How to Understand and Fight Poverty in All Its Dimensions

How to Understand and Fight Poverty in All Its Dimensions
Photo by Karthikeyan K / Unsplash

Poverty is not just about money.

It is also about how people live, what they can do, and how they feel. Poverty has many dimensions that affect people’s well-being and dignity.

But how can we measure and address these dimensions? And how can we involve the people who experience poverty in finding solutions?

In this blog post, we will explore these questions and learn about a new tool that aims to make poverty reduction more inclusive and effective. We will also share some stories of people who have overcome poverty by expanding their capabilities and opportunities.

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What is multidimensional poverty?

When we think of poverty, we often think of income or consumption.

  • How much money do people have to buy food, clothes, and other necessities?
  • How much do they spend on these items?

These are important indicators of poverty, but they are not the only ones.

Poverty is also about what people can do and be in their lives.

For example, can they go to school and learn?

Can they access health care and stay healthy?

Can they drink clean water and use sanitation facilities?

Can they participate in social and political activities?

Can they express their opinions and make choices?

These are some of the dimensions of poverty that affect people’s well-being and dignity. They are also related to human rights and freedoms. People who are deprived of these dimensions may face barriers to achieving their full potential and contributing to society.

To capture these dimensions, we need a broader measure of poverty that goes beyond income or consumption. This is what we call multidimensional poverty.

How can we measure multidimensional poverty?

Measuring multidimensional poverty is not easy. There are many dimensions to consider, and they may vary across countries and contexts.

How can we choose which dimensions are relevant and important?

How can we assign weights to them and aggregate them into a single index?

How can we compare poverty levels across different groups and regions?

To answer these questions, we need a rigorous and flexible methodology that can adapt to different situations and preferences. One such methodology is the Alkire-Foster method, developed by Sabina Alkire and James Foster, two leading experts in multidimensional poverty measurement.

The Alkire-Foster method is based on the concept of capabilities, proposed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Capabilities are the effective opportunities that people have to do and be what they value in life. The Alkire-Foster method identifies a set of dimensions and indicators that reflect these capabilities, such as education, health, nutrition, and infrastructure. It then sets a minimum threshold for each indicator, such as years of schooling, immunization, or access to electricity. It then counts how many indicators each person is deprived in, and how many people are deprived in the same indicators. It then combines these two information into a multidimensional poverty index (MPI) that reflects both the incidence and the intensity of poverty.

The Alkire-Foster method is flexible and can be customized to different contexts and needs. It allows countries and organizations to choose their own dimensions, indicators, thresholds, and weights, depending on their data availability, policy priorities, and cultural values. It also allows them to disaggregate the MPI by different groups and regions, to identify who and where the poor are, and what dimensions they are deprived in.

How can we use multidimensional poverty measurement for policy making?

Measuring multidimensional poverty is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end: to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. To do that, we need to use the MPI as a tool for policy making and evaluation.

The MPI can help us design more comprehensive and integrated policies that address the multiple dimensions of poverty. For example, if we find that many poor people are deprived in education and health, we can design policies that combine interventions in both sectors, such as conditional cash transfers, school feeding programs, or health insurance schemes. These policies can have synergistic effects, as improving one dimension can also improve another.

The MPI can also help us monitor and evaluate the impact of our policies on poverty reduction. For example, if we implement a policy that aims to improve access to clean water and sanitation, we can use the MPI to track how this policy affects not only the water and sanitation dimension, but also other dimensions, such as health, nutrition, or education. This can help us assess the effectiveness and efficiency of our policy, and identify areas for improvement.

The MPI can also help us communicate and advocate for poverty reduction. For example, we can use the MPI to raise awareness and mobilize resources for the fight against poverty. We can also use the MPI to engage with different stakeholders, such as governments, donors, civil society, and the media, and share our findings and recommendations. We can also use the MPI to hold ourselves and others accountable for our commitments and actions.

How can we involve the people who experience poverty in the process?

Measuring and reducing multidimensional poverty is not only a technical or political exercise. It is also a moral and ethical one. It involves the recognition and respect of the dignity and agency of the people who experience poverty. It also involves the inclusion and participation of these people in the process of defining, measuring, and addressing poverty.

To do that, we need to listen to and learn from the people who experience poverty. We need to understand their perspectives, values, and aspirations. We need to acknowledge their diversity, complexity, and dynamism. We need to appreciate their strengths, assets, and potentials. We need to empower them to voice their opinions and make choices.

We also need to collaborate with the people who experience poverty. We need to involve them in the design, implementation, and evaluation of our policies and programs. We need to create spaces and platforms for dialogue and deliberation. We need to foster partnerships and networks for collective action and social change.

One way to do that is to use the Inclusive and Deliberative Elaboration and Evaluation of Policies (IDEEP) tool. The IDEEP tool is a participatory approach that aims to make poverty reduction more inclusive and effective. It involves the people who experience poverty, as well as other stakeholders, in the co-creation and co-evaluation of multidimensional poverty policies. It uses a combination of methods, such as surveys, focus groups, workshops, and games, to elicit and analyze the preferences and feedback of the participants. It also uses the MPI as a common language and framework to facilitate the communication and comparison of the results.

The IDEEP tool has been piloted in several countries, such as Colombia, Mexico, and Morocco, and has generated valuable insights and recommendations for poverty reduction. It has also enhanced the empowerment and engagement of the people who experience poverty, and the collaboration and coordination of the different stakeholders.

How can you join the fight against multidimensional poverty?

Poverty is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that affects millions of people around the world. It is also a challenge that we can overcome if we work together and use the right tools and strategies.

If you want to join the fight against multidimensional poverty, here are some steps you can take:

  • Learn more about multidimensional poverty and how it is measured and addressed.
  • Share your knowledge and insights with others. You can use social media, blogs, podcasts, or other platforms to spread the word and raise awareness about multidimensional poverty. You can also join online or offline events and discussions on this topic, and exchange ideas and experiences with other people who are interested or involved in this field.
  • Support or participate in initiatives and organizations that work on multidimensional poverty reduction. You can donate, volunteer, or partner with local, national, or international organizations that are working on this issue. You can also start or join your own initiatives and projects that aim to improve the well-being and dignity of the people who experience poverty.
  • Advocate for more inclusive and effective policies and programs that address the multiple dimensions of poverty. You can contact or lobby your representatives and leaders, and urge them to adopt and implement multidimensional poverty policies and programs. You can also monitor and evaluate their performance and impact, and hold them accountable for their actions.

By taking these steps, you can make a difference in the lives of the people who experience poverty, and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the goal of eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030.

Summary

  • Poverty is multidimensional, affecting people’s well-being and dignity in various dimensions, such as education, health, nutrition, and infrastructure.
  • Measuring multidimensional poverty requires a rigorous and flexible methodology that can capture the different dimensions and indicators of poverty, and compare poverty levels across different groups and regions. One such methodology is the Alkire-Foster method, which uses the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) as a measure of poverty.
  • Using multidimensional poverty measurement for policymaking can help design more comprehensive and integrated policies that address the multiple dimensions of poverty, monitor and evaluate the impact of these policies on poverty reduction, and communicate and advocate for poverty reduction with different stakeholders.
  • Involving the people who experience poverty in the process of defining, measuring, and addressing poverty is essential for respecting their dignity and agency, and enhancing their empowerment and participation. One way to do that is to use the Inclusive and Deliberative Elaboration and Evaluation of Policies (IDEEP) tool, which is a participatory approach that involves the people who experience poverty, as well as other stakeholders, in the co-creation and co-evaluation of multidimensional poverty policies.
  • Joining the fight against multidimensional poverty can be done by learning more about multidimensional poverty.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of the blog writer and his affiliations and are for informational purposes only.

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