The PRSP approach is only four years old, but it has already stimulated much debate and some controversy. At one extreme, there are the rose-tinted optimists who present PRSPs as a panacea for poverty reduction, a ‘magic bullet’ capable of transforming in a very short space of time what were previously seen as intractable obstacles to poverty reduction. At the other extreme sit the conspiracy theorists who denounce PRSPs as ‘more of the same’ from the IFIs and other donors, representing continuing neglect of the structural obstacles to poverty reduction and unlikely to make the slightest difference to the rights of poor people. This paper is located somewhere between these two camps in its attempt to give a basic overview of the PRS experience to date to help inform CARE’s work. It recognises the significant potential inherent in an approach which was developed out of best practice on how to tackle poverty and points to preliminary evidence of progress made in countries that have begun to engage. However, it also acknowledges that much of the potential in PRSPs remains just that at present, and underlines the need for sustained engagement by civil society, governments and donors if their full potential is to be realised, and a real and lasting difference made to the lives of poor people.