Tackling extreme poverty: Evidence from the field

Past Event London, UK Firms, Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Growth

IGC/BRAC Ultra-poor Conference
Location: London School of Economics and Political Science

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As the first of the newly adopted United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, eradicating extreme poverty constitutes a major challenge for governments and organisation across the globe entering the post-2015 era.  Despite progress over the last few decades, a large proportion of the world’s population still remain in extreme poverty. These people, who are majority women, often lack both the necessary skills and capital to lift themselves out of poverty. Simultaneously, policies designed to address the necessities of the ultra-poor often fall short of reaching the people most in need. Any attempt to alleviate extreme poverty on a large scale must therefore consider a process that incentivises increases in both assets and skills for those in ultra-poverty over a long time horizon.

Through a ground breaking approach created by BRAC, a global international organisation, significant steps has already been taken towards financial inclusion and livelihood development targeting the ultra-poor.

  • By addressing both the lack of assets and skills, this piece of social innovation seeks to develop possibilities for basic entrepreneurship for the ultra-poor, ultimately aiming to graduate them out of extreme poverty.
  • Since its launch in Bangladesh in 2002, BRAC's 'Targeting the Ultra-poor' programme has reached 1.6 million households in Bangladesh. The model has been replicated by NGOs and governments in numerous countries in Africa, South Asia and Latin America.
  • With the possibility for scaling up and reaching more of the world’s ultra-poor, the approach has the potential to successfully fulfil the new sustainable development goal.


About the conference

This conference served to discuss and evaluate graduation approaches, looking at both short and long term effects of this type of policy intervention. In cooperation with leading economists the conference presented data on the effect of the programme so far and sought to unpack the mechanisms of the programme’s success. The conference debated the opportunities and risks of scaling up the programme and analyse the concerns moving forward seeking to answer questions like:

  • What are the long term effects? What type of transfers work best – assets or cash?
  • How important is the hands-on training and coaching component? How can this approach be integrated into national social protection schemes?
  • Is the approach cost effective when compared with other approaches to addressing extreme poverty?

The conference was followed by this IGC public lecture.

For more information please contact [email protected].


Conference Presentations

Time Presentation Title Presenter
0900-0945 “Eradicating Extreme Poverty: Ultra-poor Graduation as a Social Protection Tool” Mushtaque Chowdhury (BRAC)
0945-1015 “Results from a long-run evaluation in Bangladesh” Robin Burgess (IGC, LSE)
1015-1130 “The Design of Social Protection Programs for the Poor: In-Kind Asset Transfers versus Unconditional Cash Transfers” Imran Rasul (University College London)
1015-1130 “Comparing assets versus cash transfers in social protection schemes” Qazi Isa (Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund)
1145-1300 “Targeting the Ultra Poor in Ghana” Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
1345-1500 “Graduation in the longer term” Oriana Bandiera (IGC, LSE)
1345-1500 “Targeting the Ultra Poor: Long Run Results” (Presentation not available for download) Esther Duflo (MIT)


Ultra-poor Conference 2015 Session Videos Duration Video
Public Lecture (audio): Tackling extreme poverty through programmes targeting the world's ultra-poor Duration Audio
Public Lecture (video): Tackling extreme poverty through programmes targeting the world's ultra-poor Duration Video
Tackling extreme poverty: Transforming the lives of the ultra-poor (Film) Duration Video