Monday, 19 May 2014

Reflections on the CSP Conference on Graduation and Social Protection in Rwanda

This is the ninth in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series 

Last week I attended the Centre for Social Protection conference on Graduation and Social Protection, co-hosted by the Ministry of Local Government of the Government of Rwanda, with support from Irish Aid, UNICEF and DFID. I would like to share some of my personal reflections on the conference. They are by no means representative of the number of issues that were discussed, and I recommend reading Stephen Devereux's  comprehensive ‘Learning Insights and Action Points’ on the conference website.

Graduation describes the moment when beneficiaries of a transfer programme (cash, food or assets) pass a threshold  and manage to sustain a certain level of wellbeing over a period of time after exiting the programme. The rationale is that the transfers and complementary interventions (skills training, microloans) will allow beneficiaries to move out of poverty by increasing and maintaining their income generating potential and productivity and become resilient to shocks. The concept was pioneered by BRAC in Bangladesh and has been adopted by programmes such as the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia and Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP) in Rwanda.

Here are my take-away points  from the conference:

1. Beneficiaries are often still poor after graduating
Despite some success stories, most 'graduates' are still poor after graduation. Maybe they managed to move from extreme poverty into moderate poverty, or from food insecurity into food sufficiency. But they are still poor and in many cases they might fall back because their context hasn't changed. They are still vulnerable to shocks, they might still have limited access to markets and basic services and in most cases after leaving the programme they no longer have access to a social safety net.
Taking into account the limitations of any single programme to address the multiple causes of poverty, maybe we shouldn't punch above our weight and claim that livelihood promotion programmes can achieve sustainable graduation?  Maybe we need to be more realistic, and call programmatic thresholds 'exits from the programme', rather than 'graduation thresholds', as the VUP programme in Rwanda already does.

2. Systemic approach: yes, but let's not overburden social protection
The challenge seems to lie in drawing a line between where social protection ends and where 'other' interventions start, e.g. supplying basic services, facilitating access to labour markets, promoting inclusive economic growth. As one participant said, "social protection cannot become the solution for all of governments' failures".  It is one part of the graduation puzzle and incomplete without the rest. We need to figure out how the different pieces fit together.
This line however should not in itself represent a point of no return, when people graduate permanently out of social protection. It rather demarcates responsibilities and highlights complementarities  between programmes and sectors.  Social protection is required on a permanent basis to help people manage the range of risks they encounter throughout a lifetime.

3. Learning lessons..
...across actors: The presentations covered a range of different approaches, from small NGO-led pilots to nation-wide government programmes across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Important lessons can be drawn from these cases on what works and what doesn't. NGOs can test different models, provide more extensive, individualised support to beneficiaries, even if only on a short-term basis. Governments are looking at more long-term and scalable approaches that are financially sustainable and reach a larger group of beneficiaries. Pooling the experiences and evidence and sharing lessons will help to design programmes that improve the chances of poor households to climb up the ladder.
...within programmes: As one participant said "Let's focus on doing it well. Let's focus on getting programme delivery right, on time, as promised." Delivering a transfer programme in itself is already quite challenging. One consultant working on the PSNP in Ethiopia told me that at the higher policy level people are discussing a comprehensive social protection framework, whilst at the district level there isn't enough capacity to allow the programme to work as it is. Comprehensive approaches are important, but  maybe we need to focus on delivering well first, before jumping ahead and complicating things?
...from beneficiaries: One panellist said "No offence to all you academics, but we do a lot of thinking for people who live poverty 24 hours a day". Much of our discussions focus on how and who to target, what kind of support to give and where to set the benchmark. Whilst these are all important issues that are part of the reality of programmes, it often distracts from focusing on the beneficiaries and understanding the range of challenges they face every day to 'graduate out of poverty'.

Thanks to the organisers and participants for sharing their experiences and making this conference possible! 

Martina Ulrichs is an independent consultant based in Ottawa, Canada.  This post was originally published in the IDS Alumni blog.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Generation Nutrition: We have the knowledge to stop children dying from Acute Malnutrition NOW

Last week, a new campaign, Generation Nutrition, was launched in the UK parliament calling for an end to child deaths from undernutrition.

Currently, child deaths from undernutrition represent 45 per cent of all under five deaths, something this campaign aims to address. There is no doubt about the overwhelming progress made in terms of child survival. The under 5 mortality rate has almost halved in the last 25 years, from 12 million children dying before their 5th birthday in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012 (WHO). However progress to reduce child deaths from undernutrition, especially severe acute malnutrition, has stagnated in many countries. Undernutrition is different from hunger, and requires a separate and targeted approach. 

Using community based management to treat acute malnutrition

One in 12 children in the world suffer from acute malnutrition, which is a potentially life threatening condition caused by a number of factors acting together including a lack of food, poor sanitation, and disease. However, recent years have witnessed major progress in terms of our ability to treat severe acute malnutrition. Using community based management of acute malnutrition, most children can be treated as outpatients, affordably and effectively. Despite this, treatment is still not reaching most children.

Director of Food and Nutrition at the Ministry of Health, Sierra Leone, Aminata Shamit Koroma spoke about the high levels of severe acute malnutrition in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone 7 per cent of children under five suffer from severe acute malnutrition. She hopes that Generation Nutrition will support the country to reach the goal they have set for themselves, to reduce rates of undernutrition to 2 per cent by 2020. She talked about how community management of acute malnutrition programmes were initially introduced in only 20 health centres in four districts but now they are operating in 423 centres, out of 1200 health centres in the country and they are hoping that by the end of this year they will be able to increase that number to 600.

Power of political will and civil society in pushing this agenda forward

At the campaign launch event, we heard from Jean-Michel Grand, Executive director of Action Against Hunger UK. He highlighted that despite the fact that we know what needs to be done, and that treatment has been shown to have an 84% per cent success rate, only 1 in 10 children are who need treatment can access it. Grand emphasised the importance of political will in addressing undernutrition and called on governments to move away from viewing acute malnutrition as only a humanitarian issue.

Jane Edmonson, Head of Human Development at the Department for International Development (DFID), spoke about DFID’s investment in programmes to prevent and treat severe acute malnutrition in many countries (including Malawi, Ethiopia, and Kenya). On this subject, she talked of the importance of civil society for holding DFID to its promises in reducing acute malnutrition worldwide.

Augustin Flory, head of Nutrition at the Child’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) highlighted the long-term consequences of malnutrition for an individual. Ultimately, a malnourished child will likely attend fewer years of school, earn less as an adult and will be less lively to escape poverty. This not only impacts an individual, but also the family and even a nation.

Almost a million children die each year from malnutrition, we can be the generation to end this, if we act now. Learn more and sign the petition.

by Kat Pittore

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Graduation and Social Protection conference: What did we learn?

This is the eighth in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series

The Graduation and Social Protection conference closed in Kigali on Thursday 8 May, with a series of 46 ‘Learning Insights and Action Points’ distilled from the 10 sessions.  (These will be posted on the conference website soon.)  Key conclusions included the following:

  1. Graduation that is defined as exiting from a social protection programme after a certain time period, or after reaching a threshold level of income or assets, risks having people falling back into poverty when the support is withdrawn and the next shock hits them.
  2. Graduation that is achieved by combining social protection and livelihood development (such as asset transfers and access to finance) has a greater chance of providing people with sustainable livelihoods after they leave the programme.
  3. The most effective approaches require cross-sectoral coordination, so that households do not exit from social protection support into ‘no support’, but instead move from social assistance to accessing a broader range of social services and economic opportunities.
  4. The linear pathway to graduation that is implied in many graduation model programmes fails to recognise that livelihoods are not linear, and that the primary functions of social protection are to provide life-long insurance and to build resilience over the life-cycle.
  5. The achievements of successful graduation programmes should be put into context.  Most participants move from extreme poverty to moderate poverty – so they remain poor – they remain self-employed, and many ultra-poor people will never have the potential to graduate.
  6. Stakeholders have different attitudes to graduation.  While some believe that graduation is essential to reduce dependency and maximise poverty reduction impacts, others believe that the focus on graduation distracts attention away from the core functions of social protection.
  7. Political commitment is crucial for programmes to succeed, but too much political pressure can result in premature graduation, and can undermine the government’s commitment and responsibility to provide basic welfare and safety nets to all citizens and residents.
  8. A disaggregated and context-specific approach to social protection and graduation is called for.  Social protection systems should provide a permanent safety net for some poor and vulnerable people, and an opportunity to graduate out of poverty for others.

An innovative feature of the conference was the addition of a one-day workshop on Friday 9 May, organised by the Social Protection Sector Working Group for Government of Rwanda officials who are engaged with social protection.  The Conference Directors interacted with these officials about the implications of the graduation conference for social protection thinking and practice in Rwanda.  This workshop provided a rare opportunity for the deliberations of an international conference to be taken forward into implications for policy and programmes, discussed with and by national policy-makers, immediately after the conference ended. 

Stephen Devereux is Co-Director of the international conference on ‘Graduation and Social Protection’, which was co-hosted by the Government and Rwanda and the Centre for Social Protection from the UK Institute of Development Studies, with financial support from Irish Aid, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF. 

Stephen Devereux is inviting participants to comment on his closing remarks at the conference: Learning Insights and Action Points. Comments should be sent to

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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Nigeria’s COPE CCT programme and its ‘premature’ graduation strategy, any hope for participants’ human capital development?

This is the seventh in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series

In recent weeks, Nigeria has occupied global headlines due to a number of good, bad and ugly events. Arguably, the ‘good’ event was the announcement that Nigeria is now Africa’s largest economy. Among the ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ events, the continued attacks by ‘Boko Haram’ insurgents in the Northern part of the country, not least the unfortunate abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state, by suspected members of the Islamic fundamentalist sect.

Yet, underneath these good, bad and ugly headlines, there lies extreme poverty and underdevelopment. With rates of extreme poverty estimated to be as high as 60%, the vulnerabilities experienced amongst extremely poor households continue to rise. This is despite attempts by state and non-state actors to address these vulnerabilities through social protection programmes (SPP), such as the ‘In Care of the People’ (COPE) Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme. While several factors contribute to this unfortunate reality, the practice of prematurely ‘graduating’ participants out of programmes like COPE that is a major factor that keeps extremely poor people in their vulnerable conditions. 

Where did COPE come from?
Nigeria’s debt relief agreement with the Paris Club and World Bank in 2005 came with concerns about what the country would do with the ‘gains’ from the debt relief. The creditors were adamant that Nigeria should make ‘pro-poor investments’ towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Thus, following the ‘success’ of Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America, the Nigerian government established the COPE CCT programme in 2007, aiming to reduce vulnerabilities and intergenerational poverty in extremely poor households in Nigeria by targeting mostly female-headed households with children of school age.

The COPE CCT programme pays a monthly Basic Income Transfer (BIG) of approximately $10 per child with a cap of $33 for four or more children for 12 months to a designated family member. This transfer is based on the condition that participating households ensure their children maintain at least 80% attendance in school and take part in routine health immunization programmes provided by the government. Participating households are only enrolled in the programme for one year and are expected to ‘graduate’ afterwards – that is, exit the programme and live (above their vulnerabilities) happily ever after. A Poverty Reduction Accelerator Investment (PRAI) fund of approximately $560 is given to each household at the end of their one-year participation. The PRAI fund is for establishing a business or trade with the intention that it will generate income for households and subsequently sustain them upon their graduation from the programme.

COPE’s ‘premature’ graduation strategy and human capital (under)development

Based on findings from fieldwork conducted in Nigeria on COPE’s implementation in three communities in Ibadan, Oyo state, Southwest Nigeria, between May and October 2013, one can argue the programme assists households in purchasing basic household items in the short-term. However, with respect to long-term development of the human capital of children in particular, COPE is unlikely to make any significant contributions. This is because the programme only lasts for one year and the structural problems of poor education and health infrastructure exists in many parts of Nigeria. The PRAI fund is also too low to effectively establish and operate an income generating trade in Nigeria owing to the high cost of production and challenging macroeconomic environment in the country. Some of the households who participated in the programme therefore remain exposed to the same, or even worse, vulnerabilities regardless of their participation in the programme.

I suggest that by extending the participation period and providing better support to households over and above the payment of the PRAI, COPE can hope to provide better human capital development outcomes. As it stands, the design and implementation of the programme has predominantly negative implications for the long-term human capital development of participating households whose vulnerabilities to various shocks remain high within the Nigerian context. Therefore, the government and its development partners need to urgently rethink COPE’s graduation strategy.

Olabanji Akinola is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science and International Development Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

This blog post is part of a series for the international conference on ‘Graduation and Social Protection’ which is co-hosted by the Government and Rwanda and the Centre for Social Protection from the UK Institute of Development Studies, with financial support from Irish Aid, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.

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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Graduation and Social Protection Conference Blog: Matthew Greenslade (DFID) reflects on the conference so far…

This is the sixth in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series

This conference is big and has been well organised by IDS. There are lots of government officials in the mix from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda to keep things grounded in the real world.
photo of Graduation and Social Protection conference panel

The key points for me from Day 1 after presentations from Bangladesh and Rwanda and lots of good discussion are:
  • We need to think in terms of objective – in this case sustainably improving livelihoods – rather than instruments.
  • We need to get better at thinking about how sectors fit together/integrate to achieve this objective.
  • For social protection this will help us think through whether we are developing simple transfer programmes/public works, to be complemented by other programmes (probably in other sectors), or more integrated approaches in one programme (a la Bangladesh)
  • Countries should mostly stick to the simple transfer approach – hard enough to do in itself in the real world - to provide the solid base of the social protection system. There will then also be a number of alternatives that can be built ‘on top’ – for example public works (part of social protection system), intensive or non-intensive livelihoods support (will probably not be part of social protection system), skills training etc.
  • The graduation model from Bangladesh is important to learn lessons from – it is probably unlikely to be parachuted in to different country contexts intact because of cost and logistics and the fact that countries already have programmes in place (at various scales and levels of effectiveness) – but it does have something very important to say about how different programmes/sectors should fit together to sustainably improve livelihoods (and it may also be implementable in part or in whole for sub groups of the population).
  • Ultimately, increasing demand for labour, goods and services in the wider economy will be the lynch pin of long term poverty reduction – but support to the poorest from the outset is key to addressing market failures (poverty traps), breaking intergenerational poverty, leaving no one behind and supporting social stability.
  • It was useful to be reminded by Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and others of the need for solid, long term resilience to underpin sustainable graduation – although it doesn't always fit with donors' emphasis on short term results!  As was a reminder from Michael Samson to keep thinking multi-sectorally (though I know this is hard in the day to day real world!)

Matthew Greenslade is an Economic Advisor in the Social Protection Team in DFID HQ.

This blog post is part of a series. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.

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The Graduation Approach: A Promising Pathway out of Extreme Poverty?

The fifth in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series

The Graduation into Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (Graduation Approach) tries to put extremely poor people on a journey towards sustainable livelihoods and autonomous income within an 18 to 36 months timeframe. Policymakers attending the Reaching the Poorest Global Learning Event 2014 organized last February in Paris by the CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Program expressed enthusiasm for introducing the Graduation Approach in their countries to reach large numbers of the poorest.

It is estimated that there are nearly 1.2 billion people living with less than US$1.25 a day. The Graduation Approach is an ambitious effort to try to address the multiple constraints of the extreme poor, originally developed by BRAC in Bangladesh. The CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Program has been testing the Graduation Approach with 10 pilots in eight countries since 2006.

What impact so far?

By 2012, between 75 percent and 98 percent of participants at six of the 10 CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Pilots met locally-determined criteria for graduation into sustainable livelihoods, including indicators of improved nutrition, increased assets, and enhanced social capital. The Program’s robust learning agenda includes 8 randomized control trial (RCT) impact evaluations, and qualitative research in all sites, on top of regular monitoring by program staff. A pooled analysis of research results will be available mid-2014. Early results so far from randomized RCTs in Bangladesh and at six of the 10 CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Pilots show that the Graduation approach can significantly improve the lives of the poorest. There are signs of significant and sustained positive impact for households participating in the program, especially in terms of increased income, consumption and food security. Improvements in other measures of well-being are also documented by qualitative research in particular: “hope” and/or “happiness”, and female empowerment have increased in all sites where it was measured. Early research also suggests that the cost-effectiveness of the program is high.

How does it work?

The Graduation Approach combines a mix of interventions to escape extreme poverty, ranging from safety nets and the creation of livelihoods, to access to financial services. Participants receive consumption support, access to savings services, technical skills training, a variety of assets, and regular individualized life skills coaching over a period of 18-36 months.

Purposefully targeting the extreme poor, the Graduation Approach is built on five core elements:

1)  Consumption support gives participants “breathing space” by stabilizing their consumption and easing the stress of daily survival. It can be offered through a pre-existing government safety net program, in contexts where this is available.
2)  Savings allows households to build assets, instills financial discipline, and familiarizes participants with formal financial services.
3)  Asset transfers help jump-start one or more economic activity. Livelihood support services and market infrastructure must be analyzed beforehand through a thorough market analysis in order to identify sustainable options that can absorb new entrants.
4) Technical skills training provides knowledge on managing assets, running a business, and information on where to go for assistance and services (e.g., veterinary care).
5)  Life skills coaching on a weekly basis over the 18 to 36 months of the program helps to boost participants’ self-confidence, while supporting them with business planning and money management, along with health and disease prevention services and social support.

What are the next steps?
We are excited that a number of governments – such as Peru and Colombia-- and large donors -- such as the UNHCR, and IFAD -- view the Graduation Approach as offering a significant opportunity to strengthen their strategies and programming for people living in extremely poor conditions. They are in the early stages of planning or implementing this approach on a large scale: some will serve the extreme poor through their safety net programs, whereas others will focus on specific segments such as, refugees, internally displaced persons, or food-insecure households. From their experiences over the next few years we hope to learn how the key components of the graduation approach can be integrated into existing social protection, poverty alleviation, food security or economic development programs.

For more information, please see and Reaching the Poorest: Lessons from the Graduation Model.

Aude de Montesquiou is a Microfinance Specialist at CGAP.

This blog post is part of a series for the international conference on ‘Graduation and Social Protection’ which is co-hosted by the Government and Rwanda and the Centre for Social Protection from the UK Institute of Development Studies, with financial support from Irish Aid, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.

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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Linkages and Opportunities for Agriculture and Social Protection

The forth in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series

I am looking forward to the graduation conference greatly and congratulate all those who have put together such an interesting programme. I have worked on graduation over the last few years, approaching it from a social protection perspective. Now, most of my time is spent on agriculture, I have the opportunity therefore to wear a different hat to next week’s event.

I am anticipating, however, that it doesn’t need to be too different to the hat I previously wore. Many of the issues and concerns important for those working on social protection and agriculture are shared. Both provide a safety net to some of the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society, ensuring no one is left behind. Both increase incomes and provide opportunities to transform lives. Both try to ensure people are more resilient and opportune in dealing with risk. Furthermore, many of the people supported through social protection and agriculture programmes, are the same. In Rwanda for example, 90% of households cultivate at least one plot of land. Most (if not all) of those in receipt of social protection support are engaged in agriculture to one extent or another.

If we are to achieve ‘sustainable graduation’ therefore, it is vitally important those of us working in different sectors or departments coordinate, cooperate and collaborate. This point is not new, and links are often being made. I look forward to discussing and learning from participants where this is already happening.  In Rwanda, I feel we have the opportunity to strengthen the linkages.

Working on agriculture in DFID Rwanda, there are two early opportunities to strengthen the links. Firstly, as we support Government in the implementation of the latest Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda (PSTA III), we will support the Ministry of Agriculture in efforts to coordinate with the Ministry of Local Government and others Ministries relevant to graduation.  Secondly, in the programme of support to the agriculture sector DFID are currently developing for the next 3 years, we will improve linkages between agriculture and other programmes we support that are ‘enablers’ of graduation. This involves linking agriculture with the Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP); the Access to Finance Rwanda (which provides financial services to the poor and vulnerable) and support to climate funds that helps build climate resilience, to name only a few examples.

The conference, therefore, provides a timely opportunity to: 
  • explore why these critical linkages are important 
  • consider how we work across disciplines, government ministries and departments 
  • to discover more concretely, what can and should be done. 
This approach should help us end the conference with a tangible idea where next and the action required to get there. To this end, I would be interested to explore with delegates working in Rwanda if we can start to establish a ‘system’ for graduation that enables linkages to take place, ensuring graduation is sustained. Within this system, you could choose to graduate people sequentially, moving them from a social protection programme into an agriculture programme at an appropriate stage or, through a layered approach, where social protection and agricultural support is provided together. I look forward to discussing this and many other opportunities that I am sure will emerge over the course of the week.

Mark Davies is a livelihoods advisor for DFID Rwanda.

This blog post is part of a series. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.

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Philanthropy and development back on the agenda

Philanthropy as a global issue won’t go away – and it is getting more interesting.  Last month delegates at the Global Partnership for Effective Development’s high level meeting in Mexico attended a special event on philanthropy. They discussed how better to connect foundations with southern governments.

However, the issues surrounding philanthropy and development need to be set in a wider context.  The global expansion of the middle class, and the development of emerging countries is a clear focus of attention as demonstrated by Future World Giving, a welcome initiative from the Charities Aid Foundation. OECD voters are likely to become increasingly resistant to aid to middle income countries with their space programmes and their growing economies. In spite of the prevalence of chronic poverty and growing inequalities in these same regions, both official development assistance and private philanthropic giving from the North is likely to increasingly focus on the low income countries. All this makes the future of philanthropy and development a more important area of study than ever.
Three years ago IDS, The Resource Alliance and the Rockefeller Foundation embarked upon an ambitious project on: “The Future of Philanthropy and International Development in the Pursuit of Human Wellbeing.” It remains one of the biggest global consultations and studies on philanthropy and development to have ever taken place. Through global dialogue meetings, specially commissioned papers and a high-level two-week summit, the Bellagio Initiative heard from a diverse group including policymakers, academics, opinion leaders, social entrepreneurs, activists, indigenous peoples and donors from over 30 countries.
The Initiative’s final report published in 2012 recommended that more inclusivity, connectedness and greater levels of transparency and accountability were needed from philanthropic organisations and development agencies if trust is to be rebuilt with communities. Failure to do so, it argued, will make it impossible to promote human wellbeing and tackle development challenges worldwide.

Every one of the Bellagio Initiative outputs including the consultation documents and the final report are available on the IDS OpenDocs website.
Bellagio Initiative website screenshot

The report also urged a reorientation of development policy to addressing threats to human wellbeing and changing the measurements of development to make them more accurate in assessing wellbeing. It also recommended that philanthropic and development organisations must accept the profoundly political nature of the development process and get involved in this aspect of current development debates. This will require listening to marginal people, utilising new resources, and rediscovering philanthropy’s advocacy role.
Jay Naidoo, South African trade unionist, government minister and activist delivered one of the most memorable quotes of the Bellagio Summit: “If we don’t understand politics as the central challenge and obstacle to delivering human wellbeing then we’re missing the plot. That is the big issue that confronts us.”

The methodology which was chosen for the Bellagio Initiative was ambitious, perhaps too ambitious and it brought together a dizzyingly broad range of participants. The different “thought worlds” of business and foundations, activists and development academics made for an uneasy mix and problems in “translation” between the approaches and priorities of the participants. Despite the challenges it produced some amazing resources that should be compulsory reading, not just for those interested in the role of philanthropy in development cooperation, but for everyone focused on the broader global development challenges of a post-2015 world.
Bellagio Initiative outputs on IDS OpenDocs

About the Authors

Livelihoods, Social Protection and Graduation, Perspectives from the Chars Livelihoods Programme

The third in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series

‘Graduation’ is a hot topic at the moment, not just within the Chars Livelihoods Programme (CLP), but in the development world generally. It is particularly in focus for social protection and livelihoods programmes; those programmes that aim to help participants ‘graduate’ out of extreme poverty.

There are, of course, many tensions between the ideas of livelihoods, social protection, graduation, poverty, not least of which is “how are these things defined?” Does a livelihoods programme like CLP ‘do’ social protection? Or vice versa? Are they fundamentally different things? Does graduation mean something different to them, and if it does, should it? And is the graduation door one-way?

CLP has been engaging with these issues for several years now, defining and refining what we mean by poverty, what we mean by graduation, and how we’re going to measure it. Initially, the discussion began as a way of measuring how the programme was doing, before moving on and taking a more participant-centric focus. Although it’s still a work in progress (and I would argue that it must remain a work in progress, given the shifting and context-dependent nature of the beast!), some answers to these questions are starting to emerge from the discussion.

For CLP, poverty is a complex and multi-dimensional concept. It is set within a context that includes many important aspects (institutions, relationships, laws, cultures) that the programme has either no (or very little) control or influence over. Therefore acknowledging this complexity and being clear about the results that the programme CAN deliver are critical. 

CLP, in common with other programmes in Bangladesh, has therefore defined its graduation criteria using 10 indicators that cover major aspects of the vulnerabilities, risks and weaknesses that it intends to address. These indicators have been a work in progress since at least 2008, and go far beyond simple measures of income or expenditure, embracing empowerment and environmental factors as well.

For CLP, graduation is a one-way door. We see graduation as being a line in the sand that reflects the outputs and short- (and maybe some medium-term) outcomes that the programme has worked with participants to achieve. For us, graduation is about where people’s journey has got to once their CLP assistance comes to an end. 

This does not, however, mean that we pretend all these people are permanently out of extreme poverty. People obviously suffer shocks and stressors that push them back below our graduation line in the sand, as shown in our recent research on asset values, and why some households do better than others. 

Thus we track a sample of participants long term, with some indicators that, although not part of the graduation criteria, show modifications in knowledge, aptitudes and practices, and how these change over time. From that perspective, CLP acknowledges the importance of both graduation AND sustainable improvements in livelihoods. These are two related but different aspects. So we can see that, for example, people’s participation in groups and meetings steadily declines over time (meaning fewer and fewer people would ‘graduate’ on that criteria), but that maintaining ash or soap close to latrines or water points stays consistently high back through the cohorts.

It may well be that the ‘attending groups or meetings’ indicator is not a particularly good one for looking at the sustainability of changes or programme impact. It is entirely possible that people make the rational and positive decision that they do not need to continue with such formal groups or meetings. Its importance as an indicator could easily decline once people felt themselves to be empowered or less vulnerable in other areas of their life, such as income, asset values or vulnerability to disaster. Nevertheless, it was selected as an indicator of graduation (i.e. short- or medium-term outcomes) because of its perceived importance in terms of social inclusion and empowerment, highlighting the difference between graduation and sustainability or resilience.

The CLP, despite being an avowedly livelihoods-oriented programme, nevertheless acknowledges that it does do social protection as well, at least in some ways. For example, an average of around 6% of our participants are either living with a disability or include in the household someone with a disability or long-term, chronic illness. These people have often faced greater struggles than non-disabled people, suffering greater depths of poverty, exclusion and intolerance. Nevertheless, we find them participating actively, and, in some cases, achieving better results than their non-disabled contemporaries. One lady I visited recently had been selected as a demonstration participant under CLP’s milk marketing project, despite her physical disability.  She was doing such an excellent job of looking after her cattle that it was delivering four or five times more milk than the control group.

But will all members of a social protection programme be able to graduate? Clearly, the answer is no, just as all members of a graduation-focused livelihoods programme will not graduate.

What can be done for those participants that do not graduate, or that fall back into poverty? For CLP, the programmatic answer is simple – we are not set up to provide additional assistance, or provide assistance more than once. This is a point that will have to be picked up by the policy makers and funders.

Nevertheless, we shouldn't imagine that falling back into poverty is a one-way street either. Our recent research into asset values interviewed Shahida, whose livelihood took a massive hit when the land that she had invested in was eroded. Although she was then in the low-asset category, nevertheless with her savings she had managed to invest in a fishing net and a share cattle. She was applying the skills that she learnt during the CLP’s assistance to rebuild her assets through looking after the cattle properly, showing that, even if her immediate circumstances had changed, at least she had reserves of knowledge and resilience to draw upon.

Hopefully in time she and her family will succeed in re-establishing their livelihood and maybe even ‘re-graduate’ – another concept to add to the overall graduation debate?

Mat Pritchard was recently appointed by Maxwell Stamp as the Team Leader for the Chars Livelihoods Programme.

Image credit: Boat in the chars/Source: CLP

This blog post is part of a series for the international conference on ‘Graduation and Social Protection’ which is co-hosted by the Government and Rwanda and the Centre for Social Protection from the UK Institute of Development Studies, with financial support from Irish Aid, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.

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Friday, 2 May 2014

Graduation and Social Protection conference kicks off in Kigali

The second in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series 

On 6-8 May 2014, more than 150 people will gather in Kigali, Rwanda to discuss graduation and social protection programmes across the world. Why?

The promise of ‘graduation’ out of social protection is seductive. By delivering an integrated and sequenced package of assistance that includes consumption support (usually regular cash transfers), asset transfers (to generate streams of income), access to financial services (savings and/or credit), training or coaching and mentoring, poor people get both social protection and the possibility of escaping from extreme poverty into sustainable livelihoods and self-reliance. Governments can report progress on their poverty reduction targets, and donor agencies can demonstrate value for money to their electorates.

Early indicators of success with the ‘graduation model’ in Bangladesh prompted replicate pilot projects in other countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The governments of Ethiopia and Rwanda have adapted elements of the model in their graduation-oriented national safety net programmes. But there have been few opportunities to compare experiences across these diverse contexts. This conference offers a space for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers to share and reflect on the lessons learned from their engagement with graduation.

The conference aims to critically assess different conceptual and operational approaches to graduation – how graduation is understood and how it is implemented – across countries and programmes. It aims to review the small but growing evidence base from evaluations of graduation projects and programmes across the world. And it aims to identify the key factors that are associated with success as well as the factors that prevent achievement of graduation targets – the ‘enablers and constrainers’ of sustainable graduation outcomes.

There are also several challenging questions and unresolved debates that presenters at the conference will address. For example:
  • Should graduation be conceptualised differently – not as ‘exiting’ from social protection programmes (from ‘eligible’ to ‘ineligible’) but as moving from one form of social protection to another (e.g. from non-contributory social assistance to contributory social security), or as a transformative process of gradually accumulating assets and building resilience?
  • Is the vision of a smooth linear pathway out of extreme poverty too simplistic, especially in contexts where harsh agro-ecologies and climate variability mean that the livelihood protection function is more urgent than the livelihood promotion objective?
  • Is two years or even five years of support too short – should graduation be conceptualised across generations? Are children the key to sustainable graduation?
  • How can women and female-headed households, who are often left behind because of their constrained resources, benefit more from graduation-oriented programmes?
These are among the issues that will be debated in Kigali, as participants share their experiences and reflections, and learn from the insights and ideas of others. This is very much a policy-maker and practitioner-focused event. Our hope is that the conference will contribute to improved policy and practice in future social protection and graduation-oriented programming, leading to better lives and more secure livelihoods for poor and vulnerable people.

About the author

Stephen Devereux is Co-Director of the international conference on ‘Graduation and Social Protection’, which is co-hosted by the Government and Rwanda and the Centre for Social Protection from the UK Institute of Development Studies, with financial support from Irish Aid, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF.

This blog post is part of a series. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.

Follow the activity of the Graduation and Social Protection Conference on Twitter @Graduation_Conf #SocialProtectionGraduation

Introducing the ‘Graduation and Social Protection’ blog series

The first in Graduation and Social Protection Conference blog series

Next week over 150 people will gather in Kigali for a 3-day international conference to discuss graduation and social protection. This blog series, hosted on the IDS Povertics site, will run alongside the conference. The series aims to enliven the debate, promote wider engagement from policy-makers and practitioners and prompt the community of practice to act in the interest of the people who are most affected by the practical and theoretical questions that will be addressed at the conference.

I recently returned from a field visit in North West Bangladesh to a riverine island district where people live on islands made of silt that erode, evolve and migrate with the rains. We were visiting the long-running Chars Livelihood Programme (CLP) that targets the so-called ‘extreme-poor’ and provides an integrated package of livelihood support, cash transfers and plinth-raising to lift people above both the water and the extreme poverty line.

Image: Feet above the water line
Image: Feet above the water line. Source: Sarah Barns

It was there I met Salma*. Salma self-identified as a ‘graduate’ from the CLP. Her two year stipend and programme of integrated support ended seven years ago. Although she was still relatively better off than non-beneficiary households, her assets were evidently depleted. The heifer she had bought with the original asset transfer had been sold and in its place a less fruitful bull, which she intended to sell one day for meat. Our brief visit prompted questions about the sustainability of graduation for Salma and other beneficiaries, the possibility of graduating from extreme poverty into moderate poverty and the difficulties of measuring graduation beyond the programme’s boundaries.

Throughout the course of this blog series, our authors will explore some of these questions and many of their own. The debate will be kick-started by Stephen Devereux, co-director of the conference, who will introduce some key questions and outline his hopes for the week ahead. On Monday, Mat Pritchard from the CLP will delve deeper into the challenging questions surrounding graduation in Bangladesh. Olabanji Akinola will argue that the development community must do more to avoid the unfortunate reality of premature graduation he witnessed in his recent research into the ‘In Care of the People’ (COPE) Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme in Nigeria. Aude De Montesquiou looks through the lens of the CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Programme’s graduation pilots currently being evaluated, and Mark Davies asks what graduation means from an agricultural perspective.

We hope that you will all contribute and shape this debate online and at the conference. Let us know what you (really) think in the comments section below…

*Salma is a pseudonym.

Bridget Holtom is a social protection policy officer at DFID and is the Communications Coordinator for the international conference on ‘Graduation and Social Protection’ which is co-hosted by the Government and Rwanda and the Centre for Social Protection from the UK Institute of Development Studies, with financial support from Irish Aid, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF.

This blog post is part of a series. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.

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To follow the activity on Twitter @Graduation_Conf #SocialProtectionGraduation