Graduating from Social Protection

Edited by: Stephen Devereux and Rachel Sabates-Wheeler

March 2015
Volume 46 Number 2

To most people, graduation means leaving a school or university after completing a programme of study, once the learner has acquired a set of skills that is expected to equip them for a higher-income future livelihood.

In the development discourse, graduation means leaving a social protection programme after reaching a wellbeing threshold, once the participant has acquired a set of resources that is expected to equip them for a higher-income future livelihood. While poverty reduction is not a new idea, programming for graduation is a relatively new concept.

This IDS Bulletin reviews the conceptualisation and practice of graduation programmes across several countries and diverse contexts, describing what graduation is, how it works, and how to do it. The issue argues that as poverty reduction policies and ambitions for holistic social protection systems evolve, so should aspirations for graduation. Poverty is too complex to be solved with a single instrument such as cash transfers; graduation programmes strive to enhance livelihoods and strengthen resilience by providing integrated packages of support in a holistic effort to address the wide spectrum of resource deficits that keep people trapped in poverty and vulnerability. But the perfect package has not yet been designed. We need to understand the optimal combinations of support for people in different contexts, and the best ways to build linkages and maximise synergies across complementary sectoral interventions.

The achievements of graduation programmes are impressive, offering a fresh approach to tackling poverty and vulnerability. At a time when social protection is moving towards integrated systems and strengthening cross-sectoral linkages with complementary social and economic policies, graduation programmes add real value to efforts to build more secure, sustainable and resilient livelihoods.