Tony Sheldon: Can the Graduation Approach Help to End Extreme Poverty?

Tony Sheldon: Can the Graduation Approach Help to End Extreme Poverty?


– The methodology started
with, essentially, food support, consumption support, so that literally day-to-day
survival was taken care of and that the families
knew this would be true for a period of 12 to 24 months. Then they worked with the households on assessing skills and viable livelihoods that would work in the
markets that were nearby, and then training in
those kinds of skills, whether it was chicken-raising,
goats, carpentry, sewing, depending on the context, and then transferring an
asset, whether it’s, again, goats and chickens, short-term
and long-term assets, a sewing machine, tools, and then working with the households very
intensively on a weekly basis for, again, anywhere from 18 to 36 months to say we’re gonna establish
new standards, and norms, and expectations on their part, and very intensive coaching
around changing aspirations, changing expectations,
changing healthcare practices, trying to get the kids into schools. The randomized control trials
were ultimately published in Science magazine, which
tends to focus on hard science, but the results were so positive that Science was quite interested in it, and the researchers found that … the sequence of interventions
was extremely successful, not just immediately, but
one, two, three years later, in sustaining viable livelihoods for the people who’d taken part. Then in a cost-benefit analysis, the fairly significant upfront cost was more than made up
for by the longer-term economic viability and reduction in subsidy for these households. What’s, I think, unique
about the Graduation Approach is that it merges aspects from three very distinct areas of
development work … those three being social protection, livelihood development,
and financial services. Generally, most development interventions are focused on one of those, and the experts in each
area and the organizations that focus on each of those areas work fairly independently of one another. To say that what’s needed is not just a social protection of consumption support and ensuring survival,
and what’s not needed is just training in particular livelihoods, and what’s needed is not just
access to financial services, but an integration of the three and a careful sequencing of the three for the same households that are engaged, I think, is what really
distinguishes the Graduation work and was really pioneered
by BRAC in Bangladesh. Certainly the metrics
are there of, over time, measuring income, assets, child nutrition, children enrolled in
schools, quality of housing, but what’s been most striking, I think, is the people saying that they never imagined that they could live in any way beyond the horizon
that they had been living in and that often had been
going for generations, and that engagement in the program, and particularly these
weekly coaching sessions with the program staff,
changed their whole mindset and gave them hope, and
a reason to have hope, and a sense of opportunity, and that their children’s lives could
be significantly different than what their lives and
their parents’ lives had been. I think that softer side of empowerment and sense of opportunity is probably been the most astounding
response for those of us who’ve been working on it, and the most positive for the participants in the program itself.

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