Trickle Up: What’s Up Six Months after Graduation?

Last November, Syed Hashemi wrote about the Trickle Up Graduation Pilot Ceremony, during which 300 women sang and danced to celebrate their move out of extreme poverty. The Trickle Up Graduation Pilot in West Bengal is one of the most advanced sites in the CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Program—a global effort to understand how safety nets, livelihoods and microfinance can be sequenced to create pathways out of extreme poverty.

Six months after “graduation,” Trickle Up estimates that 94% of the participants in the initial pilot are maintaining their assets and still participating in the Self Help Groups. Trickle Up and its partner, Human Development Centre, are now helping the groups to link up with banks so that participants can access larger loans.

From the pilot phase, Trickle Up has learned many lessons, above all, that larger grant sizes help people go much further—the amount of the asset transfer will more than double in the next phase. In India, Trickle Up has now increased from its traditional USD 100 grants to an estimated average amount of USD235. Janet Heisey, Trickle’s Up’s Program Officer for Asia says: “This pilot has allowed us to gain greater knowledge of the level of support that’s needed to help get a micro-business off the ground.” Interestingly, this change is influencing all of Trickle Up’s activities. Bill Abrams, Trickle Up’s President, explains: “Over the past three decades, Trickle Up has supported approximately 10,000 businesses annually, typically through USD 100 grants. Our commitment to serving the very poorest is stronger than ever and, in order to refine our program for maximum impact, we are bringing the lessons from our Graduation Pilot into the mainstream of our work. Among those refinements are larger and more flexible seed capital grants, as well as a three-year program instead of one.”

Some other changes in program design include an increased emphasis on savings, with systematic financial management training and a consumption support adapted to food cycles. In addition, the livelihood strategy design will include a greater focus on training participants in planning their livelihood activities, keeping in mind the local market‘s absorption capacity and working to ensure the participants link to available government services—both those that support the livelihood and those that support other aspects of the family’s well-being.

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