Multidimensionality of Poverty: Bangladesh Perspectives
MATI was responsible for conducting a study to identify the national “dimensions of poverty” in Bangladesh. This research was implemented both in the global north (France, UK, and USA) and the global south (Bangladesh, Bolivia, and Tanzania) at the same time and with the same objectives; all research activities and research techniques were directed by the University of Oxford and ATD Fourth World.
The Findings of this research program is available here.
Methodology of MoK
The uniqueness of this research is that a new participatory research approach, known as “Merging of Knowledge (MoK)” and introduced by ATD Fourth World, has been followed. In this method, different stakeholders are offered fair conditions to express their opinions freely on a specific topic/problem. Afterwards, all of the information generated is merged while taking care of all stakeholders’ opinions in their presence and coming up with a consensus. Merging of Knowledge is a technique to help people facing extreme poverty and social exclusion dialogue with policymakers, business leaders, social workers, and teachers.
The goal is to overcome differences in speaking and thinking life experience and perspective so that constructive discussions can occur. Merging Knowledge bridges gaps between people from different backgrounds by creating an environment of respect and patience. To identify the national “dimensions of poverty” in Bangladesh, three modules were completed; they are known as Module-1, Module-2 and Module-3 in this research.
We completed three modules to identify the dimensions of poverty where Module-1 was performed by the NRT. This module was just for learning the total procedures of the MoK and we didn’t include the findings of Module-1 with our final dimensions. For Module-2 (rural peer groups), nine peer groups were selected from three different categories of people. Five (5) peer groups from people with direct experience of poverty (PIP), two (2) peer groups from practitioners (PR) working for poor people (development organizations, NGOs etc.) and two (2) academic (AC) peer groups from different educational institutions who are researching poor people in rural areas. All four algorithms (picture, snake, body map, and the good and bad sides of life) were performed with all of the peer groups one by one to uncover the characteristics and dimensions of poverty. At least 8 days were required to form a peer group and to explain the whole procedure to them. Afterwards, we started two days of activities for each peer group. After completing all of the algorithms, each group identified their poverty characteristics and dimensions. Then, two representatives were selected from each peer group to merge the characteristics and dimensions of each category of person (PIP, PR and AC).
Again, a one and a half day-long meeting were arranged for merging each category’s (PIP, PR and AC) characteristics and dimensions. PIP representatives merged the characteristics and dimensions we found from 5 peer groups of PIP. In the same way, PR and AC representatives merged the characteristics and dimensions that were found from the peer groups of PR and AC, respectively. At this stage, we found three sets of dimensions from three categories (PIP, PR and AC). Next, the NRT arranged a day-long meeting with all of the representatives of these three categories for merging these three sets of dimensions along with the relevant characteristics. Gathering opinions from all of the representatives of all of the categories, we were able to merge all of the characteristics and dimensions and found a total of nine dimensions in rural areas (Appendix-II). In the same way, we identified the urban dimensions of poverty from nine peer groups in urban areas of Bangladesh and found nine dimensions from urban areas (Appendix-III). At this stage, we, therefore, had nine dimensions from rural areas and nine dimensions from urban areas. To identify the national dimensions, the NRT arranged a one and a half-day meeting with all of the representatives from the rural and urban peer groups. Finally, after a thoughtful discussion, we merged all these 18 dimensions (9 rural + 9 urban) into 9 dimensions which are known as the national dimensions of poverty in Bangladesh.
Executive Director’s thoughts on this research
Three years of a journey of finding poverty dimensions worldwide, together with Oxford University and ATD fourth world, gave us new insights into working with the people living in poverty.
The findings of this international research demonstrate that the genuine participation of people living in poverty in cooperation with others is possible in international research and generates new insights. A majority of the participants involved in the research in Bangladesh noted that in part because of the Merging of Knowledge methodology, everyone’s experience and opinion could be valued and considered in equal measure. Participants also noted that the methodology enabled them to understand new aspects of poverty that had not occurred to them prior to engaging with people from such different backgrounds.
The international research work summarizes several major findings, providing a clear account of the multidimensional nature of poverty in Bangladesh. Further, many of the factors associated with poverty were identified to be closely interdependent. Beyond the more familiar attributes related to housing conditions, work, health, food, financial security, etc., this work highlights a number of less recognized aspects of poverty that were identified by the research groups, many of which are rarely considered in descriptions of poverty or captured in current multidimensional poverty indices.
One consideration concerns the way people are treated by others, including across wider society, its services and institutions. Another relates to the psychological and physical suffering people living in poverty experience due to permanent tension brought about from their daily struggle to survive and the continued neglect of their efforts to make a better life for themselves.
Research findings on the multiple dimensions of poverty thus offer lessons for formulating policies both in Bangladesh and more generally across developing countries. Research outcomes can also be used to explore ways poverty reduction efforts led by development agencies and government can be made more effective. On the other hand, various economic policies aimed at addressing poverty in all its forms may not ultimately be successful if a multiple dimensions framework is overlooked, leading to questions about their overall effectiveness.
Future work on these newly identified dimensions of poverty in Bangladesh will require government policymakers and regulators to conduct a thorough analysis of the pros and cons associated with the research outcomes. In this connection, research outcomes should be shared more widely with different government bodies and institutions. However, it cannot be said that existing policy failures are merely the consequence of inaccurate results or errors in data on global poverty reduction efforts over the decades.
Encouraging the inclusion of people living in poverty and their participation in various policies and programs, including in the design and decision-making process has yet to be fully carried out by those working in the development sector.
Without identifying and addressing these concerns, achieving socioeconomic well-being in many developing countries will remain an elusive goal.