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Strengthening the Economic Potential of the Ultra Poor (STEP UP)

Strengthening The Economic Potential of the Ultra Poor (STEP UP) is a learning community of SEEP (www.seepnetwork.org), an association of national, regional and global organizations that promotes inclusive markets and financial systems.

SEEP and its practitioner members seek to expand and improve opportunities for the poor to prosper with the help of appropriate financial services and improved access to markets. STEP UP emerged from work done over the last several years by SEEP’s Poverty Outreach Working Group (POWG), which supports microfinance and enterprise development practitioners in their quest to expand, share and apply effective economic strengthening practices for those living in extreme poverty. 

The initiative aims to engage practitioners, researchers, policymakers, donors, and community leaders in dialogue and reflection across multiple areas of practice. The result will advance learning about how to work with the ultra poor and develop guidelines, tools, and training methodologies to be shared with the larger development community. STEP UP probes and refines graduation and livelihood approaches – already showing promise with ultra poor households – to improve their efficacy and replication in new contexts. The initiative also explores other emerging ultra poor approaches, such as income support (conditional cash transfers), integrated health services, microinsurance and savings programs to identify how they can best be structured to help the ultra poor accrue, consolidate and protect tangible and intangible assets. Ongoing discussions on existing and emerging topics identified by practitioners as being of crucial importance to ultra poor initiatives guide the agenda, though participation of donors, researchers, regulators, and others from multiple sectors are also a key feature of STEP UP activities. This multi-stakeholder, multi-sector approach differentiates STEP UP from other learning communities and knowledge management activities, which typically bring together individuals working within a single area of practice (e.g., microfinance or education) from a single perspective (e.g., research or program development).

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