Institutional Action Plan Raffle Winner: Trickle Up

Congratulations to this week’s winner of the Raffle for Institutional Action Plan Submitters:

Trickle Up!

In its 33 years, Trickle Up has focused on serving the poor. Five years ago, our India program began sharpening our focus so that selection methods and program design were directed specifically to the poorest segment of the population—the ultrapoor. The ultrapoor are the poorest, most vulnerable echelon of extreme poverty, characterized by insufficient and irregular income, chronic food insecurity and minimal productive assets and savings.

Starting in 2006, we have been adapting this learning from India to our other regions of operation in Central America (Guatemala & Nicaragua) and West Africa (Mali & Burkina Faso). In 2011, Trickle Up served 7,279 participants, improving the quality of life for nearly 40,000 people.

The centerpiece of our program is a livelihoods development methodology that combines seed capital grants, training, savings support, and integration into self-help groups. Although Trickle Up does not implement the more traditional microcredit model, we view our savings program to be a core component of microfinance.  We use the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor’s definition: “Microfinance offers poor people access to basic financial services such as loans, savings, money transfer services and microinsurance. People living in poverty, like everyone else, need a range of financial services to run their businesses, build assets, smooth consumption, and manage risks.”

We implement our program with local community-based partner organizations that share our vision and values. Our partners allow us to adapt our program to fit the needs and context of local communities; partner staff speak the local language, are familiar with local customs, and have a trusted presence in the villages where we work. A Trickle Up field office anchors each region, selecting and training partner staff to implement and monitor Trickle Up’s model, while providing continuous support.

98% of our participants are women and 14% are affected by disabilities, populations which are highly representative of the ultrapoor. Our experience has shown us that programs that focus on women have a greater impact on the household as a whole while increasing the status of women. Similarly, providing people with disabilities with opportunities to build sustainable livelihoods breaks down the prejudices, stigma and marginalization they face in their communities.

Trickle Up is committed to rigorously measuring outcomes through specially designed monitoring and evaluation tools to assess changes in participants’ households, such as food security and reduced vulnerability. We also focus on understanding how these changes occur. These include baseline and end of project surveys, savings group performance indicators, monthly reports (in India), qualitative assessments and a range of monitoring visits. These metrics help capture the transformational changes in participants’ lives, while our six definitions of success guide how we measure their progress:

  1. Less Vulnerable to Shocks and Trends: In 2011, Guatemalan participants’ gains in assets included a 233% increase in water/grain storage units, 128% increase in cell phones, and 100% in mills/grinders.
  2. Livelihood Activities are Diversified, Dignified, Productive and Sustainable: In Mali, 93% reported expanding their business as compared to one year before.
  3. A Fair and Effective Means to Save and Access Credit: 100% of participants in India have savings versus 6% at the start of the program.
  4. Improved Access to Available Basic Social Services: In the past 18 months, 37% more participants in India are giving birth at health centers rather than at home, reducing maternal & child mortality.
  5. A Better Quality of Life: Over the course of three years, 88% of participants in Mali report eating three meals per day.
  6. Significant Progress Towards Economic and Social Empowerment: Four times as many Guatemalan women no longer need to ask permission to make purchases.