The Poverty Stoplight Presented Alongside Skoll World Forum in Oxford

Apr 30, 2018

Article by Poverty Stoplight

On April 11, 2018, Fundacion Paraguaya co-organized an event on the sidelines of the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, attended by social entrepreneurs from around the world. The event looked at how the concept and measurement of poverty is evolving. Panelists shared exciting developments at both the country and micro levels. The event included a panel of experts on the topic, moderated by Isabel Guerrero of IMAGO Global Grassroots.

Michael Walton from the Harvard Kennedy School opened the panel by sharing his experience over the last 3 decades in the field of poverty measurement and the evolution of thinking in the World Bank and other donor agencies. He noted that it was in 1970 that the development community first started thinking about Basic Needs (beyond monetary poverty). The approach implied a role of the State to be active in redistribution; still a top-down approach. The launching of the Human Development Index was the first strong signal that we need a multidimensional view of poverty. However, the role of participation and empowerment, of agency for effect change is still missing from the debate. He noted that we need to keep an eye on the complementarity of the agency of the State and of the individual for effective development.

Adriana Conconi of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) continued by giving a brief introduction of how the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) works. She noted the importance of having a comparable MPI to track progress. Many governments have developed local MPIs. For instance, Costa Rica now allocates parts of its budget based on the MPI results (where there are needs). Other similar examples of using a national MPI to coordinate policies are Mexico or Colombia. She concluded that there is now broad acknowledgement that poverty is multidimensional.

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Luis Fernando Sanabria of Fundación Paraguaya went on to give a presentation of the Poverty Stoplight, a multidimensional self-evaluation tool that brings the poor to the center of both their self-diagnosis of their poverty situation as well as the authors of their life plans to change it. He spoke of the methodology itself, how it works, the central role of families and the importance of giving agency to individuals and families to effect change. Katharina Hammler of Fundacion Paraguay complemented the presentation by presenting some brief results of the Poverty Stoplight evaluation, demonstrating how its results can be compared to those of national MPIs.

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Robert Webb of Transmit Enterprise concluded the panel by presenting how the Poverty Stoplight is being implemented in England and the impact it has on clients. He noted that due to its multidimensional nature, the Poverty Stoplight is facilitating discussions with people, for instance about why someone is not able to get a job. It is also providing key information for organizational management. One manager noted, for example, that their staff often “filters” which information to share with management; so the Poverty Stoplight helps to get a more complete picture of what is actually going on. It enables the role of “informal social workers”, helping them structure conversations with families.

Mr Webb also spoke of the Signal Program in the UK which has gone through an adaptation process and is now scaling. For instance, Signal helped the Organization Citizens Advice to identify that many of their constituents had teeth problems, and set up pop-up dental check-ups. The business model of Signal is in progress, at the moment it is based on surveys done, on selling license to organizations. In the future, rather than buying surveys, Signal would like to sell the expertise to effectively use the tool.

The event concluded with a Q&A with participants, touching on areas of the Poverty Stoplight such as evidence of impact and how the adaptation process of the Poverty Stoplight indicators works.

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