From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers and Impact Evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa

This book presents a detailed overview of the impact evaluations of cash transfer programmes, carried out by the Transfer Project and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)'s From Protection to Production project. There is a focus on the role of programme evaluation in the process of developing policies and implementing programmes.

This resource and the following information was contributed to BetterEvaluation by Nikola Balvin, knowledge management specialist of the UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti.

Authors and their affiliation


  • Benjamin Davis, Strategic Programme Leader, Rural Poverty Reduction, FAO
  • Sudhanshu Handa, Professor, Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Chief, Social and Economic Policy, UNICEF Office of Research
  • Nicola Hypher, Senior Social Protection Adviser, FAO
  • Natalia Winder Rossi, Senior Social Protection Officer
  • Paul Winters, Director, Strategic Planning and Impact Assessment, International Fund for Agricultural Development; Professor, Department of Economics, American University
  • Jennifer Yablonski, Social Protection Specialist, UNICEF

Published by: 

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund
  • Oxford University Press

Year of publication


Type of resource


Key features

The book provides an overview of key research uptake and impact lessons gathered over 10 years as part of the Transfer Project – a consortium of impact evaluations of government-led cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa. Using case studies from 8 countries (Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe), the book focuses on how evidence from evaluations was used to catalyze policy and programme change in the social protection arena. The lessons – each accompanied by real experiences across multiple contexts – include:

  1. Make sure evaluations are linked to national policy priorities
  2. Stronger relationships lead to improved policy linkages
  3. Diversify research products over the evaluation timeline
  4. Don’t overlook the importance of packaging evidence
  5. Create regional learning communities
  6. Build local capacity

Who is this resource useful for?

  • Advocates for evaluation;
  • Commissioners/managers of evaluation;
  • Evaluation users;
  • Evaluators;
  • Those involved in evaluation capacity strengthening;
  • Other – Policymakers (including government officials), donors and cash transfer programme implementers

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

The book is extremely useful for understanding how research can be designed and implemented to influence policy and practice. The country case studies provide examples of what was done to increase research uptake and the lessons that were learned along the way. Theoretical discussions on how to design research for impact are important, but most of us learn best from hearing actual examples of what was done, who was involved, when and how. This book is a first-of-its-kind capture of these experiences in the context of cash transfer impact evaluations in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Why would you recommend it to other people?

The book provides a wealth of knowledge and experience gathered over 10 years of implementing impact evaluations for the purposes of influencing government policies to improve the conditions of the most vulnerable populations. The strength of the evidence and the way in which stakeholders engaged with it has been successful in galvanizing government support for cash transfers all over sub-Saharan Africa. For example in Zambia, encouraged by the findings, the Government boosted its budget allocation for the transfer program from US$3.5 million (in 2013) to 30 million in just one year (2014).

While we have many materials that guide us on how to design methodologically sound evaluations, much less is written on how to implement evaluations in a way that leads to maximum uptake and impact. ‘From Evidence to Action’ offers an honest account of what worked and didn’t work and contributes to an important dialogue in international development about the use of evidence for creating positive social and economic change.

Read Nikola Balvin and Amber Peterman's blog: Lessons on turning evidence into action from the Transfer Project

In this guest blog, Amber Peterman and Nikola Balvin, of the UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti, discuss some of the key lessons about evaluating research impact from the recent publication, From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers and Impact Evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa.



Davis, B.; Handa, S.; Hypher, N.; Rossi, N. W.; Winters, P.; Yablonski, J. (Eds.) (2016). From Evidence to Action: The story of cash transfers and impact evaluation in sub-Saharan Africa