Empowering families in poverty to take control and set them on a path towards a better life, this is at the core of so-called ‘graduation’ programmes. By providing families with a combination of material support, training and coaching, they can develop new forms of income generation and improve their living conditions.
It is the 20-year anniversary of the inception of the ‘graduation approach’ and its first implementation by BRAC in Bangladesh. Research shows that they can help to improve lives and that these improvements are maintained years after families completed the programme. Yet the programmes are not a silver bullet, nor do they work for everyone.
In this episode, we’re joined by Greg Chen and Rozina Haque, both working on the graduation programmes with BRAC. Greg is the Managing Director for BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative, leading their strategy to expand the global uptake of the graduation approach. Rozina is the Associate Director of Ultra-Poor Graduation and Livelihood Programme Development and Innovation at BRAC and BRAC International. She leads and provides strategic direction to the graduation programme for BRAC in Bangladesh and internationally.
We discuss the benefits of the graduation approach, as well as challenges such as including marginalised groups and adapting the programme to different contexts so that it is most effective.
Greg and Rozina also respond to concerns that graduation programmes place the responsibility of moving out of poverty with families themselves, and that they are resource intensive. They point out that it’s about making most effective use of funds already available and that it’s not either or: the reality is that most countries need to empower poor families to resolve their own situation and to put in place social protection programmes that directly support families.
Rozina and Greg mention various studies that looked at the impact of graduation programmes. This includes an impact evaluation of the long-term effects of the approach, a study on how the programme has helped its beneficiaries to be more resilient to the shock of COVID-19 and a multi-country study of programmes’ long-term effects.
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