About the Approach

BRAC’s Graduation programme is founded on over 15 years of experience designing and implementing programmes to eradicate poverty around the world.

Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC’s work touches the lives of an estimated 135 million people. With decades of successful programming at scale across microfinance, health, water and sanitation, education and livelihoods BRAC realized that its interventions often failed to reach the ultra-poor and address the worst forms of poverty. Traditional poverty eradication approaches often failed to reach the poorest and sustain long-term gains.

In response, BRAC’s Targeting the Ultra-Poor Programme arose in 2002 out of a critical need to devise an approach that was targeted, time-bound, holistic and sustainable.

Through the Graduation programme, BRAC builds the capacity of the poorest, known as the ultra-poor, to move beyond extreme poverty, training them in the life and technical skills, knowledge and leadership needed to be self-reliant so they can meet their own basic needs, improve their communities and build better futures for themselves and their children.

By building secure, sustainable and resilient livelihoods, Graduation aims to propel the ultra poor onto a sustainable pathway out of extreme poverty. Participants become the agents of their own development and make sustainable progress in overcoming extreme poverty.


From Safety Nets to Sustainable Livelihoods

Traditional social protection interventions, such as food aid, cash transfers, school feeding, public works programmes, and the like, aim to facilitate effective access to essential goods and services, to enable the poor and vulnerable to cope with the precarious circumstances of their lives.

These safety net programmes combine with appropriate labour policies, social insurance systems, and social sector policies in health, education and nutrition, among others, to create a composite social protection strategy that is a critical component of a government’s poverty alleviation efforts.

Though impactful, these benefits and services are often inadvertently out of reach for the poorest. Where such instruments do reach ultra-poor populations, resource constraints often only allow for benefits to be delivered as long as the intervention lasts.

BRAC strongly believes that poor and vulnerable households can and must be equipped to do more than just cope. Interventions must be carefully planned to build their skill sets and asset base as well as their confidence and social capital (i.e. community inclusion, gender empowerment, etc.) so they can remain food secure, lead sustainable economic lives and ultimately become more resilient.

Many governments are moving towards implementing more integrated, comprehensive social protection systems, as per the global drive to introduce or expand Social Protection Floors, with complementary social and economic policies. One area of broad consensus is the realisation of a “twin-track” approach, with a social safety net put in place for poor and vulnerable people who cannot work, and graduation programmes designed only for a subset of the poor with the capacity for economic self- sufficiency. While Graduation is a particularly promising ladder from poverty, other approaches also provide necessary skills for gainful employment, access to finance and access to mainstream development programmes. Identifying the appropriate approach may require several tools for tackling poverty that are context-specific and needs dependent.

It is important to remember that Graduation programmes are not a “magic bullet” for addressing the fundamental drivers of poverty and vulnerability. Graduation is simply one promising ladder out of extreme poverty, and there are other approaches that also provide necessary skills for gainful employment, access to finance and access to national social protection services.