BRAC USA

Our mission is to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. Our interventions aim to achieve large scale, positive changes through economic and social programs that enable men and women to realize their potential.
Jan 18, 2013

Progress on the Ground

Lasbela School 1
Lasbela School 1

The children of Pakistan's Lasbela district lack of the services most would consider essential to proper social and cognitive development, including access to pre-primary education. Because of this, many students struggle to comprehend and retain the government curriculum that is used by schools in the district including BRAC primary schools. In order to to supplement this curriculum, the BRAC Education team has designed additional pedagogic techniques and materials in the areas of storytelling, song and rhyme, art, games, puzzles and general knowledge in order to enhance students' ability to absorb their daily lessons.

Distinctive from most government schools, BRAC schools, which are primarily based in regions where children are deprived of sufficient early childhood development, employ student-centered teaching methodologies that engage students on an individual level. These methods include active learning, in which students solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during class as well as cooperative learning, where students work in teams on problems and projects under conditions that assure both positive interdependence and individual accountability. There is also a practice of inductive teaching and learning, in which students are first presented with challenges (questions or problems) and learn the course material in the context of addressing those challenges.

The difference this makes in the children's lives can be observed by interacting with the them; their confidence and active participation in any activity within and outside of the school is drastically higher than those who are not enrolled. With your support, we can continue to make an invaluable impact in the lives of these children and foster positive socioeconomic change in the community.

Lasbela School 2
Lasbela School 2
Dec 11, 2012

Frugal Innovation at Birth

BRAC Birthing Kit
BRAC Birthing Kit

The BRAC birthing kit is a small packet wrapped in plastic, about the size of a Pop-Tart, and it’s saving lives. This packet is an excellent example of jugaad, one of the buzzwords making the rounds in the business world.

Jugaad is a colloquial term in Hindi for an innovative fix or improvised solution – a frugal innovation..

In the developing world, life often runs on jugaad solutions. According to the authors of Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth, western businesses could learn a lot from the jugaad approach of innovation and radical affordability.

Development organizations, too, must create inexpensive and adaptable solutions to alleviate poverty. The BRAC birthing kit is one such example.

Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC has grappled with the problem of high maternal and infant mortality in a country where the vast majority of women still give birth at home without a skilled attendant. Your response might be to build more or bigger hospitals; BRAC instead brought suitable alternatives to the women themselves, in the form of “birthing huts” in the slums of Dhaka and other Bangladeshi cities, as well as the BRAC birthing kits.

A BRAC birthing kit contains the necessary tools for a safe and sterile delivery: gauze, carbolic soap, a sterile plastic sheet to go over the mattress, a thread to tie the umbilical chord and a surgical blade to cut it. That’s it.
It might not be the most elegant solution, but it transforms any home into a safe and sterile place to have a baby. The cost to the consumer? A mere 40 cents.

By slimming the product down to the bare necessities, the birthing kit is simple to manufacture and distribute. At the Sanitary Napkin and Delivery Kits unit, a BRAC social enterprise, the kit costs 28 cents to make. It is then sold to BRAC’s Health Program for 32 cents, the same price at which it is sold to BRAC community health promoters, or shasthya shebikas in Bengali. These women are trained by BRAC and, as part of a range of products and services they provide, sell the kits for 40 cents to their community.

Of course, it’s not enough to only have a birthing kit. A skilled attendant is still necessary to manage complications. You might think it’s time to send in the doctors, but BRAC learned that with a bit of training – and access to a network of qualified help should complications arise – women from the community can be trained to be skilled birth attendants.

BRAC has made headway in frugal innovation by providing products and services that are affordable, accessible, and – crucially – relevant to those being served. BRAC has already seen measurable results; meanwhile Bangladesh is well on its way to reducing maternal and child mortality by the 2015 deadline of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

When people can afford the tangible and intangible costs of basic services, they are better positioned to mobilize themselves economically and socially. Poverty is not unique to the developing world, but what is the west providing in terms of low-cost solutions? Perhaps the developed world can take a lesson or two from frugal innovation.

Nov 30, 2012

The Secret to our Success

Adolescent Development Program - 1
Adolescent Development Program - 1

The success BRAC's adolescent program has experienced in Bangladesh is far from being a result of chance--thanks to rigorous research and evaluation, the program has evolved through a combination of statistical analysis coupled with a native understanding of local social practices. The strategy starts by mobilizing the communities where BRAC aims to build adolescent programming by taking the following steps:

1. Identifying social groups and mapping existing formal structures or networks. In many rural areas, networks include adult males, religious leaders, teachers, and the parents and extended family of children. BRAC also recruits and trains female volunteers who become the nucleus of a social network of women.

2. Building trust with the community by providing something to meet their perceived needs. In most communities, BRAC starts a credit program that involves the poorest of the poor in economic activities to alleviate poverty.

3. Developing forums around social networks to engage in dialogue with the community. Key elements of developing effective community forums include 1) identifying appropriate actors; 2) recognizing and responding to communication patterns and behavioral cues that exist in the community; 3) building cultural beliefs about the authority and reliability of the information provided in the forum; and 4) using fora to strengthen existing positive relationships within the family and community.

4. Within community forums, exposing members to new ideas, involving them in problem solving, and encouraging "risky innovations." As forum members are taken through this process, they become advocates for the program approach by integrating program objectives into their own lives and value systems.

BRAC engages communities in an evolutionary process that introduces new ideas, and through open dialogue, community members are able to address more sensitive issues such early marriage, women's rights and adolescent reproductive health. It was through the process of community mobilization that BRAC has been able to establish 8,037 adolescent clubs to date across the country, and has become a widely accepted and celebrated part of the community.

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