People living in ultra-poverty, defined as living on less than 50US cents a day, make up over half of the estimated 797 million people living in extreme poverty. It is widely recognised that many development interventions do not reach the ultra-poor who are often left out of government assistance programs and market-based interventions like microfinance. It is also recognised that faith-based organisations have long engaged in development work with extensive community networks reaching the poorest of the poor.
Due to a range of constraints, a unique set of interventions are required to tackle ultra-poverty. Ultra-poor graduation (‘Graduation’) programmes have been found to be effective in helping people out of ultra-poverty. Graduation is essentially a convergence of providing consumption support and social protection, livelihoods support in the form of an income-generating asset, financial inclusion, and coaching on life and business skills to the poorest households so as to create the conditions for them to graduate out of poverty. It has been found to have had significant success in lifting the poorest out of poverty in different developing countries and the increased incomes have been found to persist.
There are, however, two key obstacles to widespread application and adoption of Graduation. One, it is expensive due to the asset component and two, training and mentoring activities require extensive human engagement leading to a challenge of fidelity at scale. International Care Ministries (ICM) has developed an alternative approach to standard Graduation models. ICM leverages an existing network of pastors (12,000 in 85 provinces) in the Philippines with last-mile reach to deliver a “light-touch” version of Graduation. This programme, called Transform, focuses on training and mentoring services without a large asset transfer or basic income support. ICM aims to maximise the impact from its light-touch model, and its theory of change is that the ultra-poor will experience outsize benefits from a particular combination of interventions than from the sum of the parts. ICM has graduated over 250,000familiesfrom its four-month Transform program to date, directly impacting 1.3 million family members. In May 2020 GIF provided ICM with a five-year $5.4M grant to optimise and scale its programme within the Philippines and other countries.
GIF funding of $5,453,130 is used to:
ICM refines and rigorously tests Transform, develops the capacity to scale it effectively, identifies and codifies what works, and successfully partners with independent organisations and governments to replicate the refined Transform model in other contexts. ICM disseminates lessons learned and evidence generated during the grant which helps influence the global discourse on ultra-poor Graduation approaches.
Due to disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic, ICM has focused on leveraging its pastor network for relief and response efforts to help ultra-poor communities in the Philippines. In 2020 ICM distributed 300 million seeds for gardening, 14 million meals, 1 million bars of soap and 600k Covid-19 information packs as part of these efforts, reaching 5million Filipinos. ICM also provided refresher training focused on health, hygiene, livelihood and savings to over 6,000graduates of its Transform programme.