Philippines, Uganda


Social Protection

Type of Investment


Project Stage


Length of Investment


Investment Overview

International Care Ministries (ICM), a 25-year-old reputable Philippino NGO, leverages a large network of pastors (12,000 in 85 provinces) in the Philippines to deliver a “light-touch” version of a programme called Transform. Transform is a multi-faceted ‘graduation’ programme that deploys mentorship and training to lift poor people out of poverty. The curriculum consists of three modules – Values, Health Behaviours, and Livelihood Skills – each delivered in 30-minute sessions (for a 90-minute package) once a week to a cohort of 30 villagers for a duration of 15 weeks. GIF awarded ICM a USD 5,400,000 grant to enable them to refine and scale Transform.


The Development Challenge

People living in ultra-poverty, defined as living on less than 50 US cents a day, make up over half of the estimated 797 million people living in extreme poverty. The Philippines is home to 7 million people who are living in ultra- poverty. However, the ultra-poor are usually left out of development interventions, government assistance programs, and market-based interventions like microfinance due to pre-requirements such as assets, savings, or a steady income source. Due to a range of constraints, a multifaceted set of interventions are required to tackle the complex nature of ultra-poverty. Such interventions have been delivered by ‘graduation programmes’ in several low- and middle-income countries with relative success. Graduation programmes offer a range of services such as asset transfers for income generation, financial literacy, business training, and social protection to create the right conditions to help people graduate out of poverty. However, such an approach is expensive and difficult to scale due to the asset transfer component, and the demanding requirement for high-quality human engagement for training purposes.


The Innovation

The International Care Ministries (ICM) uses a different approach to the standard graduation models deployed globally. They leverage a large network of pastors and the pastors' social capital in villages to deliver a "light-touch" version of graduation, called Transform, to last-mile locations. Transform focuses on providing training and mentoring services, without any explicit large asset transfer or basic income support, resulting in a fully loaded cost of approximately $12 per family member. ICM attributes this efficiency to its leveraging of the local infrastructure of deeply embedded faith communities. Prior to GIF investment, ICM had graduated over 250,000 families from its four-month Transform programme, impacting 1.3 million people.


Our Investment

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 will enable ICM to determine the optimal mix of different elements of this Graduation approach that can be scaled up by ICM within and outside of the Philippines. This will be achieved by rigorous testing of various adaptations to the Transform programme, carried out in partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action, before a large scale randomised controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the revised programme.


Theory of Change

Transform is unique in its offering compared to traditional graduation programmes because it goes beyond quantifiable and immediate increases in income to also deliver on social capital, personal optimism, cognitive well-being, and household responsiveness. In addition to income, these are in and of themselves very valuable benefits for poor people. Thus, the theory of change is about generating income, but even more crucially, creating the mental, cognitive, and social conditions to enable poor people to engage more effectively with life and its opportunities and adversities.


Why we invested

Focus on extremely poor households, with the potential to benefit millions of people in the Philippines and elsewhere.

GIF investment focuses on finding the optimal configuration of Transform, generating useful evidence about the most important elements of the programme and the best mix for cost-effectiveness. Codifying what works for Graduation programmes under this model can be a public good, influencing other programmes in this vibrant space.

High additionality from financing the part of programme expansion that struggles to attract funders – improving the programmatic and operational efficiency of the existing programme to generate greater value for money from proposed spending.

ICM has a track record of over two decades of on-ground presence in the Philippines and experience in working with more than a million families.


International Care Ministries in numbers


Pastors leveraged across the Philippines to enable programme delivery

1.3 million

People directly impacted through the Graduation programme


International Care Ministries Impact Brief


People living in ultra-poverty, defined as living on less than 50 US 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 programmes 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 outsized benefits from a particular combination of interventions. ICM has graduated over 250,000 families from its four-month Transform programme 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.

Use of GIF Funds

GIF funding of $5,453,130 is used to:

  • Refine – Refine the Transform model through iterative experimentation involving critical operational elements to optimise the programme’s impact and cost-effectiveness.

  • Replicate – Create the toolkits for replication of Transform 2.0 in other provinces in the Philippines and develop partnerships and replicate in at least two target expansion countries.

  • Capacitate – Build internal capacity in execution, monitoring and evaluation, partnerships management, and local staff leadership, in order to be able to scale cost-effectively.

  • Disseminate – Generate evidence-based learnings on operational requirements and efficacy, including from a high-quality randomised evaluation, and disseminate these to influence global debates on Graduation and economic inclusion initiatives that target the ultra-poor.


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.

Impact to Date

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 600,000 Covid-19 information packs as part of these efforts, reaching 5 million Filipinos. ICM also provided refresher training focused on health, hygiene, livelihood and savings to over 6,000 graduates of its Transform programme.