Concern Worldwide US, Inc.

Graduation out of Extreme Poverty

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Poverty is exhausting. Without a steady income, every waking moment is spent trying to get food or a roof over your head; you worry about illness or some other upset that will make life a little bit harder. You don’t have time to think about tomorrow. People treat you like you deserve to be poor. Soon, you believe it yourself. Our solution provides holistic support to help people see a future for themselves and their children. We will work with the hardest to reach in the poorest countries, in urban contexts and with the displaced, helping them get a job to transform their lives. Households will receive cash grants, skills training and access to loans and health care. Mentors will provide coaching and support to build self-confidence and improve overall wellbeing of the household. Working with the wider community means these changes will last long after the program has ended.

Problem Statement

730 million people lack the most basic standard of living and the situation is getting worse. To achieve the SDG target of zero poverty, 15 people need to exit poverty every ten seconds; the actual number is predicted to drop from 12 to 5 between 2017-22. Extremely poor people engage in casual labor not quite earning enough to live, facing daily challenges to afford food, access a decent standard of housing and educate their children. This economic poverty negatively affects their social and emotional wellbeing. The constant stress weighs on a household, leading to a behavioral poverty trap where they focus on short-term survival and cannot aspire to a life free from poverty. Where progress has been made, it has been uneven, with more than half of the extreme poor now living in Sub-Saharan Africa and increasingly in Fragile and Conflict Affected Contexts. Many programs purporting to reach the extreme poor are not actually doing so and those that do often focus on their economic needs alone without considering the wider emotional and behavioral barriers. Particular challenges exist for the 125 million forcibly displaced persons, the urban poor, women and people living with disabilities. Any solution needs to be deeply felt by the household, supported by broader social change in the community that in turn leads to global change, and supported by a solid evidence base of what works to create a world free from poverty.

Solution Overview

Our graduation programs create pathways to a sustainable exit from extreme poverty. The approach is a careful sequence of comprehensive targeting, monthly cash grants ($20), linkages with savings and loans providers, job skills training, and a lump sum to jump-start their own income generating activities. The program is time-bound to avoid dependence.The households receive extensive one to one mentoring from our case managers, which is sometimes referred to as the X-Factor of the approach. Mentors provide support on the development of a business plan, promote linkages with service providers (health, education), provide emotional support through attentive listening, and lay counselling. Mentoring is tailored to each household building on their existing capacities. This helps program participants to gain a sense of control over their lives. Change at the household level must be complemented by change at the community level. More equal gender relations, increased market access, and availability of more nutritious foods contribute to improvements across the community. Improving the enabling environment like this means that the extreme poor have something to graduate into and are able to continue to improve.The combination of mutually reinforcing components leads to positive and sustainable impacts on poverty. We expect to see an improvement in income, household assets, social standing, gender attitudes, self-reliance and mental well-being as a result of the program, which we will track using a variety of indicators. The learning from the experience across eight countries will influence national and international policy discussions.

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Project Funders

  • Irish Aid (partially funding graduation) 2012 - 2021
  • Trickle Up 2017 - 2020
  • Whole Planet Foundation 2019 - 2021

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