Civil society


Economic Empowerment of the Poorest

Client DFID
Value £65 million
Lifecycle 2008 to 2015
Country Bangladesh

The objective of the project is to support the government of Bangladesh to achieve the Millennium Development Goal targets on income, poverty and hunger and so support over a million people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty and achieve sustainable livelihoods by 2015.

Fund management

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) allocated £65 million over eight years (2007-2015) to establish and operate a Challenge Fund for the Economic Empowerment of the Poorest (EEP).  As part of the project team led by Harewell/Ecorys we provide technical assistance and fund management capacity throughout the lifetime of the project.

Fund aims

The Challenge Fund aims to sustainably improve the lives and livelihoods of extremely poor people by:

  • developing an understanding of the root causes of poverty (climate change and environmental disasters)
  • reducing the vulnerability and social exclusion of the extreme poor
  • promoting livelihood opportunities.

The team’s work includes the following.

  • Providing large and smaller-scale grants to NGOs in Bangladesh to implement proven and innovative approaches for reducing extreme poverty within disadvantaged groups of society. 
  • Disbursing grants to enhance a range of initiatives, including ‘employability’ prospects through skills training, access to markets and micro-finance.
  • Carrying out advocacy work around the nature, causes and solutions of extreme poverty, with a view to engaging other agents and influencing policy.
  • Supporting capacity building of human and minority rights institutions to equip them to implement and monitor anti-discrimination policy.

Active Citizens

Client Various
Lifecycle 2009 onwards
Country Multiple

Through the British Council’s Active Citizens programme our project team develops leadership skills in people and organisations around the world who want to make a contribution to community development. 

The programme focuses on leadership skills in the area of intercultural dialogue, project management and community action.  It has reached around 80,000 individuals across 30 countries through a blend of workshops, exchanges and international study visits.

It brings together individuals and organisations working in civil society, government and social business who are involved in social development at a local and national level.

Programme delivery

National strategies and action plans have been developed in collaboration with national stakeholders (e.g. Ministry of Civil Affairs; Ministry of Youth; Regional/local government; and National and local NGOs; Active Citizens alumni).

Four annual cycles of citizenship and participation training at civil society and community level have also been delivered. Each cycle includes facilitator workshops, local cascade training, international study visits and partner networking events.

Active Citizens at-a-glance

Key themes include citizenship, education, rights and equality, gender, community cohesion, conflict resolution and climate change.

Around 80,000 Active Citizens from diverse communities in over 30 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East have been reached by the programme.

Approximately 200,000 participants and members of the community, primarily in South Asia and the UK, have been engaged through our face-to-face core training activity and social action projects.

Participants have included youth workers, women’s groups, educators, community development professionals, voluntary sector representatives, social entrepreneurs, politicians and faith leaders. 



Through Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DelPHE)

Client DFID
Value £15 million
Lifecycle 2006 to 2013
Country Multiple

Through Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DelPHE) we helped to increase the capacity of higher education institutions in developing countries to contribute to sustainable development. We did this by supporting partnerships between institutions in different countries to enable them to undertake joint research, develop improved teaching programmes and share relevant ideas and expertise.

Goals and legacy

The overarching aim of the programme was to contribute to achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including those related to gender. Through DelPHE, higher education institutions were able to act as catalysts within developing countries to stimulate research and develop products to support the achievement of the goals. Each DelPHE partnership focused on one or more MDG, with the majority of funding being allocated to projects related to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and ensuring environmental sustainability. The project left a legacy of strengthened institutional capacity, community engagement and crucially important links between higher education and policy makers, in relation to these goals.

Project management

Tasked with the overall project management of DelPHE we promoted, established, managed and reported on 200 higher education partnerships in 22 DFID Public Service Agreement countries. The majority of these partnerships were between northern and southern higher education institutions, with the Association of Commonwealth Universities facilitating the development of south-south partnerships that were unique to this project. 

Sustainable solutions

Sustainability was built into each partnership by:

  • The training of trainers
  • The development of quality assurance systems
  • The advancement of research expertise
  • The provision of ‘seed corn’ funding and outreach strategies that attracted other funds if partnerships were successful.
  • Of the 200 partnerships, 198 continued for the full three year duration, and 114 continued after project funding had ceased.  Of these, 69 partnerships attracted a total of nearly £32 million in additional funding – meaning that for every £1 spent by DFID, a further £2.77 was generated from other governments, donors and international bodies.


DelPHE promoted more complex partnerships than the traditional one-to-one links of previous linking schemes, and it also facilitated the development of multilateral and ‘south-south’ partnerships.

Impact in figures


  • 66 per cent of southern partners are conducting more research than before their DelPHE partnership.
  • 136 partnerships have undertaken joint research that has been published or presented at conferences.
  • More than 650 research papers have been published in peer-reviewed national and international journals.
  • More than 300 research papers have been presented at conferences.
  • 25 per cent of projects have had dialogue with policy makers and 5.5 per cent indicate that they have already had some direct influence in actual or planned policy change.
  • 792 new or revised courses and modules have been developed in 161 institutions, of which 79 per cent are in development areas of science and technology.
  • 28,835 individuals (17,700 male and 11,135 female) have directly benefited from DelPHE professional development opportunities and courses.
  • Over 58,000 external beneficiaries have been positively affected by DelPHE activities.

English for development


English and ICT for Adolescents (EITA)

Client Various
Country Bangladesh

There is evidence in Bangladesh that girls and women have less access to ICTs than men, due to prevailing social norms and barriers of participation (including confidence and negative perceptions), and thus less access to learning English. This has resulted in a gender digital divide – which could lead to a future gendered skill imbalance and unequal life chances for women.

The suggested approach to address this was to create community-based ICT and learning centres for girls that have buy-in from parents and the community and are safe social spaces for girls. The British Council in Bangladesh partnered with BRAC Bangladesh Adolescent Development Programme – who have a long-established network of 8000 adolescent clubs for life skills training in 58 out of 64 districts - to run English and ICT for Adolescent Girls (EITA). These non-formal, community-based English and ICT clubs create opportunities for girls by developing their skills and reducing educational and social barriers.

Pilot Phase 1 (June 2012 – April 2013)

The project objectives were to change negative perceptions of English and ICTs, as well as build confidence in English and ICT skills in adolescent girls. 100 adolescents (90% of whom were girls) from 5 non-formal community-based clubs participated in the project, which took place at the BRAC branch office in Manikganj. The project used 15 peer leaders who facilitated twice-weekly sessions using mini netbooks pre-loaded with British Council digital interactive English resources (mapped to the National Curriculum and translated into Bangla) as well as communicative spoken English activities. Netbooks were used in order to develop ICT literacy through learning English interactively which involved mouse manipulation, keyboard skills etc. British Council and BRAC trained the peer leaders, and then sessions were observed and monitored regularly, with monthly refresher training.

The baseline, midline and end line reporting showed that project participants gained huge strides in their confidence in both their English and ICT skills, more positive perceptions and attitudes towards English and ICT skills and more willingness to speak English. They were also observed to have become more vocal and ready to express opinions, which may indicate that the project also promoted female empowerment. The project also gained buy-in from parents and the local community. In addition, the peer leaders also developed observed leadership skills and began to talk about potential avenues for future income-generation as a result of their training and session delivery.

Pilot Phase 2 (June 2013 – April 2014)

The project scaled up in June 2013 to reach 560 girls over 10 months. The model was modified based on the findings from the first phase in the following ways:

  •  The clubs have been incorporated into the normal ADP clubs run in schools rather than running separately in the branch office (to minimise travel time and parental worry).
  •  The content was modified to include more British Council English digital resources, other supplementary English resources (eg books and audio), different ICTs (micro-SD cards for mobile phones, solar-powered radios) and more ICT-specific skill training (MS Word, Internet navigation).
  •  Over 10 months there will be 2 batches of participants – each completing Level 1 (5 month duration). After they finish the 5 months, they will be provided with self-study materials to continue their learning until they can begin Level 2 (dependent on funding).
  •  Community-based English and ICT Fairs will be held to engage parents and the community
  •  The objectives are expanded to include testing of increases in English and ICT proficiency, and links to school performance and employment opportunities


Justice, security and conflict resolution


Community Legal Services

Client DFID
Value £787,000
Lifecycle 2012 to 2017
Country Bangladesh

Through the Community Legal Services project we work to improve access to justice for people in Bangladesh by supporting the delivery of legal services to poor, marginalised and socially excluded communities in hard-to-reach areas.

Working with Maxwell Stamp PLC, we provide grants to a range of civil society and community-based organisations to support civil society capacity building, research and advocacy, the delivery of community legal services, and justice sector co-ordination.

Improving access to justice through grant making

Grants are provided to a range of Bangladeshi non-governmental organisations, selected through a rigorous application process. Grant funding is being used to support diverse activities, reflecting the needs and accessibility requirements of the communities involved. These activities include:   

  • Community mediation services
  • Training community paralegals
  • Legal aid for poor and marginalised communities
  • Activating village courts and arbitration councils
  • Mobilising communities through legal and human rights awareness sessions
  • Advocacy for pro-poor and gender-friendly changes in policies and practices
  • Combating violence against women through legal action, advocacy, research and policy reviews.


Public sector reform


Managing at the Top II

Client DFID
Value £82 million
Lifecycle 2007 to 2013
Country Bangladesh

As part of the Managing at the Top II programme, we supported the establishment of a competent and reform minded civil service in Bangladesh, capable of developing and delivering pro-poor and inclusive services.

Working with the Ministry of Public Administration and the Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre, we focused on strengthening the knowledge and capacity of civil servants through the creation and implementation of a sustainable training programme.

Experiential Learning

A new training curriculum was developed for civil servants, based on an experiential learning approach and focusing on performance improvement. Over 1,750 senior civil servants, 15 per cent of whom were women, undertook an eight-week training programme, followed by a six-month team project focusing on poverty reduction. Key elements of the new approach were also integrated into existing specialised management courses. 

Influencing pro-poor reform Over 150 team projects, focusing on pro-poor reform, were implemented by training participants in the areas of health, education, the environment and human resources. Many of these projects have been replicated and are now informing national strategies, leading to overall innovation in the civil service.

The development of trainers

Over 50 staff at the Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre – the main civil service college in Bangladesh – were introduced to Experiential Learning techniques, leading to the establishment of a pool of skilled trainers capable of delivering the training programme in the future. An institutional strategy was also developed and implemented at the college.

Appraisal and career tracking

An open appraisal system was developed and piloted at the Ministry of Public Administration and is now being rolled out across the whole civil service. A modern management information system was introduced to track the career development of civil servants, focusing on skills, qualifications and performance.

The programme has created a strong and firm impact…creating a pool of secretaries and other senior civil servants that no other staff development programme has achieved.

Iqbal Mahmood, Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration 

'I have seen a change in the way in which officers engage. They think in a different way…valuing the demand side and mixing with people and understanding citizen needs.


Abdul Azis, Cabinet Secretary, Government of Bangladesh.