NEW YORK, March 7, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Behavioral design lab ideas42 and the World Bank announce a new collaboration that seeks to expand the reach of behavioral innovations in social protection and improve the cost-effectiveness of cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa. The Behavioral Design for Cash Transfer Programs initiative will bring behavioral innovations to cash transfer programs in six countries in the region.
This development follows a kickoff conference in January of this year that focused on identifying and exploring opportunities to add behavioral solutions to national cash transfer programs. Designed to bring together development practitioners and governments keen to innovate their anti-poverty programs, the event also marked the launch of the first multi-country discussion under the initiative umbrella with Kenya, Ghana, and Tanzania.
Cash transfers are increasingly seen as an important part of poverty alleviation and social protection programs in the world's developing economies. However, optimal outcomes of cash transfers to poor families depend on a complex set of decisions and actions beneficiaries must take to save or spend the cash support they receive, all requiring high-level cognitive concentration. Yet, recent research has shown that living in a state of chronic scarcity depletes such concentration.
Transfer beneficiaries represent the most vulnerable households in their communities, and women often make up the majority. If too little attention is paid to the context of delivery, cash support can exacerbate rather than reduce mental burdens, leading to poor decisions and actions that undercut the very goals of the transfer. Behavioral science - the study of how humans make decisions and take action in the real world - offers an innovative approach to increase the social impact of cash transfers, and is at the heart of this new initiative.
To address areas of greatest need, Behavioral Design for Cash Transfer Programs will focus on the dual domains of early childhood development and productive inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa with an emphasis on empowering the most vulnerable members of society, with a particular emphasis on women.
"In a world where cash is rapidly becoming the method of choice for helping society's most vulnerable, we want to make sure that it goes as far as possible towards raising living standards," said Josh Martin, Vice President at ideas42. "As we know from behavioral science, the best way to achieve that is to make sure cash is delivered in a way that relieves psychological as well as financial pressures. Behavioral Design for Cash Transfer Programs paves the way to making that vision a reality for the entire social protection sector."
Additionally, as cash transfer programs continue their expansion into the world's poorest economies, they face growing demands to deliver greater public value-for-money. Behavioral interventions, can help by addressing psychological bottlenecks that prevent people from using their cash according to their own preferences and intentions, thus making cash transfers more effective.
"If cash transfer programs have proven to be effective in improving the living conditions of the poor, behavioral interventions promise to evolve as a powerful innovation to further enhance their effectiveness towards promoting economic and social development goals such as productive inclusion, child development and citizens' empowerment," said Andrea Vermehren, Lead Social Protection Specialist at the World Bank.
Behavioral Design for Cash Transfer Programs represents a focused effort that ideas42 and the World Bank have undertaken in recent years to test the effectiveness of adding behavioral innovations to expanding cash transfer programs. They build on successful and innovative work to apply behavioral insights to cash transfer programs in Madagascar, Mexico, Sudan and elsewhere. The initiative represents an opportunity to create a cohesive set of approaches that can be scaled through the World Banks' Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice and other advocates of innovation in the global fight against poverty. It is funded by the Global Innovation Fund and is scheduled to run through 2021.
About ideas42: We have a clear mission--to use our unique experience as a nonprofit at the forefront of behavioral science to change millions of lives. We create innovative solutions to tough problems in economic mobility, health, education, consumer finance, energy efficiency, criminal justice and international development. Our approach is based on a deep understanding of human behavior and why people make the decisions they do. Working closely with our partners from governments, foundations, NGOs and companies, we have more than 80 active projects in the United States and around the world. Visit our website at ideas42.org or follow us on Twitter @ideas42 for more.
About the World Bank's Social Protection and Jobs Group: This Global Practice supports policies, systems and programs that help individuals and families - especially the poor and vulnerable - cope with crises and shocks, find jobs, invest in the human development of their children, and protect the aging population. The SP & J global practice is central to the World Bank's goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Universal social protection coverage includes: providing social assistance through cash transfers to those who need them, especially children; benefits and support for people of working age in case of maternity, disability, work injury or for those without jobs; and pension coverage for the elderly. Assistance is provided through social insurance, tax-funded social benefits, social assistance services, public works programs and other schemes guaranteeing basic income security. The World Bank Group's annual lending on social protection programs in fiscal year 2017 reached $12.83 billion with $6.43 billion lending in IDA countries, mostly in Africa. Jobs, too, are critical in reducing poverty and promoting prosperity. All countries, regardless of income, face challenges creating and sustaining adequate job opportunities for their citizens. The World Bank Group is ensuring that individuals are equipped and trained with the right skills for the labor market. For more, visit: http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialprotection
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