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Funds for peace? Examining the transformative potential of social funds

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Written by Richard Mallett, Rachel Slater

​Social funds and large-scale community driven development (CDD) programmes are a popular policy instrument in post-conflict situations. This is partly because they are seen to alleviate pressure on governments to deliver development and reconstruction outcomes by transferring resources and responsibilities to community actors. However, part of their popularity can also be explained by claims that social funds and CDD programmes have the (transformative) potential to generate impacts beyond meeting basic needs, such as creating more peaceful societies at the local level and promoting trust in government. Drawing on a rigorous, evidence focused literature review, which began with researchers following a formal systematic review protocol, this practice note assesses the performance of 13 programmes against three distinct sets of impact indicators: (i) incomes, enterprise and access to services; (ii) social cohesion, stability and violence; and (iii) state-society relations. It is concluded that, although our understanding of the effectiveness of social funds and CDD in conflict-affected environments is limited by a low number of rigorous evaluations across a diverse range of contexts, as well as by an insufficient investigation of the relevant causal mechanisms, the findings so far suggest cause for cautious optimism.
Richard Mallett, Rachel Slater