The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.
The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Basic entrepreneurship: a means for transforming the economic lives of the poor?

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Photo: A market stall holder in northern Uganda. Photo Credit: Pete Lewis/Department for International Development/Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0
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Principal Investigator: Robin Stuart BurgessLead Organistion: London School of Economics & Pol Sci

The world's poorest people lack capital and skills and toil for others in occupations that others shun. This project examines randomised evaluations of an innovative anti-poverty program which simultaneously tackles capital and skills constraints in an effort to encourage occupational change amongst the world’s poorest women.

The issue at hand is whether one can create successful female entrepreneurs - who acquire skills and make use of productive capital - out of poor women who started out with neither. Key to this question is whether asset and skill transfers can induce the poor to alter their occupational choices and permanently exit poverty, as opposed to simply enabling them to increase their consumption in the short term.

By looking at three evaluations in three countries (Bangladesh, Uganda and Pakistan) we hope to  draw more general lessons regarding whether or not basic entrepreneurship, where severely disadvantaged women take on occupations which were the preserve of non-poor women, can serve as a powerful means for transforming the economic lives of the poor. 

The proposed research offers the opportunity to validate a major new idea for confronting extreme rural poverty where literally millions of women are trapped in dead end occupations where they labor for others. The fundamental purpose of the proposed research is to provide academic and policy audiences with a solid evidence base on the potential of basic entrepreneurship programs pioneered by the world's largest NGO BRAC to permanently lift very poor women out of poverty. A range of actors from NGOs to governments potentially interested in implementing these types of program will draw from the evidence base that the proposed research will build. The fact that the original basic entrepreneurship idea originated in the Bangladesh will also give the research findings particular resonance. By targeting a wide range of policy audiences and ultimately political actors within developing countries the proposed research can promote basic entrepreneurship as a potential means of lifting the world's poorest women out of poverty. Beneficiaries of the research proposal will gain an understanding of how programmes providing combinations of capital and skills can affect the long term economic opportunities of the poorest women within rural societies. The study will draw parallels across the three different studies and this evaluation will help shape a policy idea with a potentially wide set of country applications. The research will shape the value and importance given by policy audiences to programs to basic entrepreneurship. The primary methods of disseminating the body of knowledge gathered by the Principal Investigator will be via the media and through presentations at in-country and international conferences and seminars aimed at academic and policy professionals engaged in international development. Much of the research will also be available to academics and practitioners through publication within academic journals as well as in the form of policy briefs and other synthetic documents. Additionally, continued collaboration between BRAC, the International Growth Centre (IGC) and the Government of Punjab through joint seminars conferences will help to disseminate findings from these studies. The Principal Investigator has already engaged in these types of activities with these partners in the past and can build upon this relationship to disseminate findings from the current studies. The Principal Investigator will also present finding to bodies such as DFID, JICA, CIDA, AFD, the Word Bank and the United all of whom the Principal Investigator has close relationships with owing to his role as Director of the IGC. Owing to their salience in national and international policy circles we would expect that the findings from these studies would be covered fairly extensively in the media including on the various blogs and other websites that focus on issues connected to poverty reduction. Workshops have been held with the implementing partners at the inception of each of the proposed projects to discuss design and timelines. Workshops during the course of the proposed research will he held to validate the direction that the research is taking and to involve a wider set of stakeholders in government, NGOs, bilateral and international development organizations and the media in the dissemination of the research findings. Such workshops will be held in each of the three countries - Bangladesh, Uganda and Pakistan where the Principal Investigator already has close ties to the implementing partners and with these stakeholders.

Primary theme: 
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Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
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Fund Start Date: 
January 1st, 2014
Fund End Date: 
December 31st, 2017
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Fund Value: