The Graduation Approach: Mapping a Path to Scale

The Graduation Approach has helped thousands of ultra-poor families improve their lives in significant ways, and has the potential to help many more. The program took root in Bangladesh, was piloted in 10 other countries, and is now being implemented in over two dozen more. We know, from rigorous evaluation of the pilot projects that it can work. Thanks to a package of services that includes financial access, direct cash transfers, asset transfer, training and social support, families have higher income, greater access to food, save more and report improved health and happiness. And early evidence suggests that these gains are sustained over time.

This week marks a significant milestone in the evolution of the Graduation Approach as leading policy makers, practitioners and researchers gather in Washington D.C. for the Graduation Leadership Summit and Global Learning Event. Together they will tackle tough but important questions about Graduation and its role in poverty alleviation. They will look at progress in Graduation projects worldwide and explore how challenges encountered so far might shape the future design and application of the model. Leading policymakers will also share early experiences integrating elements of the graduation model into their broader social protection policies and programs.

This is peer learning at its best and a hallmark of the Graduation Initiative, which was built around the promise of rigorous evaluation and shared learning to guide and shape its evolution and growth. The central questions and issues that will likely dominate discussion at this week’s learning event highlight the model’s rapid evolution and the strong level of interest among nongovernmental organizations, multilateral agencies, and governments that want to alleviate extreme poverty.

We have much more to understand and learn about the impact and potential of the Graduation Approach. At CGAP, where we work to advance financial inclusion for the poor, we are particularly interested in elements of the program related to financial services.

  • Key questions include:What role does access to financial services play in delivering impact for the poor in the context of a broader graduation agenda?
  • What financial services most benefit the poorest people? How should these services be delivered? And what’s the experience so far in programs that have provided them?
  • Can the Graduation Approach – and financial inclusion as a core component – sustain and improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our society, such as refugees, migrants, the urban youth, and smallholder families?
  • What role will emerging technologies play in this effort, particularly in terms of offering new goods and services affordably at the bottom of the pyramid, but also in bringing down the cost to deliver social safety net programs?

Those attending the Learning Event will discuss many of these tough questions based on their own experiences. What emerges this week will make an important contribution to the future of the Graduation Approach, a promising tool in efforts to alleviate extreme poverty. 

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