The SEEP Network Blog | Combining Push and Pull Strategies for Greater Scale and Poverty Outreach

August 12, 2014

Cross-posted from The SEEP Network blog.

USAID’s Microenterprise and Private Enterprise Promotion (MPEP) and Food for Peace (FFP) offices are excited to come together to co-sponsor the Push/Pull track at SEEP’s 2014 Annual Conference. Jointly, our two offices have been giving increasing attention to the modalities—in design and implementation—around how the most vulnerable and impoverished households reached by our programming can be more sustainably and incrementally integrated into markets.

We recognize that the extremely poor have unique characteristics—e.g., greater vulnerability to risk, limited resources to invest in upgrading, fewer relationships with people who are upwardly mobile, a "hidden" presence in systems analyses—that often preclude them from being able to take advantage of opportunities that are traditionally created through market systems development efforts. Our attention to push/pull approaches stems from a broadly shared recognition that truly inclusive economic development and pathways out of poverty—especially for the extreme poor—require greater collaboration amongst those working across the socio-economic spectrum, and that an overarching approach that incorporates both push and pull strategies is necessary to see the desired changes occur in a scalable and lasting manner. This push/pull approach embraces a systems approach to analysis and design, recognizing that an individual’s pathway out of poverty is inseparable from the complex networks and systems in which the individual lives—be it the household, the community or region, the marketplace, etc. More than just a conceptual framework, this model depends on a strongly articulated vision and operationalized plan for transitions between activities, integrates sequencing and layering of activities, and is supported by robust causal logic and knowledge management systems.

Through its Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO) project, the MPEP office is looking at a push/pull approach as one strategy to drive more inclusive market systems. LEO is focused on collaboratively addressing gaps in knowledge and practice that exist in the area of strategic synergy and coordination, focusing on the how, when, where, and why of interactions between push and pull, at both the design and day-to-day operational levels. In particular, LEO is focused on highlighting models where push and (in particular) pull strategies are interacting dynamically via sequencing, layering, robust knowledge management systems, and operationalized theories of change; exploring the role of labor and raising its profile in market development efforts; and drawing out how other key LEO learning areas—gender, facilitation, resilience, scale—can inform learning around best practice in push/pull.

Likewise, FFP’s development programs aim to enable chronically poor communities and households to identify and take advantage of economic opportunity. Increasingly partners are exploring push and pull strategies that combine or sequence resource transfers with more market-based approaches to create sustainable trajectories out of extreme poverty. While promising examples exist, there is much more to be learned.

The Push/Pull track at SEEP’s 2014 Annual Conference has a number of wonderful sessions that we believe bring to the forefront some of the more effective, creative, and silo-breaking ideas and practice happening ‘on the ground’ in the practitioner community today.

We look forward to a vibrant exchange of ideas and learning in September and the opportunity to move this field of practice forward towards more sustainable poverty reduction and inclusive market systems.