Sustainable Graduation from Social Protection Programmes


  • Rachel Sabates-Wheeler,

  • Stephen Devereux

  • The authors acknowledge with thanks constructive comments provided by anonymous referees.


Efforts to reduce extreme poverty by assisting poor people to cross income or asset thresholds are receiving increasing attention in social protection programming. Livelihood-promoting interventions aim to reduce vulnerability, so that participants can manage moderate risk and ‘graduate’ from social protection provision. This article elaborates the theory of change underpinning the notion of graduation and explores the range of enabling and constraining factors that facilitate or undermine this change process, drawing on case studies from Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Rwanda. The authors distinguish ‘threshold’ graduation from ‘sustainable’ graduation and argue that multiple factors operating beyond the household level — such as market conditions, community investment and scale effects — have significant implications for the graduation potential of social protection programmes.