Listening to the Voices of the Poor

During the second half of the 20th century, different national and international institutions focussed on fighting poverty. These institutions were mainly located in richer countries of the North but also in countries of the South themselves. Whether the poor are identified by absolute or relative measures, this says little about what people labelled as poor feel about their situation.

Look at the picture in the right-hand column:

Many people (from the North as well as from the South) working in the field of development cooperation were not satisfied with both absolute and relative definitions of poverty, because using them was not making it easier to grasp the complexity of poverty situations. Therefore, in the last decade of the 20th century, the idea emerged that the best way to define poverty was to listen to the people who were experiencing it. Approaches labelled as termparticipatory poverty assessments (PPA) have been developed for this purpose, in which poverty criteria are worked out in concertation with poor people. There is a particular focus on their needs and expectations.

A prominent analysis of the PPA approach can be found in the "Voices of the Poor" report (Narayan et al. 2000), which provided a large amount of material for the World Bank's 2000/2001 World Development Report (World Bank 2001).

In order to conduct such PPA download an excerpt of the first chapter of the "Voices of the Poor" report by clicking on the PDF file in the right-hand column:

Answer briefly to the following questions:

  1. What were the main research questions in "Voices of the Poor"?
  2. How did the researchers collect data for the report? What was their main selection criteria?
  3. What are the 5 mains findings about of poverty that emerge from the study?
  4. List some of the strength and weaknesses of the "Voices of the Poor" report that are described in this document.

Example of Answers:Question

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