The complexity of extreme poverty challenges designers of development programmes to identify clear entry-points for interventions which can lead to progressive improvements in lives and livelihoods. This paper investigates the approach of the Chars Livelihoods Programme (CLP), which transfers investment capital to targeted extremely poor households. Drawing on 12 months of fieldwork this paper examines the processes resulting from the implementation of the programme. It argues that the CLP is successful at meeting the immediate practical needs of the poorest households as well as providing the basis for the achievement of strategic needs. It has the potential to be ‘transformative-by-stealth’.