How to reach and include the extreme poor and most marginalised in development interventions?

The Dutch Platform Leave No One Behind exchanged on the issue and identified challenges and guiding principles

agenda June 13, 2019

On Thursday, June 6, 2019, the Dutch Platform Leave No One Behind (LNOB) held its third meeting of the year. This session built upon the previous session, where Anika Altaf presented her research on the exclusion of the poorest of the poor in development interventions, and featured an open exchange on the main challenges that NGOs face in this regard.

Better inclusion of poorest of the poor in development programmes: Woord en Daad’s response – Wim Blok
Wim Blok (Woord en Daad) set the stage for the discussion by presenting his organisation’s response to the worrisome findings of the research they had commissioned to Anika Altaf, according to which their partners’ development interventions didn’t benefit the poorest of the poor. In general terms, since then, awareness of the issue has grown amongst WD staff and the organisation has reserved more attention to inclusiveness in its strategic plans and policy choices. More concrete follow-up measures feature, among others:

  • Pre-requisite of a documented targeting procedure focused on inclusiveness for all of W&D’s sponsorship programmes;
  • Design of specifically targeted education programmes for vulnerable groups (e.g. for people subject or vulnerable to online sexual abuse in the Philippines);
  • “white spot” policy, which means launching new projects in areas which are underserved by development actors.

To refresh your memory, take a look at Anika’s presentation or read her new blog, which formulates 5 recommendations for development NGOs.

The graduation approach – Frank van Kesteren
Frank van Kesteren (INCLUDE Platform) presented the so-called graduation approach, which has been developed by BRAC International to sustainably lift the most marginalised out of their condition of extreme poverty. Graduation programmes are:

  1. integrated, meaning that they take into account and address all dimensions of poverty;
  2. phased, meaning that they are designed in steps which are gradually implemented, every time adding new lines of intervention and dimensions;
  3. targeted to the most marginalised and poorest groups.

However, a risk connected to targeted programmes like the graduation approach is the “exclusion” of the non-targeted groups. Accordingly, how to engage and make the whole community benefit from those interventions? More in general, a very lively discussion is currently taking place on whether targeted programmes are really better than universal programmes. Which of the two are more effective? And which are more efficient, also in comparative terms?

Back to the core: how to reach and include the most marginalised?
After the two presentations, the participants had the chance to formulate their own thoughts using the free-writing method and subsequently engaged in a group discussion on the issue. Together, they identified some common points of reflection and takeaways. Important takeaways were:

  • local definitions (of development, of whom the poor is etc.) are important and should always be the starting point; similarly. there is no one-size-fits-all model, meaning that the specific context should be central in any intervention design process;
  • with vulnerable groups, it is not “business as usual”: in other words, we need different approaches;
  • time, presence, openness and trust are key elements to establish a connection with the most vulnerable as outsiders;
  • we need to be self-critical: is our approach the right one? Are our interventions valuable? Are they effective and efficient?

To sum up on a positive note: it is a challenging and long way, but the fact that we are increasingly giving more attention to this issue and that we engage in the discussion is a step in the right direction.

You can find the notes, presentations, and all information shared within the Platform on the LNOB Dropbox.
Keep an eye on our website to read more or to join a new meeting of the Leave No One Behind Platform in 2019. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us (

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