Empowering Communities: How AVSI’s Targeting Approach is Uplifting 70,000 Extremely Poor Individuals

SMILES project emphasizes the importance of employing replicable methodologies across different settings to target the most vulnerable and building trust and consensus between the program and its intended participants

Communities, households and individuals are impacted by their distinctive socio-economic and geographical variables, which influence their level of vulnerability; and as a result, their fundamental needs for assistance could vary. To ensure programmes target the most vulnerable for support, it is essential to employ replicable methodologies in any setting and cultivate trust and consensus between the programme and the participants for whom it is intended.

The IKEA Foundation-funded Sustainable Market Inclusive Livelihood Pathways to Self-Reliance (SMILES) project targets 14,000 households (corresponding to an estimated 70,000 individuals)—extremely poor refugee and host community households with a woman or youth who is either economically active or can be supported to become economically active.

The five-year (November 2022 to October 2027) programme is being implemented in the rural districts of Kyangwali and the Kyaka II Refugee Settlements in Uganda with the aim of building sustainable livelihoods, self-reliance, and resilience, taking a two-cohort intervention of 24 months each to deliver a graduation model integrated with a market system development approach.

The targeting process applied in the SMILES project employed a Participatory Rural Appraisal approach where data collection, analysis and decision-making are the immediate and key responsibilities that lie in the hands of community
members and humanitarian workers working with them to reduce bias and encourage buy-in.

This process allows the project to modify and ensure its design is compliant with local definitions and understandings of poverty. The participatory rural appraisal adaptation by the SMILES project ensures ownership, participation, and shared decision-making for the identification, selection, and validation of project participants.

People involved in SMILES project during the inception meeting

AVSI conducted various steps, considering the age, gender, disability, and current social and economic status of the participants. To begin the targeting process, the SMILES project consortium, which includes AVSI, Innovations for Poverty Action, Renewable Energy, Powering Agriculture, and Rural Livelihoods Enhancement (REPARLE), Makerere University, Social Work and Social Administration Department, and DAI Global LLC, collaborated with the Office of the Prime Minister, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and district leadership of Kikuube and Kyegegwa. This collaboration aimed to create a platform to achieve overarching objectives, such as introducing SMILES to local leadership through entry meetings, confirming the initial lists of refugee and host community households, and gaining support from key stakeholders for a smooth program implementation.

The list of participants led to the use of the following participatory rural appraisal methods:

  • Social mapping, which included the scorecard exercise, involved gathering quantitative information to assess the livelihood status of households. This was done by conducting a census of social interactions with each household in the selected project area.
  • Participatory Wealth Ranking, also known as the "bucketing exercise," required identified community members to classify each household in a village based on their wealth rank. This classification took place after completing the second phase (scorecard) of the targeting process. AVSI collaborated with local communities to accurately identify rich, moderately rich, poor, and extremely poor households in their respective contexts.

The social mapping and participatory wealth ranking methodology provided opportunities for other community members to contribute to the selection of program participants. Only households ranked and validated as extremely poor or poor and economically active through the scorecard tool were considered eligible for enrollment in the program.

In the end, the SMILES project's scorecard and social mapping exercises showed that 68.2% of the 26,669 households reached were classified as extremely poor. Among them, refugee communities had the highest percentage, accounting for 82.9% compared to 52.6% among the host communities.

The results of the participatory wealth ranking indicated no significant differences in characteristics between poor and extremely poor households. These were represented by a total of 90.3%, with 34.4% being extremely poor and 55.9% classified as poor. Moderately rich households made up 8.3%, while the rich accounted for 1.3%. The overall eligibility rate was reported at 82.7%, with refugees at 83.5% and host community members at 81.8%.

After validating the eligible scorecard list of households with the participatory wealth ranking household list, the village and household lists were randomly assigned to one of the three project treatment arms or a control group. This random assignment was done through a lottery system as part of a randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of specific interventions in the program. The process of the randomized controlled trial was carried out by Innovations for Poverty Action, using a computerized system as part of the project evaluation design.

The participatory rural appraisal approach proved effective in building relationships within communities, collecting data, understanding, selecting, and identifying participants within the communities they reside in and beyond.

There was full participation in the wealth ranking, a process which helped to determine the ideal project participants. Additionally, the process demonstrated transparency by determining which services would be provided and was open to all, hence minimising fraud cases

Tophious Charli, the Settlement Commandant in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement

AVSI's method of work is centred on the people being served; by doing so, community programme ownership is established. This approach placed strong emphasis on empowering the local population to assume an active role in
analysing their own living conditions, problems, and opportunities
in order to achieve change in their livelihoods.

The approach of community-led participant selection sets good precedence for the implementation of livelihood programmes and will build a solid evidence base for an all-inclusive process that can be replicated in other communities

Julius Pachoto, the Livelihoods Economic Inclusion Associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Following the success of the already tested targeting approach applied by the USAID-Graduating to Resilience Activity, AVSI similarly found it suitable in the selection of the right participants (refugees and host community members) to benefit from the IKEA Foundation-funded Sustainable Market Inclusive Livelihood Pathways to Self-Reliance (SMILES) project.