On 6-8 May 2014, more than 150 people will gather in Kigali, Rwanda to discuss graduation and social protection programmes across the world. Why?
The promise of 'graduation' out of social protection is seductive. By delivering an integrated and sequenced package of assistance that includes consumption support (usually regular cash transfers), asset transfers (to generate streams of income), access to financial services (savings and/or credit), training or coaching and mentoring, poor people get both social protection and the possibility of escaping from extreme poverty into sustainable livelihoods and self-reliance.
Governments can report progress on their poverty reduction targets, and donor agencies can demonstrate value for money to their electorates.
Early indicators of success with the 'graduation model' in Bangladesh prompted replicate pilot projects in other countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The governments of Ethiopia and Rwanda have adapted elements of the model in their graduation-oriented national safety net programmes.
But there have been few opportunities to compare experiences across these diverse contexts. This conference offers a space for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers to share and reflect on the lessons learned from their engagement with graduation.
The conference aims to critically assess different conceptual and operational approaches to graduation -how graduation is understood and how it is implemented - across countries and programmes.
It aims to review the small but growing evidence base from evaluations of graduation projects and programmes across the world.
And it aims to identify the key factors that are associated with success as well as the factors that prevent achievement of graduation targets - the 'enablers and constrainers' of sustainable graduation outcomes.
There are also several challenging questions and unresolved debates that presenters at the conference will address. For example:
- Should graduation be conceptualised differently - not as 'exiting' from social protection programmes (from 'eligible' to 'ineligible') but as moving from one form of social protection to another (e.g. from non-contributory social assistance to contributory social security), or as a transformative process of gradually accumulating assets and building resilience?
- Is the vision of a smooth linear pathway out of extreme poverty too simplistic, especially in contexts where harsh agro-ecologies and climate variability mean that the livelihood protection function is more urgent than the livelihood promotion objective?
- Is two years or even five years of support too short - should graduation be conceptualised across generations? Are children the key to sustainable graduation?
- How can women and female-headed households, who are often left behind because of their constrained resources, benefit more from graduation-oriented programmes?
These are among the issues that will be debated in Kigali, as participants share their experiences and reflections, and learn from the insights and ideas of others.
This is very much a policy-maker and practitioner-focused event. Our hope is that the conference will contribute to improved policy and practice in future social protection and graduation-oriented programming, leading to better lives and more secure livelihoods for poor and vulnerable people.
Stephen Devereux is Co-Director of the international conference on 'Graduation and Social Protection', which is co-hosted by the Government and Rwanda and the Centre for Social Protection from the UK Institute of Development Studies, with financial support from Irish Aid, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF.
This blog post is part of a series. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.
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