photovoice in this project?

ODI called upon the experience and expertise of PhotoVoice, a charity specialising in the delivery of participatory photography programmes, to facilitate participatory photography workshops in Kenya, with orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs) and Mozambique, with people living with disabilities. As well as being an empowering tool in itself the techniques helped to generate rich insights into the lived experiences of cash transfer beneficiaries. The photographs and the digital stories produced have allowed people all over the world to find out from the individuals themselves, what they think about the money they receive and how it has affected their lives.

Kenya workshops

Experienced PhotoVoice facilitator, Lucy Williams and ODI’s Hanna Alder travelled to Kenya to run workshops with young people in Kwakavisi (3 hours south of Nairobi) over a two weeks. Twenty children attended from the local area – ten in the morning (10-14 year olds) and ten in the afternoon (14-17 year olds).  As orphans and vulnerable children many of them live with carers and extended family.  It didn’t take the children long to get technology savvy and they loved taking the cameras home at night. Most of the children made images showing how their lives had changed for the better through the money received, and some explored how they felt their lives would be different if they were not benefiting in this way. A big community celebration was held at the end where the community and family and friends of the participants got to see the work and leave their feedback.

Mozambique workshops

PhotoVoice Project Manager, Matt Daw travelled to Chokwe, a rural town in the province of Gaza in Mozambique to work with adults living with disabilities. Six adults with a range of disabilities attended the introductory workshop, were trained to use the cameras and how to communicate experiences and messages through photographs. Matt then visited each participant in their home over three days, and supporting them to communicate what they felt was important to share about their experience as disabled adults in the community and as recipients of cash transfers. The participants included two wheelchair users, an amputee, a partially deaf man, a man with a neurological condition affecting speech and motor functions, and a blind man. PhotoVoice's Sensory Photography methodology was used to make photography enjoyable and accessible to all - including the blind participant who was at first intrigued to know how he would be able to take part.

Frequently asked questions

Statement of ethics

Ensuring informed consent, protecting the participants’ best interests and promoting their wellbeing at all times were of paramount importance and our principal concerns throughout this project. For more information please refer to the PhotoVoice Statement of Ethical Practice.

Multimedia clips


Digital stories 

These 11 digital stories explore the need for social justice in social protection programming and show the lived experiences of cash transfer beneficiaries in Kenya, Mozambique, and Gaza. Click on the arrow to the right on the bar below to scroll through the different clips. 

Talking heads

Interviews with Dr Nicola Jones, Senior Research Fellow ODI, and Matt Daw, Projects Manager at PhotoVoice. Click on the arrows to view the two clips. 


Interviews with female head-of-households, and their family, about the impacts of cash transfers. Click on the arrows to scroll through the different clips. 


Nicola Jones, Paola Pereznieto, Agnieszka Malachowska, Hanna Alder, Catriona Webster

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