People are often very rude about ‘big push’ approaches to development – the idea that you can kickstart a country (or a millennium village) by simultaneously shoving in piles of different projects, technical assistance and cash. The approach hasn’t got a great track record, but now a kind of micro Big Push, targeting the ‘ultra poor’ in a range of countries, is showing some really promising results.
This month, the results from six randomised control trials (RCTs), published in Science magazine highlighted a model of development that is an adaptable and exportable solution able to raise households from the worst forms of destitution and put them onto a pathway of self-reliance. The graduation approach – financial services integrated within a broader set of wrap-around services – is gaining steady recognition for its astonishing ability to transform the lives of the poorest.
Nestled among small straw-roofed houses, a group of villagers gather together in their first attempt to discuss community affairs. These villagers in Naodapara, a typical rural community in Pabna district, are the newest batch of inductees to BRAC’s Targeting the Ultra Poor Programme (TUP).
“When it would rain, we did not have a dry area to sleep… I used old and torn rags to cover my children.” The video speaks for itself. A self-told story about how Chobi Rani, with the assistance of BRAC, brought herself out of the harshest forms of poverty, to feed and send her children to school, live in a comfortable home and maintain successful enterprises in farming.
After a few years of trail and error, BRAC figured out a way to make sure those living in poverty and those living around poverty are "in the room," or in other words they play a major role in deciding which household among them really is the neediest.
Nazia Moqueet is a Research Associate at BRAC Development Institute and is currently based out of BRAC USA. In March 2013, she was in Yemen to conduct a process evaluation of the CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Pilot. She conducted several participant and staff interviews and focus group discussions over a period of two weeks. In this post, originally published at the CGAP-Ford Graduation Pilot program blog, She recalls an encounter with a pilot participant in Taiz.
Variously called targeting the ultra-poor, just TUP, or more famously the graduation program (which we're not always sure is the right title), BRAC's work with the ultra-poor is officially titled Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction - Targeting the Ultra Poor (CFPR-TUP). A mouthful yes, but not nearly as many mouthfuls as there have been recently about the effectiveness -- or lack thereof -- of a core component in the program: livelihoods training.
It can seem so easy. Give a slum-dweller a three-wheeled vehicle. She creates a mobile tea business. Income increases from 100 Bangladeshi taka to 400 taka per day. She leaves her backbreaking job as a brick-maker, quadruples her income, preserves her health, restores her dignity. Rinse, repeat.
A group of men and women attend a participatory wealth ranking in Kaposhatia in Pakchanda union in Hossanipur upazila, Bangladesh.(Credit: BRAC/Shehzad Noorani).
"Where are the poor?" asks my colleague Oscar Abello at NextBillion.net, in an article that explains why better targeting of aid and impact investing programs has never been more essential. This is particularly true when it comes to "ultra-poor programs" that have been so successful in addressing the direst forms of extreme poverty.