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STEP UP's vision: 

To foster a significant increase in practitioners' capacities to assist large numbers of the ultra poor to move out of extreme poverty.


STEP UP’s vision is to foster a significant increase in practitioners’ capacities to assist large numbers of the ultra poor to move out of extreme poverty. In order to achieve its vision, STEP UP will promote and facilitate three specific and targeted levels of collaboration and learning.

The first is between the two effectively divided communities within the economic strengthening discipline: financial services and enterprise development, which are often described respectively as offering ‘push’ and ‘pull’ strategies. Financial service ‘push’ mechanisms usually work to provide and protect a minimal asset base to freeing households from poverty traps, and include such approaches as savings groups, asset transfers, health vouchers, guaranteed employment schemes, and conditional cash transfers. Enterprise development ‘pull’ strategies typically aim to include the poor in systemic economic growth approaches such as value chain development and market facilitation,[1] however they often are ineffectual at ‘pulling’ the ultra poor into value chains and generally raising their capacities to access and succeed in markets. These two disciplines currently work almost exclusively in isolation from each other, though practitioners state that ‘their’ discipline would be more effective if coordinated with efforts to strengthen the ‘other’ discipline. STEP UP will engage these two communities in activities that will promote better coordination of push and pull strategies.

Secondly, STEP UP will also facilitate collaboration and learning between financial and non-financial service sectors, the latter consisting of human services such as health, education, sanitation etc. Development sectors often work in isolation, even in large institutions whose work spans sectors and among service providers working in a single community. If meeting multiple needs is key to moving the ultra poor out of poverty, how can service providers overcome barriers to collaboration[2] and better coordinate their activities to meet their varied and changing needs?

Finally, STEP UP will develop activities and learning spaces where the full range of development stakeholders can collaborate and partner. We will seek to address widespread development challenges such as making research and reports more useful to practitioners and promoting donor policies and priorities that are more in line with meeting the needs of implementing organizations. Of critical importance will be finding ways to better integrate the voices of community members – the ultra poor themselves – in program and service development and delivery.

To fulfill these objectives, STEP UP will generate, consolidate, and share knowledge through webinars, study tours, virtual message boards, face-to-face panel discussions and workshops. Implementation guidelines, training methodologies, frameworks, research papers and other resources will be developed, aggregated and shared through a free web portal and a series of published works, at industry events, and via SEEP’s extensive membership network.

An important common goal shared by all of these activities will be to translate knowledge (existing and resulting from the activities) into useful tools that will help all stakeholders improve their efforts to effectively reach the ultra poor. Practitioners will gain insights to develop more appropriate, targeted programs, donors and policy makers will set priorities that are more in line with the needs of the ultra poor and researchers will focus on topics of the greatest need. In short, STEP UP will find out ‘what works’ with the community of people striving to end extreme poverty and to share it the most useful ways possible.

[1] In other words, financial services typically aim to prepare the poor to be ‘pushed’ into existing systems while enterprise development approaches adapt systems so that the poor can be ‘pulled’ into them and participate.

[2] Barriers include single-sector donor funding structures, lack of opportunities to meet and collaborate in-person, few online resources, libraries, or discussion forums targeting multi-sector actors.

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