'Our Audacious Project is to fundamentally change the ways that governments address ultra-poverty in their own countries'
Brac’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative (UPGI) would leverage $5.8 billion dollars in existing government and donor funding to help some Asian and Sub-Saharan countries pull 21 million people out of extreme poverty by 2026.
On Thursday, Brac, a Global South-led NGO that combats inequality and poverty around the world, was announced as one of this year's Audacious Project grantees. As a part of the project, Brac’s UPGI is set to receive more than $60 million to apply toward its goal.
The announcement came at a critical time when Brac UPGI's services are needed more than ever due to the global outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
The world witnessed unfathomable and unprecedented events, which have worsened and shed a light on pre-existing, systemic inequalities that permeate our global society.
Shameran Abed, senior director of Brac Microfinance and Ultra-Poor Graduation programs made the announcement via a video message titled “BRAC UPGI TED 2020 Audacious Announcement” on Thursday.
“Our Audacious Project is to fundamentally change the ways that governments address ultra-poverty in their own countries. We want to leverage $5.8 billion dollars of government and donor funding and channel those towards well-executed government-led graduation programs. We want to create movement and get momentum behind this,” said Shameran.
“So, in the next six years, we hope to pull 21 million people out of ultra-poverty. By the end of the decade, hopefully, what we started or are going to do in the next few years, will create a movement that will pull hundreds of millions of people out from ultra-poverty,” he added.
The pandemic threatens to unravel decades of progress toward poverty alleviation, says Brac.
At the beginning of 2020, an estimated 700 million people lived in extreme poverty around the world. By the end of 2020, more than 70 million people could be forced to join them, it added.
"The level of effort, programming, resources, and tenacity required to eradicate extreme poverty vastly exceeds the capabilities of a single organization or the Audacious investment," said Lindsay Coates, managing director of Brac's UPGI.
"To truly eliminate poverty in all its forms, Brac urges governments, multilateral institutions, donors, NGOs, and policymakers to work together more effectively and commit significantly more resources,” she said.
How the graduation model works
The graduation model tries to address both the poverty income and poverty of hope. So, primarily Brac works with women because they are the most affected by ultra-poverty and they are the ones likely to pull themselves and their families out of ultra-poverty, Shameran said.
Brac takes four steps in uplifting women from ultra-poverty. They are:
First of all, it tries to meet women’s basic needs via cash or food support, and help to ensure that she has the minimum for her and her family to survive.
Secondly, the program tries to move women towards a decent livelihood by providing assets such as livestock and training her to earn an income through that.
Third, Brac tries to help her learn to budget, to save, and to invest her newfound wealth.
Lastly, it tries to reintegrate her to society. First by creating a group of women just like her, and then by integrating her to her wider community.
“Governments have billions of dollars allocated to poverty programs already, but many are not reaching the most marginalized, nor are they fully equipped to integrate Graduation [approach] into their systems," said Shameran.
“We must act swiftly and design programs that meet the increasing and evolving needs of those living in extreme poverty - programs that are comprehensive, adaptive, and immediate but for long-term needs - to build resilience and support a sustainable recovery," said Shameran.
The Audacious Project will support efforts to scale and implement Brac's Graduation, a multifaceted intervention that helps the poorest escape extreme poverty and continue to improve their lives years after the program ends, he adds.
Brac is the founder and largest scaled implementer of the Ultra-Poor Graduation approach (Graduation), having reached more than 2 million households in Bangladesh and they developed and implemented adaptations of the approach in 14 countries covering a range of different contexts and vulnerabilities.