Follow the hand that feeds you? The effects of non-governmental cash transfers on citizenship in rural Uganda

Filippo Grisolia, Sara Dewachter and Nathalie Holvoet

Social cash transfers (CT) are increasingly used as fundamental components of poverty reduction and social protection strategies. Yet, not much is known about how these interventions shape beneficiaries’ citizen-state relations and citizenship in general, and even less evidence is available on how CTs distributed by non-state actors affect the aforementioned variables.
The paper on which this presentation is based analyses how a non-governmental universal unconditional cash transfer, handed out by a foreign NGO in a rural Ugandan village, influenced citizenship, zooming in on effects on recipients’ perceptions of the state, interactions with government representatives and understanding of their rights and responsibilities, all of which could potentially yield repercussions on the broader social contract. The study implements matching techniques and social network analysis (SNA) to explore how the transfer influenced the aforementioned citizenship dimensions over time. Results suggest that the CT generated a positive effect on non-state actor legitimacy, without necessarily causing a lasting negative effect on the legitimacy of the state. Major changes were also recorded in the treatment village’s ‘call-to-action’ network, highlighting evident patterns of change in beneficiaries’ relations with local duty bearers, such as the crowding out of (multiple) local leaders as key actors in the network by an external actor linked to the CT project. These findings confirm the possibility of inducing unintended effects in local communities through cash transfer initiatives implemented by non-state actors.

Keywords: non-governmental cash transfers, social contract, citizenship, social networks, Uganda