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Chicken or Egg? A Bi-directional Analysis of Social Protection and Social Cohesion in Burundi and Haiti

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A Correction to this article was published on 25 April 2022

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A limited but growing number of studies point to mixed effects of social protection on social cohesion. Relatively little is known about the role of social cohesion on access to and impact of social protection. Based on in-depth qualitative research in Burundi and Haiti, this paper explores the bi-directional relationship between social protection and social cohesion. The analysis focuses on horizontal forms of social cohesion within a particular set of comprehensive interventions that provide bundled packages of support to the poorest and most vulnerable. We find that programmes strengthened attributes of social cohesion, such as dignity and positive identity. They also hampered elements of cohesion such as sense of belonging and togetherness. Stronger cohesion, mediated through community trust and collaboration, fostered positive programme impacts. The paper concludes that social dynamics at community, family and individual levels should receive greater attention in design and implementation of social protection to avoid unintended consequences and maximise programme impact across social and other dimensions.


Quelques études, dont le nombre est d’ailleurs en augmentation, font état des effets mitigés de la protection sociale sur la cohésion sociale. On sait relativement peu de choses sur le rôle que peut jouer la cohésion sociale sur l'accès à la protection sociale et sur son impact. Cet article est tiré d’une étude qualitative approfondie au Burundi et en Haïti. Il explore la relation bidirectionnelle entre la protection sociale et la cohésion sociale. L'analyse se concentre sur les formes horizontales de cohésion sociale au sein d'un ensemble d'interventions complètes qui fournissent des services groupés de soutien aux personnes les plus pauvres et les plus vulnérables. Nous constatons que les programmes ont renforcé certains aspects de la cohésion sociale, tels que la dignité et l'identité positive. Ils ont également entravé d’autres aspects de la cohésion, tels que le sentiment d'appartenance et de proximité. Une cohésion plus forte, reflétée par la confiance et la collaboration au sein des communautés, a favorisé l’impact positif du programme. L’article conclut que les dynamiques sociales aux niveaux communautaire, familial et individuel devraient faire l'objet d'une plus grande attention lors de la conception et de la mise en œuvre des programmes de protection sociale afin d'éviter des conséquences imprévues et de maximiser l'impact social du programme, entre autres.

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This research was made possible with funding from Concern Worldwide (Burundi) and the British Academy, grant EC170207 (Haiti).

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Correspondence to Keetie Roelen.

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The original online version of this article was revised: Due to an unfortunate oversight during the correction process two references have been given erroneously.

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Roelen, K., Leon-Himmelstine, C. & Kim, S.K. Chicken or Egg? A Bi-directional Analysis of Social Protection and Social Cohesion in Burundi and Haiti. Eur J Dev Res 34, 1216–1239 (2022).

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