Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

Appraising productivity enhancing Publics Works Programmes


Written by Anna McCord


Recent years have seen a growing interest in the role of Public Works Programmes (PWP) as social protection responses to chronic poverty, as instruments which promote productivity in the medium term as well as addressing immediate consumption needs through the wage transfer in middle and low income countries.

This toolsheet provides guidance on how to determine whether a PWP will provide ‘productive’ social protection, leading to higher productivity and the graduation of households out of poverty.

By outlining the key design and implementation questions that need to be assessed, it aims to stimulate informed discussions among policy makers, development partners and governments on the selection and design of appropriate social protection instruments.

PWPs are often adopted as the main social protection instrument to address the needs of the working age poor, and implemented alongside unconditional cash transfer programmes for labour constrained households. By promoting productivity at the household and community level ‘productive’ PWPs are expected to reduce ongoing reliance on social protection, and contribute to local economic development.

The critical challenge is to assess whether an intervention is likely to meet the anticipated programme objectives and specified outcomes through a combination of both direct and indirect effects.

This toolsheet discusses six key questions to be reviewed when appraising a PWP aiming to promote productivity:

  1. Is the design appropriate?
  2. Is the PWP likely to promote productivity?
  3. Is the scale of programming meaningful?
  4. Is the proposal cost-effective?
  5. Who benefits from PWP productivity gains?
  6. Have key institutional challenges been taken into account?
Anna McCord