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Informing the design and development of a new, integrated management information system for China’s cash transfers

A Chinese urban area

Developing an integrated management information system is a vital component for building a comprehensive national social protection system. Without an integrated MIS in place, the opportunity to gain a comprehensive picture of the performance of schemes is lost and ensuring the effective and responsive delivery of benefits to citizens is much more difficult. In addition, the ability to promote transparency and efficiency and limit fraud are weakened.

But successful implementation of integrated management information systems (IMIS) are often a challenge. In developing country contexts staff may not have the required skills and equipment may not be available. Therefore, choices and trade-offs need to be considered when setting up an IMIS.

This is why UNICEF China needed the expertise of a consultancy with expertise in the field to review global practices on integrated social protection MISs. This would capture the problems that national ministries sought to solve, the issues that they encountered, and the lessons learned. The review would inform the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs’ design and development of a new, IMIS for the cash transfers that the nation provides to its citizens.

Development Pathways was chosen to undertake the work due to our global experience of designing and building social protection MISs, including research in other populous upper-middle-income nations such as Brazil and Indonesia. The lead researcher for the study, Richard Chirchir, has developed MISs across Africa and Asia and co-authored the leading resources on MISs used in low- and middle-income nations.

We reviewed the design and operation of MIS examples relevant for China in five countries, following interviews with stakeholders in UNICEF China to understand the visions and objectives of the proposed integrated MIS. We identified MISs with features relevant to China’s policy goals and objectives, including examples that are child- and gender-sensitive and that can help to direct broader services to meet the needs of children and the poorest. And we addressed China’s aspiration to include multiple dimensional poverty-analysis into the proposed new system.

The study resulted in a final report with a recommendation for the integrated system that the Ministry of Civil Affairs should adopt in China, lessons distilled from global IMIS reviewed and the next steps that the Ministry should adopt in its quest to establish an IMIS.