Introducing the Graduation Approach in India’s Jharkhand State

The government of India in 2011 launched the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) with the goal of reaching 100 million rural poor families in 600,000 villages in 10 years. It is the government’s largest poverty reduction program, and focuses on enabling the poor to access gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment. So far we have reached more than a quarter of our target – 28.5 million families (in 156,125 villages), through 2.4 million women self-help groups, a building block of the program.

Women hold hands in a circle, India
Women hold hands in a circle, India. Photo by Kumar Vikash, JSLPS.

But reaching the poorest of the poor and helping them come out of the vicious cycle of poverty is a challenge for us, in part because NRLM is a universal coverage program. (Learn more about the program.)

We started visiting some of the Trickle Up projects and having talks with them about the Graduation Approach in 2014, and we were impressed by what we saw on the ground and the number of people coming out of  extreme poverty.

We partnered with Trickle Up in May 2015. The Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society and Trickle Up are jointly piloting Graduation programs in two districts of Jharkhand. The initial target is to graduate 3,000 ultra-poor families out of poverty in three years and 10,000 families in 5 years’ time.

The number of families will increase significantly if the pilot project is successful in finding a way to scale up the model and make it sustainable. We are very hopeful that Graduation Model outcome will be successful and add many other significant aspects while being implemented in the NRLM framework. 

Building on a backbone of self-help groups

In the beginning we work on Social Mobilization and Institution building (Women Self-Help Group, Village organization and Cluster Level Federation) of poor through Community Resource Persons (CRPs) who have already come out of poverty. Then we facilitate these institutions to access Financial and Livelihood resources and services from the mainstream.

The NRLM package consists of:

  • A first transfer of 15,000 Indian Rupees (approximately 220$USD) as Revolving fund (RF) to increase inter-lending among the group members.
  • After six months, the group uses its own funds to draw up a plan in which the participating families work out their livelihood activities and we provide 75,000 Indian Rupees to the group (approximately 1,102$USD) as Community Investment Fund (CIF).
  • Nine months after, we work on bank linkages for the group to support their livelihoods efforts and the average bank credit for each group is 50,000 Rupees (approximately 735$USD).

There are no transfers to individual families but we focus instead on livelihood training and intensive handholding.

Empowering local communities

Part of the importance of this approach is building local governance and local capacity through the support provided to the Self-Help Groups. We fund a lot of leadership and management training within the communities; we want the local people to build capacity and the community resource person is a key part in helping them to do that.

Our focus goes far beyond helping the poorest build economic activities; we believe the extreme poor have innate capabilities for a range of things, and we want to help to bring these out. We do a lot of social inclusion and convergence activities, building the extreme poor’s self-confidence, making sure they are aware of their rights, entitlements and access the services offered by the government, banks and other institutions.

The biggest challenge so far

There was an initial reliance on bringing in community resource persons from other parts of India – Andhra Pradesh and Bihar – but we wanted to ensure we were building capacity within the communities we were working in Jharkhand. So in the past few months, we have put a lot of emphasis on training and development to bring these people out. We now have large numbers of   local people (Community Resource Persons – CRPs) trained in all aspects of the work, including building Self-Help Groups, Village Organizations, and in livelihood training and handholding. They are now responsible for the scale-up of the NRLM project in Jharkhand with support from JSLPS staff.

Lessons learned and to learn

I want to learn more from those countries where the pilots have already happened and understand how they adapted the Graduation Model to reach scale. In particular how are others handling the intensive coaching component? Are others also relying on community resources people to do this? 


10 December 2015 Submitted by Chiranjib Roy (not verified)

OK.Good. But is it the graduation program. I know only from J-PAL website that it is for ultra-poor women who are not in SHGs as the women are so vulnerable and poor not capable for savings and credit, SHGs are not taking them. There are certain criteria of selecting them and we should refer studies by J-PAL.

14 December 2015 Submitted by Bishnu C Parida (not verified)

Thanks a lot Chiranjib for sharing your view. I have gone through J-PAL evaluation report on pilots of Graduation Program. In our many NRLM villages there are many Ultra Poor women who are not member of any SHG. There are also many poor women in SHGs who do only saving, sometimes take small consumption loans and but do not take productive / asset building or livelihood related loan. We are in the planning phase (identifying Ultra Poor) of GRADUATION program to work with both two above mentioned category of Ultra Poor Women.

15 December 2015 Submitted by Chiranjib Roy (not verified)

Dear Bishnu,
Thanks for your good response.

Please give me or us a chance to talk or discuss on the program as w Bandhan is scaling-up ultra-poor program and J-PAL is evaluating our program constantly with also support from USAID.

Give your phone number and mail ID official.



15 December 2015 Submitted by Bishnu C Parida (not verified)

Welcome Chiranjibi. We are very much interested to collaborate with BANDHAN for Ultra Poor Program in Jharkhand under NRLM. Our Financial Inclusion (FI) team has already started discussion with BANDHAN BANK for FI related innovative products. You please note my mobile no. + 91 9939221549 and E-mail : [email protected] and JSLPS official E-mail ID : [email protected] and start direct communication with us for next steps for collaboration for Graduation Program for Ultra Poor. Regards. Bishnu .

18 January 2016 Submitted by Dr V.Rengarajan (not verified)

Dear Bishnu
If poverty is to be eliminated , the intervention need to start with the ultra poor . Hence the graduation approach is very interesting like that of BRAC-CGAP model.
I am more interested in knowing the methodology used for identifying the ultra poor for this program in SHG system distinctly from other poor in the pyramid.
Dr Rengarajan

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