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The aim of this article is to talk about the possibilities of work‐related adult education programmes within the context of developing countries. The focus of the analysis is on poor populations, particularly those dwelling in rural and marginal urban areas. The background comprises the challenges for productive incorporation, social exclusion, the relative absence of skill development programmes in these areas and the historical ineffectiveness of adult education programmes. In the light both of lessons drawn form several experiences carried out mainly in developing countries and insights coming from educational and developmental research, the article puts forward some theses that may serve as guidelines when carrying out work‐related adult education programmes, such as the need to stem from integral and inter‐institutional perspectives, to rely on sound strategies that can have a direct impact on both social and economic development, to learn from local contexts (knowledge and opportunities) and evaluate the potential within these spaces, to properly assess the different areas (health, housing, organization etc.) that are related to any social development process, and the importance of taking productive activities—work—as the axis and starting point of programmes.