, , ,

The Four Pillars of the Graduation Approach to Poverty Reduction

The Four Pillars of the Graduation Approach to Poverty Reduction
After years of successful poverty reduction, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused 150 million people to face returning to severe poverty. Poverty is a trap; it is a repeating pattern where its many causes are exactly what prevent people from obtaining the resources to escape it. However, the Graduation approach to poverty reduction has proved successful in overcoming the multifaceted obstacles of extreme poverty.

What is the Graduation Approach?

BRAC began the Graduation approach to poverty reduction in 2002. The Graduation approach is a way of attacking extreme poverty from multiple angles. The Graduation approach involves a set of interventions with the design to address the complexity of poverty in order to provide the “big push” that is necessary for people to escape the poverty cycle long-term. Since 2018, the Graduation approach has reached more than 14 million people, and more than 100 organizations in 50 different countries are utilizing it.

Bangladesh initially pioneered the approach in 2002, resulting in a 95% graduation from poverty success rate. One can attribute its success to a combination of consumption support and initial asset or cash transfers, followed by up to two years of continued training and mentoring. The program can last anywhere from 18 to 36 months per household, and with an average cost of only $1,400, it is highly cost-effective.

The Four Pillars of the Graduation Approach

Over time, the graduation approach to poverty reduction has come to include four main pillars.

  1. Social Protection: Social protection means meeting the basic needs of participants before pushing ahead with the program. This includes providing cash stipends, consumption support and access to healthcare.
  2. Livelihood Promotion: At this point in the program, households receive productive asset transfers that help them maintain sustainable incomes. This could be in the form of equipment, seeds or livestock. The participants also receive vocational and farm-based training in order to improve their technical skills.
  3. Financial Inclusion: This pillar focuses on providing training to participants on how to manage their incoming and outgoing finances. Through this training, participants also learn that savings can help them during difficult times, and the program also introduces them to community savings groups, along with mentoring, to help them generate income. When a household completes the graduation program, the participants connect with more conventional financial institutions to provide them with long-term support and growth.
  4. Social Empowerment: Throughout the Graduation approach, participants learn many new life skills through mentoring, peers and coaching. These new skills provide participants with confidence and opportunities to become more integrated with their communities.

Graduation Success Rate in the Philippines

From June 2018 to September 2020, there were 1,800 households in the Philippines that participated in a pilot of the Graduation approach to poverty. Findings determined that 71% of households met all the criteria under the four pillars of graduation, and saw improvement in their life skills and financial management. The participants also greatly improved their hygiene, nutrition and health practices due to retaining at least 80% of their life-skills training. At the end of the program, everyone had access to a sanitary toilet, versus only 74% having access at the start of the program. Even with the program taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the participants were still able to initiate livelihoods and earn income. As of September 2020, around 60% of individual livelihoods remained fully operational, and 73% of group livelihoods remained intact. The Graduation approach to poverty reduction also taught participants how to react to changing trends in the market due to the pandemic. In turn, participants were able to stay above the food poverty threshold.

The Impact

Overall, the Graduation approach to poverty reduction has proved extremely successful at providing the “big push” that individuals living below the poverty line need in order to escape the cyclical trap. With new knowledge, resources and savings, the Graduation approach sets individuals up for long-term success.

– Trystin Baker
Photo: Unsplash