From "having the will' to "knowing the way': Incremental transformation for poverty alleviation among rural women in Bangladesh

Anastasia A. Seferiadis, S.J.R. Cummings, Jeroen Maas, J.G.F. Bunders- Aelen, Marjolein B. M. Zweekhorst

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Short-term, linear, externally funded, project-based approaches to complex problems like women's poverty in rural Bangladesh are often unsuccessful. Taking a different approach, this paper documents a transdisciplinary action-research methodology that led to sustainable poverty alleviation for rural Bangladeshi women, gradual changes in gender relations at the household and community level and strengthened women's capabilities while simultaneously developing an approach to social entrepreneurship. Defining characteristics of this research process were clear articulation of objectives in which poverty alleviation always received priority, learning cycles in which women were the central actors of the research-action process, and fluid and changing leadership among different stakeholders at different stages in the process. The project demonstrates the strength of action-research in addressing complex challenges, such as poverty alleviation and unequal gender relations. Key lessons for development practice include the need for interventions that take place over a longer time-frame and for a vision of development that is not transformational but comprising small incremental, locally embedded changes and which recognises the role of social capital.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-76
Number of pages20
JournalAction research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Bangladesh
  • interactive learning and action
  • social capital
  • social entrepreneurship
  • transdisciplinary research
  • women


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