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Adapting the Graduation Approach for Refugees in Ecuador – Full Case Study

By: Sanchez, Ines A. & Simanowitz, Anton



Trickle Up


In 2013, amidst a sharp increase in the number of forced displacements and protracted refugee situations, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, started working with Trickle Up to implement the Graduation Approach (GA) with refugees living in extreme poverty. Together, they started pilot programs in Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, and Zambia. Building on this initial work, in 2016, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) provided a three-year grant for Trickle Up to support UNHCR and a number of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to test the design and implementation of Graduation programs with refugees, through the Building Self-Reliance for Refugees project. Through this project, with technical support from Trickle Up, UNHCR has designed and implemented Graduation programs in 10 country operations: Argentina, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Trickle Up has also supported AVSI Foundation in Uganda to design and implement Graduation programming for refugees and host communities, and has helped World Vision Iraq in Iraq and Caritas Switzerland, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Jordan, and UNHCR Jordan in Jordan, to assess the feasibility of designing Graduation programs for refugees in these contexts.

In spring 2019, Trickle Up commissioned an evaluation to assess the results of the project and synthesize the emerging lessons learned. As part of the evaluation, the evaluation team traveled to Ecuador, where UNHCR launched a pilot program, supported by Trickle Up, in 2015 and, together with its lead implementing partner, HIAS, scaled up the program in 2016 through a national roll out program. This case study uses interviews with staff from UNHCR, partners, and participant refugees to explore how UNHCR Ecuador and its implementing partner, HIAS, adapted the GA to the refugee context in Ecuador. It begins by providing an overview of the refugee context in Ecuador, followed by a discussion of how UNHCR and HIAS have leveraged the GA to respond to this situation. The study explores key factors that have enabled and hindered the implementation of the GA with refugees in Ecuador, respectively. The report concludes with a discussion of the main lessons learned and options for moving forward.

Adapting the Graduation Approach for Refugees in Ecuador - Full Case Study