Engaging elite support for the poorest? BRAC's Targeted Ultra Poor programme for rural women in Bangladesh

This article draws preliminary lessons from the experience of engaging village elites in support of a BRAC programme for ultra-poor women in rural Bangladesh. It describes the origins, aims, and operation of this programme, which provides comprehensive livelihood support and productive assets to the extreme poor. Based on field research in the rural north-west, the article examines the conditions under which elites can support interventions for the ultra-poor, and the risks and benefits of such engagement. It describes the impact of committees mandated to support ultra-poor programme participants, and attempts to understand the somewhat paradoxical success of this intervention. Conclusions and lessons from the experience involve revisiting assumptions that dominate scholarship and programmes relating to the politics of poverty in rural Bangladesh.