Over 90 practitioners, donors, researchers, and policy makers gathered in Paris recently for the “Reaching the Poorest Global Meeting 2012” to share operational know-how and research results on an innovative approach to help households “graduate” out of extreme poverty. Convened by CGAP and its partners—Ford Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation, BRAC USA, and BRAC Development Institute — this meeting was the fourth global learning event of the CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Program. Participants included major donors (AsDB, DFID, IFAD, World Food Programme, and the World Bank), practitioners (including members of the ten CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation pilots from eight countries), large international NGOs (CARE, Concern, Catholic Relief Services, and Save the Children) and policymakers (from Chile, Haiti, Kenya, and Peru).
The CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Program is a global effort to create pathways for the poorest out of extreme poverty by carefully sequencing safety nets, livelihoods and access to finance, inspired by BRAC in Bangladesh. We are collaborating with implementing partners to see whether and how the graduation model can work across diverse contexts. Six pilots have been completed in Haiti, Honduras, India, and Pakistan. Four pilots are still underway in Ethiopia, Ghana, Peru, and Yemen.
The centerpiece of the meeting in Paris was the presentation of the research on the impact of the graduation pilots conducted and presented by some of the most prominent development economists in the field including Esther Duflo and Dean Karlan. Data was shared on the results from five randomized control trials (RCTs) conducted on BRAC in Bangladesh, Bandhan and SKS in India, PPAF and its partners in Pakistan, and PLAN and ODEF in Honduras. Results indicated that the model achieved positive results through time and with consistency across all but one site. In four out of five RCT studies, results showed increased food security, increased and more diverse incomes, and increased assets. In Esther Duflo’s words, "These are very, very good, results. [...] I don't think you could have ever expected anything much better."
In addition, where "intangible" results were measured using either quantitative or qualitative methods, significant increases were found in indicators of positive mental health, happiness, and hope among the pilot participants.
The results presented at the meeting are very promising. It is exciting to see the strong evidence coming in, indicating that the Graduation Program model is working. And there was a distinct sense at the meeting that the program is ready to move well beyond the pilot stages.
The complexity of extreme poverty requires an inter-disciplinary approach that cuts across social protection, livelihoods, and access to finance. The core building blocks of the graduation model draw on these three disciplines to start with careful targeting, consumption support, savings mobilization, livelihoods training, and finally an asset transfer. Throughout, intensive coaching is provided to participants by program staff.
The meeting set the stage for the challenges ahead. One priority will be to work on the scalability of the model, including its possible integration into other anti-poverty efforts such as government safety nets. Scaling up will also require innovative approaches without compromising the quality of program implementation. Another priority will be to better understand the costs and return on investment of the graduation model, especially in relation to other options seeking to serve the extreme poor.
In the next few weeks we’ll be featuring more insights, reflections, lessons learned and outcomes by several of our colleagues and partners as part of this blog series. Stay posted for a continued exchange of ideas on creating pathways for the poorest to graduate out of poverty.
I agree and reiterate that ‘intangible’ results in terms of positive mental health, happiness and hope among the ultra poor are very important and in fact are more valuable inputs influencing their behavior and action towards moving for a sustained graduation . Eventually, the poorest, who used to live with lot of vulnerability over a period of time with no hope of their rejuvenation, gains gradually confidence in their graduation process which enhances their cognitive capability more sustainably than ad hoc positive monetary indicators.