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Graduation Programs

The Ultra Poor Graduation Model, a methodology first developed by BRAC in 2002, was designed to meet the needs of families living in the most extreme forms of poverty. As part of this model, families receive a food stipend, materials to start a business, holistic training, and group support over time to help them work their way out of ultra poverty.

In 2015, a study published in Science found that the graduation approach "is cost-effective and leads to statistically significant and sustainable gains in economic and social outcomes for ultra-poor households across diverse contexts."

Alinafe, client in Malawi
Alinafe, client in Malawi

The Need

At the very lowest level of the economic pyramid are families surviving on less than $1.25 a day in a situation known as ultra-poverty. For those living in ultra-poverty, even the most basic needs and services remain out of reach. Most of these people are women and children in rural areas who receive little or no education. They search desperately each day for piecemeal work so they can feed their families that night, but still frequently go to bed hungry. Often living in unsafe and unhealthy conditions, these families fall through the cracks of most traditional poverty alleviation programs. Traditional interventions aren’t effective, which calls for innovative solutions like the Graduation Model.

Our Programs and Products


In Malawi, we have launched a comprehensive, two-year graduation program to serve rural women. Through the program, a case worker is assigned to each family and starts by tackling their first and most immediate need: food. By providing a food stipend for the first six months of the program, participants know they can feed their families and can thus shift their focus from survival to the trainings offered by Opportunity.


Participants form a savings group, where they begin to learn basic financial skills and start saving very small fragments of their earnings. Opportunity then helps each mother either become more employable through skills training or start her own business. We provide the materials needed to get businesses up and running, as well as the ongoing business management training to help them flourish in their new roles as entrepreneurs. 

For two years, Opportunity walks with these women as they build their confidence, their businesses, and their futures. With support from partners around the world, we are helping families living in the most severe forms of poverty move from dependency to self-sufficiency.

Support the graduation program in Malawi through The Rise »


In urban Cartagena, Colombia, we are also operating graduation programs to serve ultra-poor families. As of February 2024 date, participants have launched 16 savings groups and used the assets they have received through the program to start small businesses. When the program began, only 36% of families ate two meals a day—now, 51% of families do.

Graduation model in Haiti
Graduation model in Haiti


In 2007, Fonkoze, Opportunity’s partner in Haiti, launched Chemin Lavi Miyo (CLM)—a graduation program to serve women and children living in ultra-poverty. Over a period of 18 months, Fonkoze provides ultra-poor households with support—a cash stipend, training, and counseling by a case manager—to equip clients to lift themselves out of poverty.

An astounding 99% of participants successfully started two businesses and improved their housing. These mothers are now feeding their families and sending their children to school.


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