It has been said that development is about delivery: the will and ability to deliver interventions to very poor people in order to improve their lives. The development “space” is filled with great ideas and innovative solutions, from technological interventions to new policy initiatives. But the effects of these potentially game-changing ideas are severely mitigated if they do not actually get to the people they are intended to benefit. We think of this challenge in terms of “reach.” To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, development solutions much reach those who need them most.

Those who live at the base of the pyramid – the poorest of the poor – are also the hardest to reach. Many are homeless or live far in the countryside; they might lack formal identification; or they are socially marginalized because of their ethnicity or gender. As Anthony Lake of UNICEF puts it: “Disaggregate the data and we find that our statistical national successes are masking moral and practical failures. People are left behind simply because they live in rural communities or urban slums, in conflict zones, as part of indigenous groups, with disabilities or because they are girls.”

We are a research initiative based in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Our team is led by Professor Joseph Wong and supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. The Reach Project team is composed of researchers from across various disciplines and the University of Toronto. Together, we examine the delivery of social services to those who are hardest to reach.