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Lessons from Trickle Up & UNHCR: Applying a Refugee Lens to Graduation

By: Sanchez, Ines A. & Simanowitz, Anton


Trickle Up


According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, both the number of people affected by forced displacement and its duration have consistently increased since 2011. At the same time, the funding gap for humanitarian assistance required by populations experiencing protracted displacement is widening. To address this growing need, the international community is increasingly advocating for, and engaging in, building the self-reliance of displaced populations as a sustainable solution to long-term humanitarian crises.

As part of this global movement, UNHCR started working with Trickle Up to design and implement the Graduation Approach (GA or Graduation). Graduation is an effective, time-bound, and multipronged intervention to help people create sustainable livelihoods and overcome extreme poverty in 2013. In 2016, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BRPM) provided a three-year grant for Trickle Up’s Building Self-Reliance for Refugees project. Through this project, Trickle Up has supported the design and/or implementation of Graduation programs in 10 UNHCR country operations in Argentina, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, as well as to AVSI Foundation in Uganda, Caritas Switzerland in Jordan, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Jordan (forthcoming), and World Vision Iraq.

In evaluating the Building Self-Reliance for Refugees project, factors that influence the appropriateness of the Graduation Approach for refugees were identified. This report proposes an analytical framework that looks at the refugee context, arising challenges and opportunities, and programmatic responses at three levels–local, institutional, and individual. It further includes recommendations for how organizations can apply a refugee lens to their programs to address the specific vulnerabilities and capabilities commonly arising in refugee contexts. The analysis presented here focuses on refugees and, to some extent, asylum-seekers, the two groups that were included in UNHCR Graduation programs. It does not consider other displaced populations.

As part of the analysis of the projects supported by Trickle Up, the first part of this report discusses the appropriateness of the GA for refugees. The second section presents an analytical framework for the analysis of the refugee context and how organizations can respond to the needs of refugees through the GA. The final section concludes and presents additional ideas for the community of practice going forward.

Applying a Refugee Lens to Graduation