2018-2019 Global Development Studies Senior Thesis Projects

Jordan O'Hanlon '19

Project Title: Silver Bullets of Development? Working Towards Poverty Alleviation in Microcredit and Conditional Cash Transfer Programs

Summary: The world has been searching for solutions to bring an end to poverty. This search has caused ideas to explode, expanding rapidly as “silver bullets” of development. Microfinance followed this trajectory and quickly became a model for global poverty reduction. It brought promise to make a dramatic impact on economic and social development but has fallen short of the world’s expectations. Following microfinance, conditional cash transfers have become the new gold standard of development and are rapidly spreading. While it is generally agreed upon that there is no magic answer to eradicating poverty, the ways in which poverty is conceptualized in these development programs is critical in reflecting on the work being done. These programs have dominant roles in constructing the ways in which development is understood and practiced. This project analyzes the context, assumptions, and discourse that have driven microcredit and conditional cash transfers to answer the questions: how do these programs frame poverty, and how are they reflective of broader trends in global development? The development community makes fads out of ideas in a quest for solutions to poverty, framing poverty as a project that can be alleviated rather than something that has been created and perpetuated through history. While microcredit and conditional cash transfers have positive contributions for development, they are overextended as solutions to poverty and distract from the need to ask bigger questions about how to engage in redistribution of wealth on a broader scale.