Established in 1975, BRAC’s research and evaluation division (RED) works towards addressing continuous challenges confronted by development initiatives, while aiming to frame the credibility and research support to BRAC's development programmes. Working as a separate division under the supervision of the executive director, RED plays an important role in monitoring progress and evaluating the impact of our development interventions.
An important drive for RED's research on TUP is to deliver the broader intellectual challenge of developing a better understanding of extreme poverty in Bangladesh, and draw stylised programmatic principles that should underpin effective programme design.
TUP programme evaluation: Impact
An impact assessment studies for the first phase (2002-2006) was implemented in 15 of the poorest districts, covering 100,000 specially selected ultra poor households. The studies showed that the programme had significant positive impact on the livelihoods of the participant households.
Impact assessment study for the first phase of the programme, using panel data collected over a span of seven years (2002-2008), shows that the programme has positive impacts on real income, food security and asset accumulation, and that the impacts are mostly sustainable in the long-run (after seven years of intervention). The study documents that magnitude of the impact on per capita income increases over time.
Productive asset holding, although transferred by the programme, increased significantly and sustained over long term, indicating that the programme helped the participant households generate a sustainable productive asset base.
With regard to savings, in 2002 (baseline) only 8 per cent of programme women participants had cash savings but this proportion increased to 94 per cent in 2005 and then 98 per cent in 2008. Among women from the comparison group, this proportion increased from 21 to 30 per cent and then to 34 per cent over the same period. Programme participation has been also found to have positive impact on outstanding borrowing and lending behaviour of the participants. As for the indicator related to self-perceived food security, in 2002 (baseline), chronic food insecurity among the participant households was significantly high compared to the compared non-participant households. In 2005, proportion of participant households with chronic food insecurity had fallen by 47 per cent , while for the non-participating households, it had fallen by 11 per cent.
Using 10 specific indicators related to food security, asset holding, home gardening etc, the study showed that 8 per cent of the participant households met 7 out of 10 criteria at the baseline but the proportion increased to 92 per cent in 2008. Corresponding proportion among non-participants increased from 25 per cent in 2002 to 64 per cent in 2008.
Qualitative exploration reveals that determination, confidence, social networking and asset management skills are the key factors to use the support provided by the CFPR programme most effectively.
On the other hand, impact assessment study for second phase of the programme uses 2007-2011 panel data (randomised control trial). The study shows evidence of substantial positive impact of the programme on labour force participation and occupational choices of women from the targeted communities. Compared to a similar distribution across activities in both targeted and control communities at the baseline (2007), two years later (ie, in 2009), all the eligible women in treatment communities were in the labour force, and almost all of them were engaged in self-employment. On the contrary, women in control communities experienced no noticeable change relative to baseline. This trend remained similar even after four years (ie, in 2011). The study also shows that after four years of intervention, annual real income of the participant women increased by 33 per cent due to programme intervention. On the other hand, per capita real food and non-food expenditures increased by 4 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.
The Research and evaluation division of BRAC has conducted baseline (2012) and follow up (2014) surveys to evaluate phase 3 of the CFPR-TUP programme. Preliminary findings echo the positive results obtained by the studies conducted during the earlier phases of the programme.
Over the past decade, Bangladesh has been experiencing urbanisation at an unprecedented speed and scale. This urbanisation, like in many other developing countries, is also accompanied by increasing urban poverty and inequality.
The majority of the urban population in Bangladesh is concentrated only in a few large cities like Dhaka, Chittagong and a number of growing secondary cities. Every year thousands of people migrate to Dhaka city alone – many of them who end up living in slums and squatters where urban poverty is concentrated and often intensified.
During the designing of Phase II, the TUP programme identified the need to serve this population of urban extreme poor. For this, an urban pilot programme focusing on the specially targeted ultra poor (STUP) approach was created and launched in the year 2010.
After witnessing mentionable success through the pilot, the programme went on to become a regular one from 2012 with the introduction of the other targeted ultra poor (OTUP) approach in 2013. Areas of operations also expanded from Dhaka city to Chittagong and Khulna cities as well.
In the urban scenario, communities enjoy closer access to markets and earn significantly higher incomes. For this reason, participants in the programme receive comparatively different benefits than that of TUP’s rural participants, with adjustments in the OTUP approach such as absence of soft loan and stipend provision. Also, the packages offered to urban participants are mainly of non-farm enterprises, with suitable non-farm enterprise trainings being provided in areas such as grocery, clothes vending, food preparation and such more. Addressing needs in healthcare and social integration by providing links to health services are sought through municipal area resources. Slum poverty reduction committees (SDBCs) similar to rural programme’s GDBCs operate in the urban programme to support participants from urban communities.
The TUP urban programme aims to focus on bringing social, economic and inspirational changes among the poorest slum dwellers by developing small entrepreneurs among the poorest.
When a programme rises to the forefront with strong, proven results, it makes sense to ask whether that success can be adapted by others as well. Programmes with the greatest chance of effectiveness and ability to benefit the largest number of people are usually the ones that are widely adapted and replicated.
Nowadays, with many social problems being common across diverse communities, replicating an effective solution to these problems seems easier than to continuously reinvent the wheel. When done well, replication can make a positive difference not just for individual participants, but indeed for entire communities, cities and the nation as a whole.
One such example is the ‘graduation’ approach of the TUP programme which has received significant attention from various stakeholders at home and abroad. It has been adopted internationally in diversified geophysical and socio-economical realities across South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean.
The approach has been adopted in three BRAC operated countries, namely South Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan and piloted in eight poverty-driven countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Pakistan, Peru and Yemen) by other organisations with supporting technical assistance from BRAC.
Different international studies have shown that 75-98 per cent of the total participants of these countries met the country-specific graduation criteria, and currently more than 33 countries have adopted and successfully implemented the ultra poor graduation model.
BRAC helps interested government and non government organisations of different countries by providing them with learning which they can implement through the ultra poor programme in their working areas. The programme also offers immersion visits for national and international stakeholders (policy makers, donors, implementers, researchers, scholars, journalists etc) which include practical field visits and meeting with the BRAC leadership and both central and field-level programme officials.
Advocacy in all its forms seek to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable , are able to have their voices heard on issues that are important to them, defend and safeguard their rights, and have their views and wishes genuinely considered when policies are made.
TUP advocacy focuses on addressing and promoting actions for fulfillment of the needs of the ultra poor, therefore significantly contributing to ensure sustainable inclusion of ultra poor families into mainstream development programmes. The programme is committed to developing stronger tools for national advocacy around extreme poverty. Writing and speaking on behalf of TUP participants, sharing their experiences and that of stakeholders and visitors are part of the main work this initiative engages in.
Strengthening existing knowledge, organising events regarding extreme poverty, exploring opportunities to develop stronger collaboration with other extreme poverty players to develop a stronger mechanism for national and international advocacy are some of the goals of the advocacy team. Constructing awareness-creating activities for the extreme poor are necessary in the government poverty reduction strategy to influence the government to work in partnership with NGOs and other stakeholders for the adoption and implementation of the ‘graduation model’. In solidarity with the various campaigns for eradicating all forms of poverty by 2030, the TUP advocacy networks and works in collaboration with national and international alliances and stakeholders by sharing the evidence of success of the ultra poor graduation model.
The TUP advocacy team also shares lessons from various extreme poverty programmes to help understand the graduation model in different contexts, and to be able to significantly contribute to the poverty eradication process.
At the national and international levels, this initiative aims to influence processes that have an impact on the lives of the poorest. It works in partnership with a wide range of actors including civil society networks, governments and the private sector.
Targeting the ultra poor
The targeting and selection stages of STUP and OTUP is divided into two folds: the selection of the programme location, determined by consulting the poverty map and conducting surveys, and selection of the household, determined by the participatory rural appraisal (PRA), door-to-door surveys through questionnaires and 100 per cent verification.
The programme is being implemented through the following components:
Enterprise development and life skill training
Participants receive three to five days of classroom training followed by interim refresher courses and 24-month-long, hands-on training sessions through home visits under close supervision. The programme participants also get issue-based social and health awareness education during the home visits. A confidence-building training is also arranged before their graduation for the sustainability of their livelihoods.
Asset transfer/ soft loan
After the completion of classroom training, the STUP programme provides livelihood assets (livestock, poultry, agriculture farming, horticulture nursery, small trading etc.) for the women in the targeted households, including shelter for animals, feed, vaccines and related inputs. A subsistence allowance is provided for a certain period which acts as a ‘breathing space’ to focus on developing their assets without engaging in survival activities. This stipend serves the purpose of a short-term income support until income is generated from the transferred assets.
The OTUP programme on the other hand has only one exception in comparison to STUP, which is that OTUP provides a soft loan with small grants such as vaccines, medicines, feed etc to the participants to purchase their asset rather than giving it as a grant. The installment repayment schedule, loan duration, savings etc are much more flexible here than conventional microfinance programme.
Tailor-made essential healthcare service
This is an exclusive, customised healthcare services and referral arrangements for the ultra poor members, through the innovative network of community based health workers. Health services and support includes linkages with other health service providers, installation of sanitary latrines and tube wells, financial assistance for severe and mild morbidity, health education, basic healthcare, pregnancy-related care, immunisation, micronutrient powder satchet and vitamin A tablets for children under five.
Community mobilisation work
This component involves individual and group work with the ultra poor, providing support and counseling on sustainable development of their livelihoods and helping people in crisis. village or slum poverty reduction committee, known respectively as gram or slum daridro bimochon committee (GDBC or SDBC) is a platform to support participants socially through active community participation, works to provide security for assets of the participants, protecting them from maltreatment and social injustices, and mobilising resources from the community to help the ultra poor households during crisis situations.
The ultra poor programme aims to bring economic and social changes in ultra poor households, and assist them in getting access to the mainstream development programmes, thus creating aspirations within the severely disadvantaged group of population. However, realising the heterogeneity even among the ultra poor, the programme addresses diversified needs of its target population with two different strategies:
The specially targeted ultra poor (STUP) strategy serves the bottom of the poorest 17.6 per cent of the population who live below the poverty line. After carefully selecting them, this approach provides intensive, integrated support including asset grants, enterprise development and life skill training, tailor-made personalised healthcare facilities and ensuring social integration through community mobilisation.
The other targeted ultra poor (OTUP) strategy serves the segment within the ultra poor who are marginally less deprived than STUP, but still firmly belong to 17.6 per cent of the extreme poverty group.
The support package for OTUP members is similar to that of STUP with the exception that in OTUP, soft loan is provided to purchase their asset rather than receiving the asset as a grant which is done in STUP.
The CFPR-TUP programme is a two-year cycle programme. After completion of two years, the high number of participants ‘graduating’ out of ultra poverty offers an understanding of the true impact of the programme.
BRAC's groundbreaking ultra poor programme focuses on improving the economic and social situation of extremely deprived women and their households. Upholding BRAC’s holistic approach to development, the programme carries out a sustainable model by creating prospects for the most disadvantaged people within communities to overcome extreme poverty through careful selection, integrated support including asset grants or soft loan, skill development, tailor-made healthcare facilities, and ensuring social security through community mobilisation.
The TUP participants live in extreme poverty, where they struggle to meet their minimal dietary requirements and face difficulty to reach mainstream, anti-poverty programmes like microfinance. According to the latest impact assessment study, about 95 per cent of those in the programme ‘graduate’ from extreme poverty and have stayed out for six years after the programme ended. Most go on to take advantage of more mainstream opportunities like microfinance. The programme is now being adapted by other organisations in different countries around the world.