The lessons of BRAC

Delivering results in the fight against poverty

Can we eradicate poverty within a generation?


Evidence from BRAC says yes — if we invest in programs that deliver results and empower the poor to take control of their lives.


BRAC runs an array of programs, each created to address one or more of poverty’s many dimensions. These include education, healthcare, microfinance, girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, socially responsible businesses — even a bank, a university, and the world’s largest mobile money platform.


Though diverse, these programs are guided by a set of core convictions: People living in poverty have vast untapped potential, and the task of development is to create enabling conditions that allow them to live on their own terms, with the choices, freedom and dignity that others take for granted.

For sources on this paper and further reading, please see the following:


[1] Chowdhury AMR et al. “The Bangladesh Paradox: Exceptional Health Achievement Despite Economic Poverty.” The Lancet. Volume 382, No. 9906, p1734–1745. 23 November 2013.

[2] “The Path Through the Fields.” The Economist. 3 November 2012.

[3] “BRAC in Business.” The Economist. 18 February 2010.

[4] For more on BRAC’s oral rehydration program, see Chowdhury AMR and Cash RA. A Simple Solution: Teaching Millions to Treat Diarrhoea at Home. University Press Ltd, Dhaka, 1996. See also Chowdhury AMR. “The Mantra of Delivery.” Stanford Social Innovation Review. Nov. 26, 2014; Yee A. “The Power, and Process, of a Simple Solution.” The New York Times. 14 August 2014; Gawande A. “Slow Ideas.” The New Yorker. 29 July 2013.

[5] For more on BRAC’s impact on maternal health, see Afsana K and Rodhe JE. “Decline in Neonatal Mortality in Large Poor Populations.” The Lancet, Volume 377, Issue 9784. 25 June 2011; Nahar S et al. “Women-focused Development Intervention Reduces Delays in Accessing Emergency Obstetric Care in Urban Slums in Bangladesh: a Cross-sectional Study.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 11:11. 30 January 2011. See also Afsana K. “We’ve Made Staggering Progress in Maternal Health in Bangladesh. Where Next?” BRAC Blog. 3 April 2013; Hoope-Bender PT et al. “The Manoshi Project.” Harvard School of Public Health. May 2013 (Revised August 2014); Nasreen H and Afsana K. “Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health,” in Hossain, Kairy and Bayes, ed. Driving Development: A Story of BRAC’s Evolution and Effectiveness. University Press Limited, Dhaka. 2016.

[6] For more on BRAC’s sanitation program, see “Achievements of BRAC Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme: Towards Millennium Development Goals and Beyond.” BRAC Research and Evaluation Division. May 2013.

[7] For more on BRAC’s tuberculosis program, see Islam A et al. “Making Tuberculosis History: Community-based Solutions for Millions.” University Press Ltd, Dhaka, 2011.

[8] For more on BRAC’s nutrition program, see Abed FH. “A Road Map Toward Achieving Nutrition for All.” Dhaka Tribune. 22 April 2013.

[9] DeStefano J et al. “Reaching the Underserved: Complementary Models of Effective Schooling.” USAID and Equip2. December 2007; Ahmad A and Haque I. “Economic and Social Analysis of Primary Education in Bangladesh: A Study of BRAC Interventions and Mainstream Schools.” BRAC Research and Evaluation Division. July 2011. For more on BRAC’s education program, see Rosenberg T. “Where Private School Is Not a Privilege.” The New York Times. 8 May 2013; Nath SR and Islan S. “Education: Facilitating Human Resource Development.” in Hossain, Kairy and Bayes, ed. Driving Development: A Story of BRAC’s Evolution and Effectiveness. University Press Limited, Dhaka. 2016.

[10] The current skills development program builds on an earlier pilot described here: Saleh A and Saltmarsh S. “The Skilled Girl Effect: Worth More Than The US and Chinese Economies Put Together.” Thomson Reuters Foundation. 8 March 2016; Cernigoi A. “Motorcycle Girl.” Philanthropy Age. 23 November 2013.

[11] Banu D et al. “Empowering Women in Rural Bangladesh: Impact of Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee’s (BRAC’s) Programme.” Journal of International Women’s Studies. Vol 2, Issue 3. June 2001; Khandker SR and Samad HA. “Dynamic Effects of Microcredit in Bangladesh.” World Bank. March 2014.

[12] MacMillan S. “What Ever Happened to Microfinance?” BRAC Blog. 17 October 2016.

[13] “Girls’ Clubs Having ‘Big and Meaningful’ Impacts on Young Women’s Empowerment.” World Bank. 8 March 2016. For the full study, see Bandiera O et al. “Women’s Empowerment in Action: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial in Africa.” London School of Economics. June 2015.

[14] “Graduating From Destitution.” The Economist. 1 August 2015.

[15] For more on the graduation approach, see Rosenberg T. “Upward Mobility for the World’s Destitute.” The New York Times. 15 May 2015; “An End in Sight For Ultra-Poverty: Scaling Up BRAC’s Graduation Model For The Poorest.” BRAC. November 2013; Hashemi SM and Montesquiou A. “Reaching the Poorest: Lessons from the Graduation Model.” GCAP. March 2011. “Targeting the Ultra-poor.” BRAC USA; “BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Programme: An End To Extreme Poverty In Our Lifetime.” BRAC.

[16] For detailed evaluations of the impact of graduation programs both in Bangladesh and in other countries, see Das, NC. and Misha FA. “Addressing Extreme Poverty in a Sustainable Manner: Evidence from CFPR Programme.” BRAC Research and Evaluation Division. June 2010; Bandiera O et al. “Can Basic Entrepreneurship Transform the Economic Lives of the Poor?” International Growth Centre, London School of Economics. April 2013; Balboni C et al. “Transforming the Economic Lives of the Ultra-Poor.” International Growth Centre, London School of Economics. December 2015; Banjerjee A et al. “A Multifaceted Program Causes Lasting Progress for the Very Poor: Evidence From Six Countries.” Science. Vol. 438, Issue 6236. 15 May 2015. See also Kristof N. “The Power of Hope is Real.” The New York Times. 21 May 2015.

[17] Abed FH. “World Food Prize Laureate Address.” BRAC. 16 October 2015.