Development programmes often do not reach the very poorest households. A new set of initiatives, called graduation programmes, aimes to target these excluded households. These programmes provide asset transfers and income support for a fixed period. The objective is to graduate poor households out of poverty and support their resilience so that they do not fall back into poverty. In addition, some programmes also provide psychological support to clients, often women who are marginalised and have very little confidence to engage even in small business. However, not all programmes include this component.
How important is psychological support (such as life planning, confidence building and strengthening social awareness) in helping poor women to graduate out of poverty in a resilient way? Surprisingly, no research has actually addressed this question. This research will address this question with the first (and biggest) graduation programme, which is located in Bangladesh. The research will refine an existing questionnaire based upon methods used in social psychology and canvass over 1000 households. The results will help reserachers and development practitioners to design better programmes for the very poorest households.
The primary beneficiaries will be the ultra poor households for whom graduation programmes are designed. The objective is to try and improve design by assessing the inputs provided and the end result should be inputs being more appropriate than they might otherwise have been. This may be relatively easier to accomplish in BRAC itself but BRAC's donors, including DFID who are the major funders of the CFPR programme, have a strong funding and advocacy role on working with the extreme poor beyond Bangladesh. Results from this research, if convincing to DFID, may be an important contribution to ultra poor programmes in Bangladesh where they support several initiatives beyond CFPR. DFID are also uniquely well-placed to bring interesting and policy relevant research results to the wider development community. The international donor community are deeply concerned about results-based management and the cost effectiveness of aid both for their own efficiency as public bodies but also to defend aid budgets in hard times -working with ultra poor households in poor countries is one area where evidence-based improvement may be a substantial argument in support of retaining development funding. Academic beneficiaries, as discussed, will include some of the most important figures in development impact evaluation who have engaged extensively with graduation programmes. Graduation programmes are likely to grow in number and size across the developing world and may well have a clearly defined role in the post-2015 agenda. If this 'proof of concept' work is successful it could have a significant influence on the global evolution of graduation programmes.