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Cash, vouchers or in-kind? Guidance on evaluating how transfers are made in emergency programming

Research reports

Written by Simon Levine, Sarah Bailey

When people in emergencies need material support, aid agencies have to choose whether to provide help through the use of cash transfers, vouchers or in-kind aid (such as food rations and shelter materials). This choice is often referred to as the ‘transfer modality’.

Much has been written about how best to make this choice, but when aid programmes are subsequently evaluated, decisions about the transfer modality are rarely reflected upon, making learning and improvement difficult both about the decisions made and the decision-making processes.

This publication is the first set of guidelines to help those commissioning evaluations and evaluators include an assessment of the decision on whether to give out in-kind aid, cash or vouchers.

The guidelines cover how to assess the quality of the decision making (i.e. what was reasonable without the benefit of hindsight) before looking at issues such as effectiveness, impact, cost-effectiveness, gender and protection concerns and risk management.

The guidelines are intended for use as a module within an evaluation. They do not discuss information gathering techniques, which are adequately covered by existing literature. Instead, they focus on the information and analysis needed to ensure that an evaluation includes useful insights on the modality through which emergency aid was given. 

Simon Levine and Sarah Bailey