Social policies have the potential to improve the lives of many people. These policies could serve low-income groups, women, refugees, migrants. Or they could tackle malnutrition, non-communicable diseases, long covid, post-infection syndromes, poor sanitation. Yet many governments fail to expand the needed social policies. What explains this? And what could trigger government action? Drawing upon a recently published paper and an upcoming book project, this presentation will show that while governments have weak incentives to expand “benevolent policies” – policies that serve groups with limited political power on issues with low visibility – the strategic actions of bureaucrats working within the government can facilitate policy expansion.