Policy expertise

Monitoring social safety net programmes: Developing a framework for practitioners

Policy Area
Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC)
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This project has provided a framework and evidence base for more effective monitoring of Social Safety Net (SSN) programmes. While the importance of SSNs as important poverty reduction strategies is widely documented, the establishment of robust programme monitoring systems is often disregarded despite being a ‘hallmark of good public management’(Grosh et al, 2008). We were commissioned by COMCEC to address this issue by conducting an in-depth assessment of existing systems and developing a conceptual framework that describes the supply and demand side factors that affect the design and use of monitoring within SSNs. the study was based on an extensive literature review, phone interviews in the 57 countries and in depth qualitative research in five selected Case Studies: Mozambique, Uganda, Tunisia, Indonesia and Pakistan. Over the longer-term, improved monitoring should promote better programme design, improved implementation and ultimately, greater impact.

Monitoring of social sector projects is considered a “hallmark of good public management” (Grosh et al, 2008) and a fundamental tool to improve programme design, solve problems in programme implementation, ensure accountability, and help with budgeting. Despite this, few countries prioritise the development of a comprehensive monitoring system for their flagship Social Safety Net programmes.

This study was established to address this issue in two ways: By developing a conceptual framework for policy makers keen to improve monitoring practices and by drawing out key lessons learnt and best practice examples from an assessment of monitoring systems in a representative sample of COMCEC countries.


Our team used both primary and secondary research methods to develop a conceptual framework describing the supply- and demand-side factors that affect the effective monitoring of Social Safety Net programmes. In particular, the framework emphasised how to provide reliable, high-quality information as well as ensuring this information is effectively used by the relevant stakeholders.

In addition, the team conducted an assessment of monitoring practices in 57 COMEC countries based on extensive literature and documentation reviews and telephone interviews. The information gathered was used to construct an evidence base incorporating in-depth case studies and best practice examples to draw strategic recommendations from.

Specific services provided by the team included:

  • Development of a conceptual framework for the study, focusing on the supply- and demand- side aspects that contribute to a successful monitoring system
  • Literature review of the (scarce) academic and grey literature on the topic of monitoring for Social Safety Nets
  • Desk review, phone interviews and email interviews of monitoring practices in 57 COMCEC countries worldwide
  • In depth Case Studies of SSNs in five sampled countries: Mozambique (PSSB), Uganda (SAGE), Tunisia (PNAFN), Indonesia (RASKIN) and Pakistan (CDCP)
  • Development of policy recommendations based on the evidence
  • Participation in an international workshop featuring representatives from COMCEC, the UNDP, the Islamic Development Bank and representatives from 18 countries

In light of the scarce literature on the topic, our report has helped define the debate around monitoring for Social Safety Nets. It provides a platform to help practitioners develop strong monitoring indicators, link these to a comprehensive set of data sources and set up the institutional arrangements needed to make sure the system is adopted. It also provides food for thought on the demand side barriers that hinder the uptake of monitoring practice more systematically.

Our findings, practical recommendations and guidance were disseminated in an end-of-project workshop attended by representatives of social sector ministries from 18 different countries. Over the longer-term, the application of the framework and evidence developed in this project should help support the design and implementation of more effective monitoring systems for Social Safety Net programmes. In turn, this should lead to programme design improvements and greater impact for a larger number of programme recipients.