I am excited to be part of a multidisciplinary team of experts to work on a very timely issue for Bangladesh. We’re putting our heads together to think about the next generation of programmes to continue tackling poverty.
Designing for the End of Poverty
We’re working for one of Bangladesh’s largest development partners that wants to bring millions of Bangladeshis out of poverty. And stay of poverty.
…improving the economic status of the extremely poor is difficult. But preventing people from losing those hard won gains can be equally challenging.
It could be a very large programme involving stakeholders from key ministries to community organisations. Government, businesses and civil society will come together to solve some of the most challenging social and economic problems. Perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars could be committed to the programme.
Past experience says that improving the economic status of the extremely poor is difficult. But preventing people from losing those hard won gains can be equally challenging. That’s why development academics and practitioners use “snakes-and-ladders” to describe the struggle to climb of poverty. And the ways in which people can fall back again.
What are these “snakes?” It could be a tornado, a cyclone, illness (often preventable) and sometimes even the sudden death of the family’s breadwinner. All these events can quickly use up savings and earnings pushing families back into poverty.
These shocks are unforeseen; people unprepared. Families don’t have the resources or the resilience to cope.
thinking about the fabric of society and how we can organize ourselves to fight against the constraints that keep women and men poor
The game of snakes of ladders is a useful analogy and we certainly hope to build stronger ladders and protect people from snakes in the new programming. But we know that poverty is a complex social and economic problem. We are addressing this complexity. And my role supports the team in thinking about the fabric of society and how we can organize ourselves to fight against the constraints that keep women and men poor. This means policy changes at the top to lift people off the bottom. And social change from bottom to top.
We have to find the means by which poor people can talk about their lives, their struggles and aspirations, and hopes for their children. Where can they talk about their frustrations and struggles to get the things that many of us take for granted? I believe when we hear these voices, we’ll make the right decisions for social changes. We’ve made so much progress in reducing poverty. But there’s so much further to go.
What exactly do we mean when talk about poverty?
I’ve talked a lot about how we help the extremely poor. But how exactly do we define poverty. The World Bank definition of extreme poverty is people living under 1.25 US Dollar a day. There are several other ways to measure poverty such as nutrition intake. If a person consumes less than 1500 kilo calories a day, then they are considered poor. Purchasing power parity of people with regards to buying a basket of essential food items is another measure. And sometimes we use a multi-dimensional index of poverty such as access to primary education, jobs, and basic healthcare services.
Bangladesh has done well to reduce the number of poor people over the last two decades. However, about 40 million people (25%) are still poor and about half of them (16-20m) are extremely poor.
It’s sometimes very abstract to talk about poverty in this way. If you want to read a more down to earth description of how people and and the economy are changing, read my Connections post.
Work Stream Posts
Quay Asia’s Work Stream posts tell you about our ongoing assignments and projects. Work Stream covers all of our different approaches such as our short-term consulting assignments – analysis, design and evaluation. There are brief highlights of start-up businesses charting the ups and downs of our social entrepreneurialism. We offer insights into the implementation of our longer-term projects that focus on developing skills for employment and promoting prosperous livelihoods in particular. We publish our work in real time. So sometimes we can’t give too many details of our clients’ work. But we’ll write about some of the most important ideas and fill you in on the details when we can.