Prepared by Jackie Aldrette, AVSI-USA. Please send comments and suggestions to Jackie.email@example.com
On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, the OVC Task Force and AVSI-USA co-sponsored an event entitled “From Vulnerability to Resilience: Promoting Graduation in OVC Programs.” The event was designed to facilitate a dialogue among practitioners and with policy-makers and researchers with the goal of taking stock of how graduation approaches to OVC programs are being used today, what the variations in application of the model look like and what results are emerging.
The organizers laid out to the group of 65 participants representing a number of NGOs and donor agencies a preliminary task of clarifying the definition of graduation in terms of OVC programs. As implied in the event title, the dialogue began from a shared framework that the goal of OVC programs is to reach highly vulnerable children and their families and facilitate their transition to greater well-being and stability, with the ideal goal of resilient households providing the conditions for children to thrive. OVC programs have evolved over time and now incorporate economic strengthening of the household has a key element of the effort to build coping and caring capacities of caregivers of children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Central to the structure of the event were two project presentations. These presentations explained how the implementing organizations, AVSI Foundation and FXB, are utilizing graduation concepts and putting them into practice, as well as the results which have emerged.
From the first discussion guided by Jason Wolfe of USAID, it was clear that while a number of central concepts of the graduation approach are clear and shared, there are differences in opinion as well. One axis of debate was around whether graduation is a project-specific concept that involves a clear threshold that a person or household must pass in order to graduate from direct project support, or to a less intense level of support. Alternatively, graduation could be considered as a vision of the ideal end-state of empowerment, self-sufficiency and the capacity to access the services that a person or household needs to maintain a satisfactory level of well-being.
The AVSI SCORE project in Uganda has operationalized the graduation model as a programming tool, intrinsically linked to the project’s case management system and on-going vulnerability assessment. In SCORE, a household graduates when they demonstrate reduced vulnerability across a number of domains and successfully over at least 2 years. Resilience is used to define the status of a household who has graduated and maintained the same reduced level of vulnerability for at least another year.
The FXB Village model in Rwanda and elsewhere uses a classic approach to graduation in which the program is designed with an end-state of empowerment and self-sufficiency in mind, and with gradual reduction in project inputs over time. Graduation does not refer to satisfaction of certain conditions, but to the general theory of change underpinning the capacity building approach and gradual weaning of project support.
Despite these differences in how graduation concepts shape program design, there were a number of areas of agreement and consensus. These include:
Areas of difference between the projects which opened up useful points of discussion which included the following open questions:
The concerns that emerged in the discussions about application of the graduation approach to OVC contexts and in general when looking at the available data, included the following:
Event participants were eager to understand these complex terms and the presentation of two project examples created a very useful platform for discussion and debate. The conversation introduced new concepts to the discussion such as “HIV sensitive graduation” which may imply a useful category of graduation programs that have specific targeting procedures, interventions and measurement tools specific to HIV affected contexts and households. Also, the idea of “responsible graduation” was mentioned as a reminder that the long-term needs and rights of the poor be carefully considered and accounted for, and that the celebration of shorter term graduation results not lead implementers to overlook deeper sources of vulnerability. “Backsliding” was a phenomenon mentioned in the project examples and by USAID funded research on poverty dynamics. The concept highlights the non-linearity of pathways out of poverty and graduation and puts into perspective the vulnerability of those households who might succeed in crossing a threshold but remain unstable and vulnerable to shocks.
The enthusiasm to understand the conceptual framework, practical applications, evidence base and even areas of concern related to graduation was palpable and encouraging. The event also served as an occasion to gather together updates on related work being carried out by different organizations.
An initial list of such efforts would include:
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