How BRAC is enabling communities to create pathways out of poverty

Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
21 April 2022
BRAC’s work focuses on the key interventions that help communities create pathways out of the deepest forms of poverty.

Founded in the 1970s with a focus on Bangladesh, BRAC is now the largest non-governmental development organisation in the world – operating on a global scale to build a world free from exploitation, discrimination, and inequality.

In 2002, BRAC created ‘The Graduation Approach’ after realising its programmes weren’t adequately reaching those left furthest behind. The approach is a multifaceted set of interventions, designed to address the complex nature of extreme poverty.

BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative

Virgin Unite first engaged with BRAC and The Graduation Approach in 2020 when the Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative (UPGI) was announced as one of the Audacious Project’s ‘Big Ideas’. Virgin Unite is now a proud supporter of the project.

According to BRAC: “The Graduation Approach empowers participants to develop sustainable livelihoods that set them on a path of upward economic mobility. They also become better integrated into society, develop social connections, improve their self-esteem, and establish active roles in their communities."

Since extreme poverty is about more than just a lack of income – often involving a lack of food, clean water, healthcare, education, and opportunities to bring in a steady income – BRAC had to carefully factor each variable, before identifying and segmenting the four elements fundamental to breaking the poverty trap. These elements include meeting basic needs, income generation, financial support and savings, and social empowerment.


Thanks to the Audacious investment BRAC has been successfully partnering with governments all over the world and has facilitated the adoption and scaling-up of the approach in countries with the greatest potential for impact and scale. Their ongoing aim is to empower 21 million more people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty by 2026, and to set millions more on the same path.

Since BRAC first pioneered the approach 20 years ago, it has repeatedly proven effective in providing the “big push” people need to escape the poverty trap long term. To date, well over 100 organisations have adapted the approach in over 50 different countries, reaching over 14 million people.

The Graduation Approach empowers participants to develop sustainable livelihoods that set them on a path of upward economic mobility.

“Poverty eradication may be a few years away, but it is possible,” said Shameran Abed, Executive Director of BRAC International, who oversees BRAC’s Graduation programs. “We should be the last generation on earth that sees extreme poverty. The resources are there. The research exists. It’s going to take some convincing of governments. It’s going to take some political will, which requires effective advocacy and technical assistance at the local level, but it can be done.”


As BRAC enters its fifth decade of working to beat poverty and inequality – and its second decade of combating extreme poverty to ensure no one is left behind – Virgin Unite is proud to join the many partners and supporters celebrating BRAC’s incredible impact. It’s this type of impact that proves to the world that though hope, community engagement, and frugal innovation, change can be catalysed.

Learn more about BRAC's history of combating poverty for the last 50 years and how first-hand experience influenced BRAC's approach to combating extreme poverty by reading 50 Years of Combating Extreme Poverty, From Bangladesh to the World or by visiting BRAC UPGI's website.

The Audacious Project, housed at TED, was brought to life through the collaboration of some of the most respected names in the non-profit world, including Skoll, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Scott Cook & Signe Ostby and more. Virgin Unite is proud to be one of the key partners to have joined forces to help make this possible.