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Needs Assesment

Thoughts on designing a national social safety net

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Social protection programs are essential to creating resilient communities that can withstand crises, but they are also difficult to implement. Improving preparedness is an important task going forward.

Portrait young woman in IndiaOver at the IDS blog, Stephen Devereux outlined ten steps to the design and implementation of a national social protection (SP) programme. It's a useful list for SP practitioners and local policymakers – a ten-point check-list; an useful starting point. I found interesting in particular, the point on ‘needs assessments’:

Needs assessment: A social protection system should not be an off-the-shelf blueprint, but must be grounded in local analysis of social protection needs, which can be derived from national poverty surveys and other secondary sources. Who are the poor and food insecure? What are the drivers of poverty and vulnerability? By comparing the needs assessment with the policy mapping, a gaps analysis can be conducted that will inform the development of the social protection strategy.

Determining who the deserving beneficiaries are, and the value (in cash and/or kind) of the transfers is critical. At the very least, this calls for a reasonably sophisticated statistical capacity in the countries designing these policies for themselves, which poses a significant challenge.

Theories of Change, Stakeholders, Imagined Beneficiaries, & Stealing from Product Design. That is, Meet ‘Mary.’

Heather Lanthorn's picture

I have been thinking a lot about ‘theories of change’ this week (as I was here).  Actually, I have been thinking more about ‘conceptual models,’ which was the term by which I was first introduced to the general idea* and the term I still prefer because it implies more uncertainty and greater scope for tinkering than does ‘theory.’ (I accept that ‘theory of change’ has been branded and that I have to live with it, but I don’t have to like it.)

Regardless of the term, the approach of thinking seriously about how behavioral, social and economic change happens is important but often overlooked during the planning stages of projects/programs/policies and linked evaluations. Moreover, they are glossed over in the analysis and reporting stages, left to academic speculation in the discussion section of an evaluation paper and not informed by talking systematically to those people who were intended to benefit from the program.

I think there is growing recognition that building a theory of change is something that should happen, at least in part, backwards (among other places where this is discussed is in ‘evidence-based policy’ with the idea of a ‘pre-mortem‘ and ‘thinking step-by-step and thinking backwards‘).  That is, you start with the end goal, usually some variant of ‘peace,’ ‘satisfaction,’ ‘wellbeing,’ ‘capabilities,’** etc., in mind and work backwards as to how you are going to get there from here.