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The microfinance movement has had enormous success in reaching millions of impoverished people around the world. What is largely unknown is that for many of the 1.4 billion people living under $1.25 a day, microcredit is not a viable solution. The extreme poor are often not considered credit worthy, and their high levels of vulnerability mean that the risk associated with loans can in fact worsen their situation. Those who live in the deepest levels of poverty suffer from a lack of economic opportunity, poor health, and are more vulnerable than most to shocks such as a natural disaster or a bad harvest. They also lack access to the services that could help because they live mostly in rural, isolated areas often unreached by government and development programs.
Throughout Trickle Up’s over 30 years of experience, we have been committed to reaching this chronically underserved population, focusing in particular on women and people with disabilities who make up a majority of the world’s extreme poor. Traditionally, development programs have not differentiated between the poor, treating the poor as a group with similar characteristics and needs that require similar forms of assistance. It is now widely recognized that effective poverty alleviation efforts require more than a single-pronged approach, and must be adapted to the specific needs and capacities of people at different levels of poverty. Most importantly, the extreme poor must be targeted specifically in order to be properly reached.
Trickle Up works in partnership with local and community-based organizations that work within the communities we serve. We work closely with our partners and local communities to identify the poorest of the poor in a particular village. For example in India, our rigorous poverty targeting process includes participatory community mapping and wealth ranking activities that engage local community members in identifying which families in their village are the poorest, while also providing transparency. Results are then checked by field workers through household surveys. This helps ensure that only the extreme poor are selected and that no household has been missed due to their marginalized status.
We also verify our targeting through use of the Progress Out of Poverty Index (developed by the Grameen Foundation) and USAID’s Poverty Assessment Tools, which provide an estimate of the percentage of participants below the international extreme poverty line of $1.25 day. These tools consist of short, country-specific household surveys comprised of objectively verifiable questions. We complement these tools with further questions on such factors such as food security that further help us measure the poverty level of participants before receiving Trickle Up’s Spark Grant, skills training, and savings support. These tools for measuring poverty, combined with our own survey questions, help Trickle Up not only target the very poorest but also helps us to better understand the impact that our programs are having on the lives of the people we serve.