South Africa and Brazil are burdened with institutional poverty and inequality—a phenomenon that persists in both countries after two decades of experimentation with democratisation. Both countries have developed ambitious social policies aimed at addressing institutional poverty and inequality, whose effects have been heralded internationally. This study asks the following question: How have political, economic and social institutional forces in South Africa and Brazil, in government or civil society, acted in support of, or in opposition to, extending social policy to reduce poverty and inequality? The study aims to compare South Africa and Brazil's social policy regimes in their evolution under the governance of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Patrido dos Trabalhoes (PT, Workers Party). It specifically examines the policies of Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) and Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCTs) implemented by the ANC in South Africa and the PT's Bolsa Familia programme of social grants for the poor in Brazil. The study is located in the field of comparative public policy and uses the insights of a political economy of institutions to understand the effects of these policies on poverty and inequality. In a dynamic global context, this study aims to reinvigorate discussion and debates on global social policy architecture by asking diagnostic questions around effectiveness, financialisation and implementation.