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Enabling Sustainable Graduation out of Poverty for the Extreme Poor in Malawi

child mortality

  • Researchers:
    • Dr. Michael King, Dr. Tara Bedi and Dr. Julia Vaillant

  • Location:
    • Malawi

  • Sample:
    • 3,300 households in Mangochi and Nsanje

  • Timeline:
    • 2017 - 2022

  • Theme:
    • Gender equality and poverty

  • Description:
    • The Graduation Model is a 'big push' intervention designed to move people out of poverty by addressing the many challenges of extreme poverty by simultaneously boosting livelihoods and income and providing access to financial services. To-date, it represents the most promising intervention to tackle extreme poverty.

      While the global commitment to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030 (SDG 1.1) is a much welcome step, the scale of the challenge remains daunting. We still have over 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty. As women account for a large portion of the total poor, addressing gender barriers in tackling poverty is essential.

      Since 2017, Concern Malawi and Trinity Impact Evaluation (TIME) Unit at Trinity College Dublin are undertaking comprehensive research to estimate the impact of the graduation interventions on gender empowerment and ultimately household welfare as well as whether a gender component enhances the programme outcomes. The aim of this research is to better understand the barriers faced by women in escaping poverty. The three treatment arms are: 1) graduation targeted at females, 2) graduation targeted at males and 3) graduation targeted at females but with an additional couple's empowerment training called ‘Transforming Gender & Power Relations’.

      Each intervention arm was delivered to 600 households randomly selected in Mangochi and Nsanje, with 300 households in each district receiving each version of the proposed program. There were an additional 750 households in each district who acted as control households. The Graduation intervention in Malawi was a 20-month intense, multifaceted intervention but the research project was spread over five years to allow for the estimation of medium-term effects.

      In order to establish a causal relationship between our three treatment arms and our identified outcomes, this study uses a Randomized Control Trial (RCT). RCT provides a counterfactual, which represents what would have happened in the absence of the interventions, thus providing robust evidence for the efficacy of the intervention examined. To provide evidence into causal drivers of change in selected well being domains for selected households the project will contract BSDR Ltd to conduct a series of Qualitative Impact Protocol (QuIP) studies. These rely on analysis of narrative accounts of drivers change based on respondents’ self-reported attribution. An innovative feature of the QuIP is the use of double blindfolded or programme-neutral interviewing to mitigate confirmation bias.

      Between 2017 and 2022, the research followed these households through the implementation of the Graduation programme. All households in this research study were visited at the completion of the Graduation Program and one year after. The results from the research contribute to on-going discussions on Social Protection in Malawi, while at a global level this is the first study in the world to examine the gender dynamics of the graduation model. The results therefore inform a variety of approaches, including those on cash transfers, the graduation process, and approaches to addressing inequality.

      The research team is led by the Trinity Impact Evaluation (TIME) research unit and is conducted in partnership with Concern Worldwide. It is supported by researchers from the Gender Innovation Lab at the World Bank. The research team comprises Dr. King, Dr. Ramos Moreno and Dr. Bedi (from the Department of Economics, Trinity College Dublin), along with Dr. Goldstein and Dr. Valliant (from the Gender Impact Evaluation team at the World Bank). This research project is funded by Concern Worldwide, and has support from Irish Aid, the Irish Research Council and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 713279.