Approach to Poverty Reduction
Extreme poverty originates in already disadvantaged groups, particularly women, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples. The impact of poverty disproportionately affects communities that already face challenges dependent upon their gender, ability or cultural background. For those who belong to more than one of these identities, poverty can seem inescapable without direct intervention and change within the systems that limit their ability to self-sustain. Trickle Up is one organization that has provided an intersectional approach to poverty reduction by engaging with these vulnerable groups since 1979 and providing women in impoverished areas the financial resources to build up themselves and their communities.

Identity as a Predictor for Extreme Poverty

Women are more likely than men to live in poverty. Many women face the consequences of gender inequalities as they receive 24% less pay than men worldwide and face job insecurity through the informal economy. Moreover, they spend much of their time invested in unpaid labor, such as caregiving.

The Borgen Project spoke with Trickle Up’s Vice President of Programs, Barbara Jackson, who revealed the importance of targeting the obstacles that hold back women especially from emerging out of extreme poverty. She recognized that impoverished women face stigmatization even in their own communities and experience marginalization through the lack of services available to them. Disparities emerge when “men and boys are often prioritized for schooling,” leaving some women without literacy skills. As a result, women frequently must focus on balancing caregiving and wage-earning instead.

“Women are often not included in decision-making processes because they are not considered the voice of the family,” Jackson went on. They are instead “stigmatized for something that is not of their own volition.” Targeting unjust power dynamics that limit women’s ability to pull themselves out of extreme poverty is a crucial approach to poverty reduction.

The current global data demonstrates that poverty is an intersectional problem that harms those who fall under more than one disadvantaged category. Women who come from indigenous backgrounds face additional challenges. Indigenous peoples make up nearly 15% of the poorest people globally. Being both a woman and an indigenous person couples with the highest malnutrition and poverty rates out of all social groups in Latin America and the Caribbean. For this reason, Trickle Up has built a program to support and empower Guatemalan indigenous women.

Trickle Up’s Graduation Approach

About 767 million people in the world live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day. Microcredit services, which involve providing small loans to individuals in developing nations, make up important support for millions of the impoverished each year. However, these services frequently overlook the ultra-poor due to the complexity of their challenges.

Referring to the ultra-poor, Jackson emphasized that “it is critical that they learn basic financial skills, learn how to save, gain greater financial stability through a diversity of income-generating activities, and develop the self-confidence they need to persevere and succeed.” Because of the economic and social disadvantages presented to them simply because of their gender, women are the primary recipients of Trickle Up’s specialized savings and social support services.

Of the many challenges of breaking the cycle of poverty, lack of services and geographic and social isolation are most prominent for the focus of Trickle Up’s graduation approach.

How Trickle Up’s Graduation Approach Works

In place of giving out microcredit, Trickle Up intends for its five-step Graduation Approach to help participants of the program “graduate out of poverty.” Each program undergoes implementation in a community and it selects the participants it deems most vulnerable. Trickle Up later approves these participants.

The selected women then receive consumption support, which is the provision of a small stipend to ensure that they may stabilize their families prior to moving forward with developing long-term investments. Trickle Up’s approach to poverty reduction involves giving livelihood coaching in addition to risk-free capital investment. The training allows for women to decide on the activities they can employ to create a sustainable income.

Prior to graduation, it is essential that women have savings and social networks set up. Jackson shared that women in these communities “don’t come together to talk about their problems and talk amongst themselves.” The savings groups provide opportunities for the participants to “sit and work” together in order to build confidence and trust.

The Desde el Poder Local Program

Desde el Poder Local is one of Trickle Up’s current six projects. Located in El Quiché and Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, the project has selected 410 indigenous women between the ages of 15 and 24 to participate over the span of two years so far. This particular program emphasizes reproductive health education and livelihood development.

Women and men receive reproductive health education in the native languages of the targeted communities. The goals of this education initiative include broadening understanding of the implications of early onset pregnancies while also acknowledging the role of parenthood. Jackson noted that there has been a decrease in pregnancies in the last two years, with no pregnancies occurring for women under 18 in El Quiche and Alta Verapaz. Trickle Up’s inclusion of male family members in both reproductive health and financial literacy programs aims to develop a sustainable change in the gender dynamics of the participant’s communities.

As of August 2020, Desde el Poder Local generated 21 savings groups and 77% of participants increased their annual income during the program. Jackson pointed out, “A dollar a week they’re saving. That’s the first time they’re making their own money.” With the support of their families, communities, and municipal authorities, these women obtain the support they need to continue generating a sustainable income once the project concludes.

Maintaining Support During COVID-19

The traditional approach that Trickle Up has undergone disruption during the coronavirus pandemic. Women who work as local artisans have not been able to travel or access markets in order to sell their products. Fortunately, Jackson assured that Trickle Up staff members have continued to work alongside government staff or field extension agents, which are often women. Information on sanitation hygiene and infection prevention has undergone dissemination through cell phones and word-of-mouth.

Trickle Up has demonstrated that an intersectional approach is essential for poverty reduction. Targeting social problems that exacerbate the effects of extreme poverty, including gender inequality and racial discrimination, allows for growth within the target communities and in society as a whole.

– Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr

How an Individual's Impact on Poverty Reduction Can Make a Difference
The Borgen Project was started with one person who wanted to make a difference. Clint Borgen started his endeavor to create The Borgen Project after seeing the poverty and conflict during the genocide in Kosovo. When he returned, he moved to Alaska to join a fishing expedition in order to make money to start his organization. The Borgen Project started with one person’s bold ideas and passionate heart setting to eradicate global poverty. There are many other ambitious individuals, like Clint Borgen, that have started organizations focusing on reducing poverty. The following organizations show how an individual’s impact on poverty reduction can generate a movement leading to organizations that work toward a world with less poverty.

  1. ONE is an international organization that focuses on action and campaigning to end extreme poverty and prevent diseases. The co-founders for ONE are Bono, the lead singer of U2 and Bobby Shriver, son of the founder of The Peace Corps. These two passionate men came together to start ONE, an international campaign and advocacy organization of more than nine million people around the world. This organization prioritizes social justice and equality in the world. ONE utilizes its advocacy power to encourage government programs to make lives better around the world. It is funded almost entirely through foundations and corporations.
  2. Concern Worldwide has focused on working with the world’s most vulnerable people for 50 years. This organization was founded by John and Kay O’Loughlin-Kennedy in response to the famine that occurred when the province of Biafra tried to secede from Nigeria. In 1968, this organization, then called Africa Concern, focused in Africa sending supplies to the people affected in Biafra. In 1970, Africa Concern turned into Concern Worldwide with volunteers encouraged to respond to natural disasters causing poverty in other communities as well. Today, Concern Worldwide focuses on emergencies, health, nutrition, education and livelihoods to reduce poverty. This organization operates on donations and utilizes 90 percent of its funds for relief and development.
  3. Trickle Up envisions a world where no one lives in extreme poverty or vulnerability. In 1979, Mildred Robbins Leet founded this organization with the goal to help people out of poverty. The group’s work aims to help women, people with disabilities, refugees and other economically and socially excluded people. Its goal is to continue lifting millions of people out of extreme poverty and to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Instead of giving individuals money, Trickle Up provides people with seed capital grants, skills training and the support to create small businesses in order to help individuals reach economic self-sufficiency. Trickle Up’s approach starts with stabilizing one’s family, planning and building a livelihood, connecting and saving in groups, investing and growing businesses and finding an individual voice to advocate when people need to speak up in their communities. This organization tracks its individual impact on poverty reduction by focusing on the changes people experience in their quality of life. They keep track of data on how the organization helps others combat hunger, build livelihoods, gain access to savings and credit and empower individuals for social involvement.

These organizations, founded by only one or two people, represent how an individual’s impact on poverty reduction by ordinary people can generate change in the world. Clint Borgen, Bono, Bobby Shriver, John and Kay O’Loughlin-Kennedy and Mildred Robbins Leet exemplify the possibility of how one person can make a huge impact. These individuals are a testament to grassroots movements and why each person should feel empowered to make a difference.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

Virtual Reality Can Affect Global Poverty
Although the technology of virtual reality (VR) is still in its infancy, it is steadily growing more advanced and more easily available to the public. VR is opening up all kinds of new opportunities and experiences, and they’re not just limited to video games – people around the world are finding that virtual reality can affect global poverty.

VR has made a strong impact in such fields as healthcare, manufacturing and even insurance. Many around the world see no reason why these advances shouldn’t also address humanitarian needs.

Researchers have found that virtual reality is incredibly powerful at building the feeling of empathy in users, which gives it obvious appeal to those in the non-profit world. With its ability to connect users to other people, the technology can make unprecedented strides in shining a light on the plight of millions.

According to Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford University, “Virtual reality transforms relationships that tend to be abstract to become visceral. Our research has shown that making this cause and effect relationship perceptual, as opposed to theoretical, changes consumer and other behaviors more than other interventions.”

Some non-profit organizations are now taking advantage of the fact that virtual reality can affect global poverty. HOPE International has found success by reaching out to potential donors with the technology by showing them exactly what problems their donations will be addressing. Boosted levels of empathy generate more contributions, helping to make a significant dent in global need.

Another organization, Trickle Up, combats poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries also by using virtual reality. By introducing VR experiences to donors at a fundraising gala, the organization was able to connect supporters to a local shop owner in Guatemala whose business would benefit from their donations. Trickle Up’s Communications Officer, Tyler McClelland, noted that having VR at the event increased interest and made guests more excited about the cause.

Some have taken the involvement of virtual reality in the humanitarian world to an even more interesting level. Chris Milk of UNICEF partnered with Samsung in 2015 to create Clouds Over Sidra, a virtual reality film that follows a 12-year old girl, Sidra, through her day-to-day life in the Syrian refugee camp of Za’atari in Jordan. Winner of the 2015 Doc/Fest Award, the film breaks barriers in the documentary world, making the VR viewer an interactive participant.

While there is much time and research yet to spend on the technology, early success strongly indicates that virtual reality can affect global poverty. It has the power to break down walls and, as the creator of Clouds Over Sidra said, it “connects humans to other humans in a profound way I’ve never before seen in any other form of media, and it can change people’s perception of each other. That is why I think virtual reality has the potential to actually change the world.”

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

Trickle Up Program
The Trickle Up Program empowers people living on less than $1.25 a day to take the first steps out of poverty.

Trickle Up does this by providing those less fortunate with the resources to build sustainable livelihoods for a better quality of life. They use their partnerships with local agencies in order to provide training and use capital grants to launch or expand microenterprises to support and build assets.

There are an estimated 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty, which means there is an immense need for economic development programs that can produce sustainable change in the lives of the poorest people.

The Trickle Up Program was founded in 1979 to ensure that the poorest people in any nation could have a chance to build a better life for themselves. In three decades, the program has successfully increased income levels of extremely poor households around the world.

Three years ago, Trickle Up served nearly 8,000 participants with an average of five people benefiting from each Trickle Up-supported enterprise.  This means over 41,000 people will improve their quality of life as a result of the program’s work this year alone.

Trickle Up aims to serve people at the very bottom of the socioeconomic scale. The program’s unique approach is designed for households whose per capita income is less than $1.25 a day.  Households living at this level of poverty lack the security to qualify for formal credit services and are not in a position to benefit from any strategy that carries a risk to plunge them further into debt.

This is where the Trickle Up Program comes into play.  Their poverty reduction strategy includes a one-time capital grant, called a Trickle Up Spark Grant.  This provides the participants with the necessary startup capital to launch or expand microenterprises.

This, in conjunction with highly structured business and livelihood training can facilitate the formation of community-based savings and effectively boost household incomes to make continued progress out of poverty.

Their end goal is to empower the world’s poorest people so that they can develop their potential and strengthen their communities from within. Trickle Up pursues this goal in a way that encourages innovation and leadership while promoting communication and cooperation among all their communities.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Ford Foundation, Trickle Up
Photo: Trickle Up

The Trickle Up aid foundation is turning traditional conceptions of foreign aid on its head, saying that, “investing in individuals at the grassroots level is the most powerful antidote to extreme poverty.”

Attempts to address global poverty have typically originated in large, global corporations whose tactics have been to give foreign aid or to invest in business at the highest level of society in the assumption that benefits from newfound societal organization and prosperity would “eventually trickle down to the rest of the population.”

Glen and Mildred Robbins Leet, the founders of Trickle Up, however, rejected this model as the only way to help the world’s poor, maintaining that the foreign aid money given to developing countries often got lost in corruption at the top societal levels, never quite reaching the country’s poorest members that needed the help most.

Thus, Trickle Up sought a change. Glen and Mildred believed in individuals’ power to create lasting change for themselves, and started a program in which they gave $100 grants to ten people in developing countries, urging them to launch their own microbusinesses.

Along with the small sum of money, the Leets’ model also provided basic business ownership training to their fund recipients, The Trickle Up method relies on the idea that humans feel empowered when they feel trusted and encouraged.

Trickle Up primarily focuses on women as agents of change because they believe that if women have equitable access to and control over resources, a country’s economic development will follow

Trickle Up’s website provides ample information about understanding the program’s ideology, the grant system, and rural poverty itself in an attempt to spread awareness and invite action. By empowering the world’s poor directly, Trickle Up is building a much-needed foundation for a human-rights driven and economically stable developing world.

 – Alexandra Bruschi

Source: Trickle Up
Photo: Life