Poverty reduction programmes have to take account not only of
the specific needs, priorities and conditions of the poor, but
also of the rapidly changing conditions in the larger society
and economy. Poverty reduction programmes need to be adjusted
constantly to new conditions and new opportunities and this challenge
forces all those involved in poverty reduction programmes to experiment.
Across the Asia-Pacific region, both governmental and civil-society
organizations are developing and experimenting with innovative
approaches to poverty reduction. Some of these experiments are
highly successful and some are failures.
The identification, analysis, documentation, testing and dissemination
of good practices in poverty reduction are the core activities
of the Poverty Reduction Section. Through its regional networks
and the regional meetings it organizes, the section is constantly
alerted to these innovative approaches and their results. The
section also commissions papers that analyze innovative practices,
for review in regional meetings; this is where a practice is identified
as an innovative and interesting practice.
For further information on the Poverty Reduction Section’s
methodology on good practices:
Defining a “good
Promoting good and innovative
A possible definition of a “good practice” is “an
approach that has shown, through research and evaluation, to be
effective and sustainable and to produce outstanding results,
and that is applicable in and adapted to a different situation”.
When countries request UNESCAP for advice or possible replication
it is important to note three key concepts of a good practice:
(a) proven outstanding results, (b) applicable in a different
situation and (c) adaptable to that different situation.
UNESCAP recognizes that replication is rarely “cloning”
of a practice, but almost always “adapted replication”,
because circumstances differ from place to place. A practice effective
in one place needs to be adapted to be effective elsewhere, and
sometimes, only a few core principles of a practice are transferable.
and innovative practices
The purpose of a good practices programme in poverty reduction
- A good practice that has been successful
in one setting may give people who do similar work new ideas
about poverty reduction. Replication implies applying a practice
in a different setting, but as circumstances differ from one
setting to another, it is usually necessary to adapt the practice
to local circumstances to make it effective. Replication is
therefore almost always “adapted replication”.
- Since many successful poverty reduction
practices tend to be small-scale, their impact is usually limited.
There is a need to “upscale” a successful practice
to reach a larger number of poor.
Sometimes only a few core principles are transferable. Some people
argue that replication of a good practice is not possible, only
replication of “best principles”. Many good practices
address similar problems and use similar techniques, and a database
of good practices makes it possible to identify common principles
in the practices and develop a series of model approaches to address
specific problems. For instance, poverty reduction projects will
not succeed unless the poor have a sense of ownership of the activity.
Who decides what practices are good and are worth promoting?
A practice usually needs to be adapted to local circumstances
and the effectiveness of an adapted replication is always uncertain.
In principle, UNESCAP looks at all effective and innovative practices
in poverty reduction, but it does not decide which practice is
worthy of adapted replication. Eventually, the replicator decides
what a good practice is, after having adapted and replicated the
Some conclusions can be drawn from the collection and dissemination
of good and innovative practices over the years:
- Lessons can be learned from both good
and bad practices;
- Most practices have both strong and
- No practice can be replicated in its
- All practices need to be adapted to
- The best practices are practices that
are instructive and useful for others;
- General lessons can be learned from
written documentation of a practice; and
- Detailed lessons require interaction
between “initiator” and “replicator.”
Practices that are already being applied everywhere require no
documentation. Practitioners are interested in innovative practices
that do the work in a different way and that are instructive and
useful for potential replication. A practice that is effective
but only possible because of unique circumstances in place or
time does not have much relevance for potential replicators. Because
the positive (and negative) impacts become visible only after
some time, often after several years, it is not possible to determine
the quality of a practice early in its existence. It is, however,
important to identify possibly interesting practices and document
their progress (including problems and failures) over time so
that after a few years there is good documentation of the process.
Important lessons can also be learned from failed practices,
but it would be difficult to mobilize resources for the documentation
of “bad” practices and it may be difficult to document
the details of the process that led to its failure, as few would
be happy to disclose their role in the failure. However, useful
lessons can be derived from failed practices through the analysis
of evaluation reports and commonalities of unsuccessful practices
can be revealed without clearly identifying them.
Identification & documentation
UNESCAP is in an advantageous position to identify good and innovative
practices in poverty reduction because of its regional focus and
its extensive regional networks. It organizes workshops and seminars
around emerging issues that bring together practitioners from
different countries to discuss innovative approaches. Examples
are the expert group meetings organized by UNESCAP on the use
of information and communication technology for rural development
and poverty reduction. UNESCAP often invites participants to such
meetings with the request to bring new practices that they or
their colleagues have undertaken so that they can be documented.
UNESCAP alone cannot be aware of all practices that are being
developed in the region. It needs partners to identify good and
innovative practices. Ideally, it should have partner institutes
in each country that could form a community of practitioners.
Such a community would identify good and innovative practices
and serve as a partner in other steps of the process, such as
review and dissemination. Once an interesting practice is identified,
UNESCAP or its local partner would conduct a rapid appraisal for
a first assessment of the practice to determine its innovativeness,
short-term effectiveness and efficiency, organizational set-up
and limitations. Such a short description is also useful for awareness-raising
among potential replicators. Based on this rapid appraisal and
the interest shown by potential replicators, more thorough documentation
can be prepared.
For replication, it is essential to know the necessary conditions
for the success of a practice and this often requires the testing
of a practice under different circumstances. Such testing does
not mean that people are subjected to approaches that could harm
them. The purpose of the “experiment” is to determine
what policy environment and external inputs are necessary to make
a practice successful. In such an experiment, all or almost all
projects succeed, because inputs can be increased to make the
practice succeed if there is a risk of failure. The increased
inputs (e.g., more money) will not be replicable under normal
circumstances and this is an indication that the practice is not
An example of such testing is the Human Dignity Initiative which
is currently implementing projects in 25 communities in five countries.
Some communities are poor neighbourhoods; others are non-geographical
communities of disabled people or people living with HIV/AIDS.
The purpose is to determine (a) what communities can do to develop
social safety nets for the weaker members of the community and
(b) what policy environment and external inputs (e.g., money,
training, advice) are required. The Human Dignity Initiative will
eventually show governments and civil society what inputs they
need to provide and what policy environment is needed for successful
(adapted) replication of the practice under particular circumstances.
Documentation of the trials and errors, successes and failures
is a key component of the project.
Similarly, a project entitled Replication of Best Practices for
Rural Poverty Reduction aims at replicating the Republic of Korea’s
Saemaul Undong approach for rural development in Cambodia, the
Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Nepal. Conditions in
the latter countries are quite different from those of the Republic
of Korea in the 1970s. The Saemaul Undong approach may, therefore,
not be replicable in those countries in its entirety. The project
aims to determine what principles are applicable, what adjustments
need to be made and what policy and regulatory environment is
necessary to replicate the approach on a large scale. In this
project, documentation is also an important component.
The third stage in the process of managing the knowledge of innovative
practices is dissemination. Dissemination must take place to the
right people, at the right time, in an appropriate language, through
workable media and in easily accessible formats with substantive,
interesting and relevant information.
With the advances in information technology, organizations that
collect and disseminate good practices have started to make databases
of innovative practices available on CDs and web sites. The CD
or web site often also provides contact details of the initiators
of the practice so that any interested person can contact them
for more information. The purpose of the database is to draw the
attention of the potential replicators to a particular practice
they want to know more about. UNESCAP is in the process of creating
such a database at present.
Another method used by UNESCAP to disseminate experiences is
regional workshops that bring together initiators and potential
replicators of innovative practices.
For the collection and dissemination of innovative practices,
UNESCAP established CityNet (Regional Network of Local Authorities
for the Management of Human Settlements) and LOGOTRI (Network
of Local Government Training and Research Institutes in Asia and
the Pacific). These networks regularly assess the priority concerns
of their members and use this information to select the topics
of regional workshops where replicators and initiators can meet
to discuss experiences.
The Poverty Reduction Section distinguishes four phases in the
process of disseminating a practice:
During the awareness-raising phase, potential replicators access
databases of practices to gain an overview of proven practices
in poverty reduction. At this point, the documentation in the
database needs to give only a summary idea of the practice. With
the information, a potential replicator can decide which of the
practices look promising for further study and possible adaptation
and application. Sometimes, the information suffices to give a
reader new ideas on how to develop a new practice.
During the information transfer phase, the replicator seeks detailed
information. Now, the documentation needs to be detailed enough
to allow the reader to obtain a thorough understanding of the
various aspects of the practice and its relevance to the problem
to be solved. The practices are to be presented in a standard
format and the replicator should be able to search the database
practice by practice, but also by model and technique.
Interactive information exchange
No documentation can anticipate all questions that a potential
replicator might raise. If he or she decides to try to adapt and
apply the practice, it will be necessary to establish direct communication
between initiator and replicator, possibly with the active involvement
of external resource persons. The potential replicator may need
to “see, feel, touch and smell” the practice in order
to understand it. This is what makes site visits and face-to-face
meetings such powerful means of good practice transfer. During
this phase, the potential replicator will ask the critical questions
and identify possible problems in implementation.
The more complex the practice, the more interactive and face-to-face
the transfer mechanisms need to be. People adopt a practice if
they can identify for themselves what will work best in their
own circumstances and can review the replication rather than import
it wholesale. People need to trust their source of information
and the identification of a practice as “good”. They
need to see with their own eyes that the practice works.
Once a practice has been adapted for replication in a new setting,
it may be necessary to build the capacity of the replicators.
This capacity-building needs to occur at two levels. At the practical
level, staff of the government or NGO that introduces the practice
need training. If the new practice is radically different from
previous practices, it will also be necessary to adjust the policy
environment, particularly rules and regulations that may currently
obstruct the introduction of the new practice.