Economic empowerment for people with disabilities through the graduation approach: lessons from Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico
People with disabilities (PWDs) are overrepresented among those in extreme poverty. They are also often excluded, or self-exclude, from economic strengthening programmes. For the past six years, Trickle Up has had promising results in adapting graduation programmes to the needs of PWDs living in extreme poverty. Drawing upon mixed-method data analysis, participatory assessment, and case studies from six projects in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico involving 936 households with PWDs, this article discusses graduation programme design for PWDs in extreme poverty. This includes when and how to engage PWDs as primary programme participants, homogeneous versus integrated savings groups, the role of field staff in changing negative attitudes about disability in families, communities, and among PWDs themselves, and how ‘graduation’ itself should be conceptualized when working with specific vulnerabilities. Finally, consideration is given to the broader lessons for program designers and implementers engaging other highly marginalized groups in economic development programmes.