Monitoring and evaluation: How should we measure the relationship between cash transfers and disaster resilience?

by 03rd Jul 2017
Lizzy Hofisi and her husband Robert, participants in the CARE cash transfer programme in Masvingo, Zimbabwe Lizzy Hofisi and her husband Robert, participants in the CARE cash transfer programme in Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Cash transfers have gained significant momentum over the past few years. Various studies demonstrate that cash-based responses have the potential to support longer-term gains beyond consumption. For that reason, stakeholders in the humanitarian sector are increasingly exploring new ways to measure the breadth of changes that cash can generate in people’s lives, in particular related to households’ capacities to deal with shocks and stresses, manage risks and transform livelihoods to cope with hazards and opportunities.

CARE recently completed an evaluation study (forthcoming, July 2017) based on experiences in three cash transfer programmes (CTPs) where CARE delivered cash transfers: Zimbabwe, Niger and Ethiopia. The CTPs in Niger and Ethiopia were conditional, unrestricted cash (Cash for Work) and part of a wider multi-sectoral programme which included livelihoods, governance and disaster resilience support. The CTP in Zimbabwe was a multi-purpose unconditional transfer and it represented the most important component of this initiative. The study specifically explores how resilience in cash transfers can be measured and evaluated.

Diagnostic of MEAL framework for 3 programmes

The study considers the four dimensions of CARE’s Resilience Framework and how they were embedded across MEAL frameworks for selected programmes:

  • Anticipation: To foresee and therefore reduce the impact of hazards that is likely to occur through prevention, preparedness and planning.
  • Absorption: To accommodate immediate consequences of shocks and stresses by optimising practices, behaviours, skills and available resources in adverse conditions.
  • Adaptation: To adjust behaviours, practices, and livelihood strategies in response to evolving circumstances and conditions under multiple and complex risks.
  • Transformation: To enable individual and systemic changes on behaviours, local governance, decision-making processes, markets, and policies.

The methodology applied to investigate MEAL practice was divided into two steps: 1) a review of all available surveys, datasets and methodologies and 2) categorisation of each indicator (for a total of 648) according to its relationship to one or more dimensions of resilience. This analysis produced an overview of coverage, gaps and strengths/weaknesses of MEAL approaches across programmes, which served to identify core indicators that best explain areas of change related to cash transfers.

Table of core indicators and relationship to resilience

What are the key recommendations to improve the measurement of CTPs in the context of the identified indicators?

Measure only what is needed, but broaden the scope of what is measured

Long and repeated surveys can cause fatigue, non-response rates and response bias. A way to mitigate over-generation of information is to decide on what is critical at the design stage in a way to be consistent with CARE’s resilience framework. The selected programmes favour the analysis of absorptive and adaptive capacities whereas the correlation between cash transfers and transformative and anticipatory capacities are dimensions to include as well.

Develop and apply harmonised core indicators for each of the four resilience capacities

To avoid duplication and the addition of new indicators, the proposed list of indicators should be used in all evaluations and monitoring cycles. These should be considered as standards for measuring resilience in all cash-based interventions since, if applied consistently, the data produced can be compared across programme portfolio, timelines and regions. The utilisation of harmonised indicators can serve the purpose to generate robust, longitudinal datasets which can complement the base of evidence for external evaluations.

Develop and apply harmonised methodologies for baseline, mid-line, end-line and post-distribution monitoring surveys

To complement the core indicators, a toolkit of standardised research and sampling methods which can be customised to any programme or geography would be helpful to assess the kind of resources and expertise needed to generate a specific kind of information. Importantly, the methodologies are most powerful if applied longitudinally over the whole implementation phase to measure and monitor changes along a timeline.

Nicola Giordano

Nicola was formerly the Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) Specialist within the Programme Management Team at CARE International UK. His main background is in the analysis of large-scale research and impact assessment studies. In his role at CARE International UK, he was responsible for providing technical and strategic support across CARE's portfolio to ensure that changes led by development interventions are logically framed, well-captured, triangulated and shared at different levels.

Nicola's main areas of interests are: data analytics applied to the third sector; digital means to generate evidence; and inclusive project design that can assure feedback loops between implementing partners and targeted communities. Before joining CARE, Nicola worked for a number of governmental, non-governmental and private organisations in the development sector at the international and national level.