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Economic Strengthening for the Very Poor (ES4VP)

Key Principles & Assumptions About Working with Very Poor Populations

A number of principles and best practices have emerged around program design for very poor households in specific contexts.  Several common threads tie these sets of principles together, allowing for a generalized set of Principles for Working with Very Poor Households to emerge:

  • Identify and address the drivers of poverty at household, community and national levels
  • Effective economic strengthening strategies need to take into account the level of poverty and vulnerability of the households or individuals targeted. For example, a chronically food insecure household might be better served by direct food or cash transfers, whereas a food secure farming household might be able to increase its economic resilience by participating in a rural credit program.  
  • Weight benefits and risks of targeting. Targeting very poor households needs to be transparent, cost-effective and based on economic conditions (rather than social criteria, such as HIV status or membership of underprivileged groups)
  • Economic strengthening activities are most effective when complemented by social safety nets. Only when households are able to meet their most basic needs, especially in terms of health and nutrition, can they take on more risk and improve their economic capacity.
  • Economic strengthening activities need to take into account the broader market context and be based on sound market analysis.
  • Build social capital and address social and gender injustice.
  • Working towards cross-sectoral approaches, involving existing service providers and the private sector, to achieve sustainability, scale and holistic poverty reduction.

The LIFT Project has identified principles for effective ES4VP program design corresponding to selection, design and implementation stages.