Cash & Voucher Assistance

In December 2020 Bioforce published “The State of Humanitarian Professions”. Through consultation with nearly 1000 humanitarians, the study provides an invaluable snapshot of humanitarian professions, today. (You can read more about the research here).

  • Many of the findings of the research will be of considerable value to individuals who are involved in, or want to be involved in, humanitarian work. “The State of Humanitarian Professions” offers deep and current insights into the state of 24 key humanitarian professions and their likely futures. 

Through an examination of humanitarian job boards, networks, rosters and information sites, Bioforce’s “The State of Humanitarian Professions” research, published on 11 December 2020, provided some valuable intelligence that is worth delving into. Bioforce identified 24 professions of key importance in the humanitarian sector. Some of these professions are only found in the humanitarian sector including Cash and Voucher Assistance. The Bioforce research provides answers to a number of key questions about CVA:

What are the key characteristics of this profession area?

Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) has been an area of work in the humanitarian sector since 2005, though it had been used decades earlier. CVA is considered a tool for humanitarian response rather than as a function in itself.

The essential areas of work in CVA are: needs analysis of the affected populations; market analysis (establishing the capacity of the local market for direct purchasing of goods by affected populations); and the organisation of cash and voucher distribution to the populations.

CVA can be implemented in all sectors of humanitarian work through both multipurpose cash transfers and sector- specific interventions. Due to this cross-cutting nature, CVA consolidates a large range of humanitarian profession areas: logistics, finance, coordination, and the majority of thematic areas such as Food, WASH, Shelter, and Health. For this reason, CVA is generally not considered as a profession in itself, but a response modality requiring skills across different humanitarian professions.

That said, there is an increasing number of dedicated CVA functions in humanitarian organisations, which Bioforce interviewees defined in two distinguishable categories of function and areas of work:

  • Coordination, advocacy, and strategic work around CVA.
  • Technical functions dedicated to design, implementation, monitoring, and preparedness for cash programming.

It is believed that there are over 50,000 CVA practitioners in the humanitarian sector.

Interviewees identified a general tendency for CVA coordination and strategy positions to be held by international staff with national staff occupying functions related to CVA implementation. All interviewees confirmed that the demand for CVA positions is far greater than the supply, mainly due to the rapid growth of CVA activity within the sector.

There is no set qualification used to recruit CVA professionals and the tendency is for organisations to either recruit experienced staff within the humanitarian sector or “grow their own”. Very few people are recruited to CVA positions directly from outside of the humanitarian sector but finance programming, market assessment, and public or private sector CVA backgrounds can be a way in. Once in a CVA function, there is a tendency for people to remain and specialise in this area of work.

Which competencies in this profession area are specific to humanitarian work?

Interviewees and survey respondents suggested that there are various knowledge, skills and attitudes that are particularly relevant for humanitarian CVA professionals in comparison with CVA practitioners in other sectors like the social services or private sector. There was general agreement that it is essential to have a thorough understanding of how the humanitarian system works, response techniques and strategies, and humanitarian principles and law, coupled with a commitment to human rights. In turn, these affect the way that technical activities are undertaken – assessments, plans, implementation, and evaluations are all done with accountability principles in mind and an overall focus on ensuring the best interests of the affected community.

It was also mentioned that an understanding of the specificities of market-based programming in humanitarian setting is important. In addition, humanitarian CVA practitioners need to have human empathy and the capacity to work in crisis contexts. Interviewees also highlighted that being committed to CVA is a commitment to empowerment, by putting the those affected by disaster first.

What infrastructure exists to support professionalisation in this area?

CaLP (Cash Learning Partnership) is the most widely recognised humanitarian CVA professional body and holds amongst its members most of the leading organisations in CVA within the sector. CaLP has developed a widely recognised CVA competency framework. The Red Cross/ Red Crescent movement has also developed a technical competency framework for CVA.

CaLP offers a range of training courses directly and through a number of training partner organisations (RedR, Bioforce, Key Aid Consulting). Online learning and development is also available via the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. Many large organisations have their own CVA staff development learning platforms, some of which (for example the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are open to all. PHAP offers a CVA certification (developed with CaLP) although it is relatively new and not yet widely used. One of the challenges for the training offers is to keep up with the sector’s rapidly evolving CVA strategies and techniques.

Despite the fact that some basic training is available free on-line, the Bioforce interviewees considered that, on the whole, there is not enough access to training for local organisations who do not have the resources. More generally, it appears that there are not enough training opportunities in relation to the growing number of CVA activities and practitioners.

What is changing in this profession area?

Interviews and survey respondents highlighted a number of areas of change in Humanitarian CVA:

  • A rapid increase in the use of CVA in humanitarian action has led to an increase in the number of dedicated CVA implementation positions.
  • The growth of cash programming has also changed the way many non-CVA staff undertake their work. It is likely that many support functions and sectoral specialist roles will progressively need to include more and more CVA related competencies.

There are a number of new CVA operational models being developed currently (e.g., Collaborative Cash Delivery run by INGOs, the UN Common Cash model). As experience of cash grows, greater understanding and input from affected communities will affect the way CVA is implemented.

Innovations and technological advancements have created new opportunities (faster delivery of cash, personalised programming and feedback) but also risks (data protection, counter terrorism). Work is ongoing to understand and balance these.

CVA has increased NGO – private sector interaction and organisations are learning to work effectively with each other.

Useful links and references

The CaLP glossary:

CaLP. The State of the World’s Cash Report 2018 CaLP. Global Framework for Action:

CaLP. CTP Competency Framework:

CashHub. Learning Resources:

CaLP. Capacity Building:

PHAP. CVA Certification Resources:

Kaya Connect Online Learning



Author: Vitas Consult