This paper, presented to the IDS Social Protection for Social Justice Conference, 13-15 April 2011, examines the often neglected role of agents of developing states and the service providers that deliver public goods, specifically transfers, to the poor. It focuses on the case of Egypt. The paper describes the introduction of a new conditional cash transfers programme as a tool for social protection as it is shaped by the views and experiences of the women and men who are social workers and part of a 240,000 strong workforce employed by the Ministry of Social Solidarity (and Justice as it was renamed after the 25 January Revolution). The programme was designed so as to enhance the capabilities and include the participation and creativity of the social worker. The paper offers some reflections on the merits, motives, outcomes and mistakes of such a design.