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The article offers a reflective analysis of various problems encountered and lessons learned in implementing a programme to improve the livelihood security of the urban poor in secondary cities of Bangladesh. The study is based on the author’s involvement as an external action-research partner, and a review of relevant secondary literature. A number of key lessons emerge for the success of project operations. These are the need for (1) a clear understanding of the links between project activities and project objectives by all staff; (2) capacity building for all staff tailored to their needs; (3) clear targeting criteria and programme coverage; (4) a full complement of operational guidelines, work plans, and monitoring and evaluation design before implementation; (5) ensuring ‘partnership of organisations’ not ‘partnership of activities’; (6) ensuring the real involvement of beneficiaries in all aspects of the project; (7) staff empowerment and a flexible approach to operations; (8) routine reflections on project progress; and finally (9) being ready to take bold steps and make necessary strategic changes, even if doing so requires significant deviations from pre-set activities and hypothetical schedules as featured in the project proposals.

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