Graduation as Resilience

Lead Research Organisation: BRAC Centre
Department Name: Research and Evaluation Division

Abstract

Important development programmes such as microfinance often do not reach the very poorest households. A new set of initiatives, called Graduation programmes, have targeted these very poor households. Their objective is to graduate them out of poverty in a sustainable manner and make them resilient so they do not fall back into poverty. The main approach is to develop the income earning of households through microenterprise, usually more than one.
Most of these programmes target women and use some form of asset transfer or asset subsidy, and perhaps stipends for a fixed period. In addition to this material support they often help clients to strengthen their social network and get the community involved in supporting their clients in working towards resilient graduation out of poverty. Typically programmes expect to work with clients for two years before they are ready to graduate.
In addition some programmes provide psychological support to these poor women who are often marginalised socially and often have very little confidence to engage even in petty business. Bu not all programmes include this component. The question is should they?
How important is psychological support such as life planning, confidence building and strengthening social awareness in helping poor women to graduate in a resilient way? Surprisingly, no research has actually addressed this question. It is a development frontier and we do not know for sure what the answer is.
This research will address this question through research on the first and biggest graduation programme which is in Bangladesh and run by an NGO called BRAC. Their programme is called 'Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction' (CFPR) and it has graduated over 400,000 ultra poor women since it started in 2002. This programme provides material, social and psychological support. There has been a lot of economic and social research on this programme and almost all the evidence shows that it is effective in bringing poor women and their households out of poverty and that is also efficient in terms of cost. However none of this research has really focused on the relative importance of the different inputs -material social and psychological. In particular the psychological dimension has had no research. We do not know whether these softer inputs provided through informal counselling and through confidence building workshops make any difference.
The research will take advantage of a large data set that has been collected over four rounds since 2002 on economic and social dimensions of change in client households. But it will generate a new set of data, on the psychological support provided because there is not any existing data to work with.
The research will refine an existing questionnaire based upon methods used in social psychology and canvass it with 1000 households that also took part in the four rounds of economic and social data collection. Half of these were in the CFPR and half are a control group who did not receive programme benefits but are also very poor. The questionnaire will be carefully field-tested before use.
After collecting this new data the researchers will run a series of statistical tests to try and establish which components of the programme contribute most. It will focus especially on the question of whether the psychological inputs are adding value by strengthening or speeding up progress out of poverty. The results will be shared with groups of the clients to provide some ground-truthing of the analytic findings. The results will also be shared broadly within the national and international development community.

Planned Impact

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.

Publications

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Description Important development programmes such as microfinance often do not reach the very poorest households. A new set of initiatives, called Graduation programmes, have targeted these very poor households. Their objective is to graduate them out of poverty in a sustainable manner and make them resilient so they do not fall back into poverty. The main approach is to develop the income earning of households through microenterprise, usually more than one.
Most of these programmes target women and use some form of asset transfer or asset subsidy, and perhaps stipends for a fixed period. In addition to this material support they often help clients to strengthen their social network and get the community involved in supporting their clients in working towards resilient graduation out of poverty. Typically programmes expect to work with clients for two years before they are ready to graduate.
In addition some programmes provide psychological support to these poor women who are often marginalised socially and often have very little confidence to engage even in petty business. Bu not all programmes include this component. The question is should they?
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?
First, we had to establish that we could actually measure psychological wellbeing meaningfully amongst very poor women in rural Bangladesh. Psychological well-being research often adopts one of two general approaches; hedonism (Kahneman et al 1999 ) and eudaimonism (Waterman 1993). The hedonic viewpoint mainly focuses on subjective well-being (SWB), which is frequently equated with happiness and is formally defined as less negative affect, more positive affect, and greater satisfaction with life. Contrasting to that, the eudaimonic viewpoint focuses on psychological wellbeing which is defined more broadly in terms of the fully functioning person. On the basis of an extensive literature review, Ryff, an eminent social psychologist, developed an integrated theoretical framework of psychological well-being. This drew on insights from her own research on development during the course of life and a type of meta-analysis of contemporary empirical psychological wellbeing measures. Ryff de?nes well-being not simply as the attaining of pleasure, but as "the striving for perfection that represents the realization of one's true potential" (Ryff 1995, p. 100). She provides a multidimensional approach to the measurement of psychological wellbeing (PWB) that identifies six distinct aspects of human actualization: autonomy, personal growth, self-acceptance, life purpose, mastery, and positive relatedness. In the model, these six constructs define PWB both theoretically and operationally.
The research team have successfully applied a survey instrument to test this well-established model of psychological wellbeing amongst a random sample of programme participants and non-participants in BRAC's programme, Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty: Targeting the Ultra-Poor (CFPR).
Exploratory factor analysis established that the model performed well; data collected on 44 indicators identified latent variables (factor scores) that matched the underlying theory.The EFA Model is Y = Xß+ E where Y is a matrix of measured variables, X is a matrix of common factors, ß is a matrix of weights (factor loadings) and E is a matrix of unique factors, (error variation). EFA employs a set of rules, for example the Kaiser criterion and Cattell's scree test, to help determine the number of factors to be retained though there is a subjective element in determining the best match between theory and statistics (Suhr, 2006, Di Stefano, et al 2009). The statistical results, using factor analysis, have demonstrated that five dimensions of the model perform well explaining 74% of the variance.

The next step was to see if these results on psychological wellbeing are related to programme participation. Three of the five dimensions produce significant results in relation to programme participation. These three latent variables (estimated factors which capture different dimensions of psychological wellbeing), were measured by fourteen underlying indicators measured in the fieldwork. High scores on two factors - personal growth and self-acceptance- were strongly associated with programme participation. A third dimension, autonomy, was negatively associated. These results fit exceptionally well with the theory behind the research. It is reasonable to believe that the programme contributed to personal growth and to self-acceptance. Similarly, we would not expect high scores on autonomy because the programme encourages joint decision taking and there is also a recognition that some degree of dependence on the programme might exist.

These results provide confidence that the model underlying the research instrument is represented by the factors identified in the EFA. Furthermore, they demonstrate that the programme has measurable effects on psychological wellbeing. We know from the panel data collected through the existing socio-economic survey that programme participants had improved more in material terms than the control group. These results have established a correlation between psychological inputs and material outcomes. This was the key 'proof of concept' that this research was designed to address. The next stage, for which ESRC funding has been approved, is to seek to establish causation by testing whether programmes that use psychological wellbeing inputs perform better than those that do not.
Exploitation Route This research relates closely to the new Sustainable Development Goal on eliminating extreme poverty (target 1.1). Sharing the results with development agencies through graduation learning events and other dissemination channels will encourage the incorporation of the research findings in programme design for extreme poverty reduction.
Sectors Other

 
Description It is too early (June 2016) for research impact. The second stage of this development frontiers research will be the key step in identifying the best ways of incorporating psychological wellbeing inputs into programmes designed to reduce extreme poverty. They have been used to make the case for further research on psychological wellbeing and a new research project, on a similar programme in Haiti, has been funded.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Input on National :Policy on Extreme Poverty eradicaton programmes
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Research grant from the Vista Hermosa foundation through FONKOZE
Amount $61,369 (USD)
Funding ID
Organisation FONKOZE 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 04/2016 
End 12/2018
 
Title Survey Instrument for recording data on individual psychological wellbeing designed to allow statistical application of a locally validated model of pyschological wellbeing 
Description Questionnaire: Survey Instrument for recording data on individual psychological wellbeing designed to allow statistical application of a locally validated model of psychological wellbeing. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Research application in Haiti 
 
Title Psychological wellbeing and socioeconomic performance data base 
Description Psychological wellbeing and socioeconomic performance data base for poor rural Bangladeshi households including participants in an extreme poverty programme and a control group. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Utilisation in another research program. 
 
Description Fonkoze Graduation Program 
Organisation VNIIGAZ
Country Russian Federation 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are leading a new research programme with five key components including one on psychological wellbeing.
Collaborator Contribution Funding, support to local partners and coordinating poverty programme roll-out with research implementation.
Impact Workshop report
Start Year 2015
 
Description Presentation of results 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at an international conference on graduation programmes hosted by LSE.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015