The Graduation Approach: A Sustainable Way Out of Extreme Poverty

Mirtyle Erlande and her chlidren in the village of Nan Kafe. Mirtyle’s family is in Beyond Borders’ Hurricane Matthew Response Program, which is using the Graduation Approach to ensure families make a full recovery from the storm.

In 2016, Beyond Borders brought the Graduation Approach to rural Lagonav Island, as a way to equip ultra-poor families with the skills they need to lift themselves out of extreme poverty and stay out.

Today, Beyond Borders is working with 230 families in nine communities on Lagonav – many of whom lost their homes and nearly everything they had last October when Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti.

“Development and relief programs can often help a community advance and yet leave behind the very poorest,” said David Diggs, Beyond Borders’ Director. “These are precisely the people we want to reach.”

Pioneered in Bangladesh and first introduced to Haiti in 2008 by Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest micro-finance lender, the Graduation Approach is an asset-building model. The idea is that by equipping families with the means to earn a living and accompanying them with training and skill-building for 18-months, they will become self-sufficient.

Fonkoze’s initial implementation of the approach in Haiti with 150 women– 97% of whom graduated –resulted in a 50% drop in hunger among participants. The number who also reported that all or most of their children were regularly attending school increased too– from 27% to 70%.

Globally, researchers writing in the journal Science in May 2015 found “large and lasting impacts on the standard of living” of participants as well, after testing the model in six other countries with 21,000 people over a three-year period.

Now, a group of development experts that includes those with extensive experience in Haiti have authored a report on the approach: The Business Case for Investing in Graduation. They write that, “In a world riven with the effects of growing inequality, the Graduation Approach promises the opportunity to create a system where all, no matter what their starting point, can provide for themselves and invest in a better future for their children.”

For a look at how the Graduation Approach can change the life of one family, check out the story of Elianne Dessaint and her six children in our Fall 2016 Newsletter: Helping Families Move from Poverty to Dignity.

Bringing the Graduation Approach to ultra-poor families in rural Haiti simply wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of so many people like you who care. Thank you for making this life-changing work possible. We are grateful for your support!