'And Who Listens to the Poor?' Shocks, Stresses and Safety Nets in India and Pakistan
Conventional government schemes and microfinance interventions have struggled to reach the poorest people and help them escape the confines of extreme poverty. In response, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) experimented with an innovative approach that combined livelihood creation, financial services and safety nets in order to "graduate" participants out of extreme poverty and towards a sustainable livelihood. Inspired by BRAC's success, CGAP and the Ford Foundation launched an initiative to test and adapt BRAC's approach in a variety of countries and contexts through their Graduation Programme.
This paper focuses on two Graduation Programme implementations – one by Trickle Up in West Bengal, India, and the other by Orangi Charitable Trust (OCT) in Sindh, Pakistan. By utilizing a qualitative life history approach, we found that prior to joining the programmes, participants experienced different "idiosyncratic resources and risks" that defined their initial starting points. Programme performance among participants was largely based on a combination of these initial starting points, programme functioning, and use of personal agency. Where the programmes were implemented as designed, they succeeded in strengthening participants' individual and household resources and access to social networks, and expanding certain spheres of influence. However, some constraints were too deeply internalized to influence, and sustaining positive outcomes beyond the point of graduation proved to be a challenge.
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