BRAC: ‘A grass-roots approach to poverty alleviation’

BRAC, the largest civil society organization in the developing world, reaches more than 138 million women and their families with its holistic approach to poverty alleviation. Photo by: Shehzan Noorani / BRAC

BRAC was selected as a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator based on a poll of thousands of global development professionals who are part of Devex, the largest network of aid and relief workers in the world.

Announced on April 18, Devex Top 40 Development Innovators is an impressive listing of the world’s leading donor agencies & foundations, development consulting companies, implementing NGOs, and advocacy groups.

We asked each of the Innovators four questions to learn how they stay ahead to the curve and tackle old development challenges in new ways. Here’s how BRAC responded:

‘Our solutions come from talking with the people we serve, and then we scale them up to have impact on a national level’

If you had to condense it to just one or two sentences, overall, what is it that makes your organization innovative?

BRAC takes a holistic and grass-roots approach to poverty alleviation:  We realize that poverty is a complicated problem, and that the solution will come from poor people realizing their own potential. Our solutions come from talking with the people we serve, and then we scale them up to have impact on a national level.

Can you provide a specific example of something your organization has done that is particularly innovative?

Frequent flooding and cyclones in Bangladesh has left many people’s limited farm land full of saline water, where popular crops like rice will not grow. Through its agricultural research center, BRAC began developing a hybrid variety of rice that can grow in the saline water. Additionally, we discovered that the saline water was perfect for crab fattening, so we began training villagers and providing them with inputs so they could build livelihoods by raising and selling crabs.

Looking ahead 10 years, what are some of the innovations in international development that your organization wants to be a part of?

BRAC has been on the forefront of supporting those populations that have faced increasing disasters due to climate change – from floods and droughts to cyclones and hurricanes. We aim to continue to be a major player in climate justice innovations in the future, developing alternative livelihoods and putting disaster preparedness systems in place to provide security in the most vulnerable areas.

We also want to continue to be on the forefront of agricultural innovations, developing and distributing quality products to poor farmers to make them food secure and help them build sustainable livelihoods. This will not only benefit the farmers and their families, but their communities and their countries as well.

We will continue to innovate health care interventions with our community health promoter model, which enables us to disseminate lifesaving products and information to millions of people.

As one of the pioneers of microfinance, we have continued to innovate and explore different financial products that can benefit poor women, empowering them to change their lives and their communities. We have begun testing and exploring mobile banking options and will continue to research and test potentially beneficial technological innovations.

One factor in driving innovation at any organization is the talent you hire and the partnerships you make. How does your organization take into account innovation when it comes to cultivating talent and partners?

BRAC invests in building the capacity of its staff and teachers. We tend to hire younger staff with less experience and provide them with continuous training so that they can grow and excel within the organization. We strive to foster and entrepreneurial spirit so that the organization grows organically as needed, and are currently exploring a training program specific to leadership development within the organization.

We have also provided training and technical assistance to our partners, educating them in our grass-roots approach, and showing them through program visits the importance of culling solutions from the people you are serving.

Check out the full listing of all Devex Top 40 Development Innovators on Facebook.

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