1 RESILIENCE NOT JUST RELIEF –INNOVATION’s
CORE OF BOTTOM-UP DEVELOPMENT ECONOMICS
The seeds of BRAC were
planted in the efforts of Sir Fazle and friends to assist families affected by the Brola cyclone in 1970. BRAC was then officially
established after independence, supporting refugees to rebuild their lives. At a critical early juncture , we abandoned our
focus on relief and adopted a longer-term objective of development, opting to work side by side with community members for
decades to come.
do not ignore emergencies and their impact on people living in poverty. We build community preparedness and grassroots platforms
that activate in natural disasters to minimize damage and to channel relief. Our goal is to help households bounce back better.
Better often means changes
such as stronger infrastructure or new livelihoods for families that depend on agriculture, for example, and are therefore
increasingly vulnerable to climate change.
As Bangladesh urbanizes, we have expanded our focus to include manmade disasters like fires and building collapses,
most recently Rana Plaza in 2013.
Massive natural disasters internationally have triggered us to expand into new countries like Haiti
and Nepal to support national recovery the way we did in Bangladesh so many years ago
2 Healthy Lives and healthy futures
and hospitals were scarce in Bangladesh’s early days. We created an army of community-based entrepreneurs to bring medicine
to every doorstep. Over time, the army became all female, challenging social norms and enabling women to access important
products and information
We challenged the global health community by putting the life saving treatment for diarrheal disease in the
“unqualified” hands of mothers, and generated evidence that they could use it effectively. We created a community-based
tuberculosis control model, expanding over time to become the government’s largest partner in combating the disease.
The growing numbers of people living in poverty in urban areas face serios health
risks, including maternal and infant mortality. Our network of healthcare entrepreneurs continues to ensure that women can
access care safely, quickly, and with dignity.
Recent breakthroughs in cognitive science have shown that focusing on early childhood development has transformative
effects over a lifetime. Pilot programmes are putting this research into action at the grassroots level
The primary challenge of healthcare now is less
about access and more about quality. We are building financial tools to continuously ensure more people can access services
that meet their evolving health needs.
3 EDUCATION FROM LITERACY TO LEADERSHIP
We started by
teaching basic literacy to adults, then realised we needed to start from the start. We charged our non-formal primary
schools as “second chances’ for people living in poverty especially girls. Our pedagogy focused on joyful learning,
incorporating the best practices from around the world.
As students graduated from our schools. We felt a need for creative ways to continue
learning beyond the classroom. Libraries offered reading materials, and adolescent clubs created safe spaces and opportunities
to teach life skills.
focus moved towards quality, with universal access towards education in sight, through strategies such as teacher training
and increased use of technology. We proactively recruited students with special needs and expanded our curriculum into multiple
ethnic languages to ensure that our schools were successful to all children.
Our ultiimate goal is to build a nation, and for that we need leaders. That is where our focus is now –
creating opportunities for youth to take responsibilities in programmes, as mentors, and as teachers themselves. Our university
creates even more opportunities to contribute on a global scale.
We started by bringing people living in poverty together.
We quickly learnt that what they needed most urgently was access to economic opportunities and financial services.
We brought women together
into village organizations to organize credit and savings arrangements, and then used these meetings as a platform by delivering
a wider range of services.
Over time, we expanded our reach to unserved populations, such as the “missing middle” (enterprises
that were too large for the loans offered by microfinance but excluded from commercial banks) and a comprehensive grants based
programme for people living with poverty, who could not benefit from microfinance.
We are now building a broader set of financial products, including insurance and pensions,
and leveraging the growing ownership of mobile phones to use digital channels for financial services.
5 Market Solutions for the Poor
fundamental driver is a lack of power – at the individual, household and community level alike... Power dynamics need
to change in order for people living in poverty to realize their potential , and they only change when people do it themselves.
We promoted consciousness
raising and empowerment from our earliest interactions with communities, inspired by teachings on social movements. We underestimated
the complexity of power dynamics though and learned the hard way that we needed to create new organisations, where women could
come together in solidarity. These community action groups became important social platforms; for example, supporting health
workers who faced harassment for their services.
We widened our work over time to help people living in poverty to participate in formal
government structures and leverage public services. We also increased our engagement with public official and village leaders
to build wider support for women’s empowerment. These discussions have risen to the national level, where we advocate
policies that support gender equality and human rights. Internally we have worked to build a female-friendly work environment
and actively strive to recruit women.
equality remains one of the greatest unfinished works of our generation, and an area in which we have to continue changing
power dynamics. We still see that child marriage is the norm, sexual violence is pervasive, and women are under-represented
in the workforce.
6 Changing Power Dynamics
As we began to provide financial services to people living in poverty, we noticed that many rural communities
did not have access to markets
We started building value chains, connecting thousands of farmers and artisans to national markets. We focused
on silk, poultry, clothing and retail, in many cases the viability of new sectors in Bangladesh. The successful scaling up
of one value chain often spawned new livelihood opportunities, from poultry vaccinations to artificial insemination for dairy
is also a long standing part of our development approach. Over time we have built a national cadre of local change agents,
usually women, who receive training and support from us, but are paid for their services by their neighbours. These grassroots
entrepreneurs distribute a wide variety of products and services, from sanitary napkins to high quality seeds.
As local and global labor
markets offer new opportunities. We are supporting migrants to seek and finance work abroad safely, and equip youth
with in-demand skills
By 2002 we had over 30 years experience of piloting
and perfecting programs, and scaling them to reach millions. The time had come to bring what we had learnt in Bangladesh to
the rest of the world.
and rehabilitation were immediate needs after war and natural disasters plunged millions into poverty in Afghanistan and Sri
Lanka. We focused on peace and building stability through jobs, education and financial inclusion, continuing to put girls
and women at the centre of opportunities.
We expanded into Africa four years later, starting development programs in Tanzania and Uganda. We continued
to pilot, perfect and scale rapidly never losing focus on contextualising every opportunity created.....................................................................................
Opening now in 12 countries gives us a rich
knowledge base to further our work in Bangladesh, while providing us with a global network in which to pilot new solutions
for the world’s problems. In 2016, we create opportunities for one in every 50 people in the world.