The world’s economy is in a fragile state. Although cautiously recovering from a global recession, unemployment rates and poverty levels remain high. At the same time, food and fuel crises have resulted in skyrocketing commodity costs, straining household budgets even further than before. In the wake of these financial pressure points, there has been increased focus on social safety net programmes. More recently, Brazil’s ‘Bolsa Familia’ conditional cash transfer (CCT) programme has celebrated its tenth-year anniversary, renewing focus on this particular aspect of social transfer programmes. This essay examines one particular aspect of these social safety net programmes: CCTs. CCT programmes are useful social programmes that have had demonstrable effects on many different populations. However, they are not a ‘magic bullet’ against poverty, and their image has suffered from unreasonable expectations of their impacts. This 10 best list is an ideal starting point from which a potential user can begin to understand CCTs. There remain significant gaps in the literature behind CCTs, with a particular need for much more research on emerging areas such as impacts on gender, long-term school and health outcomes, methods for increasing efficiency and adapting conditionalities within cultural contexts, among others. However, this list can function as a starting point from which the reader can gain an understanding and appreciation for what we believe to be one of the most innovative social programmes for addressing poverty worldwide.