Addressing the weak link in COVID-19 relief: how improving strategic communications can boost the impact of social protection programs

In response to COVID-19, 212 countries have planned or implemented more than 1,100 social protection programs to help over 1.8 billion people (as of September 2020). But while this looks impressive on paper, many of these programs’ intended recipients don’t know about the programs, or how to access these funds. For example, in India, less than 50% of the intended beneficiaries of the government’s COVID-19 relief package were aware of the benefits available to them. This is because communication around these programs is often weak and poorly targeted. Poor communication results in exclusion, misinformation and rumors, which in turn lead to a negative spiral of perceptions, lack of credibility, and reduced opportunities to optimize the uptake and impact of the programs. Below, we’ll discuss the importance of raising awareness of social protection programs, particularly in light of the pandemic, and explore how governments and program administrators can improve their communication to vulnerable populations. Though this issue is global, we’ll use examples from MSC’s research in India and Indonesia.

Themes: Beneficiary Identification, Targeting, Onboarding, COVID-19, Digital Payment Ecosystems, Financial Inclusion, Monitoring and Grievance Redressal