A useful tool in the fight against extreme poverty
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Letter to Friends around the World # 106

Having helped coordinate the international programme of collaborative research that culminated in the publication of The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty report, I can attest the great lengths to which the researchers went in order to ensure that the results were of the highest quality, despite the difficulties they sometimes faced.For three years, university professors, professional practitioners and people living in poverty worked extremely hard together, in five languages, to produce a report of which they are justifiably proud and which they very much hope will be genuinely useful in the fight against extreme poverty.

Our dialogue with 40 readers of the Letter to Friends Around the World has been most encouraging in this respect. It shows that the research output - nine dimensions of poverty and five modifying factors - is used by those active in the fight against poverty as a new framework within which to analyse the context of their work. Using the framework, explained one participant, makes it possible “to go from a dialogue in which those in poverty are held responsible for their own fate to one in which responsibility is shared”. “Shame is shifted from one side to the other” wrote another. Another participant pointed out that on a tip where thousands survive by picking waste the scavengers are “numb with pain”.

The highly collaborative research method has also  encouraged all the participants to think carefully about how they operate and about the nature of their  relationships with those who live in the greatest poverty.
What in reality is the best way of involving them in projects so that no-one is left behind? How can we gain their confidence rather than do their thinking for them? How can we - before we ask them to share ideas with others - give them time to formulate their thoughts with their peers, thus increasing their “power to act”? “This report helps us to position ourselves. Let’s make it our bible”, wrote one practitioner.

Joseph Wresinski, founder of ATD Fourth World, said:  “All who humbly walk with those in extreme poverty go from pain, to surprise then to wonder”.
So it was with this international programme of collaborative research. When the COP26 climate summit opened in Glasgow a young ecologist from Kenya declared “With my own eyes I have seen three young children in tears by the side of a dried-up river after walking 20 kilometres with their mother to find water”.

Let us continue to walk hand in hand with these children and their parents, so that we can both appreciate their pain and help them to dispel it, working together to reduce poverty whilst showing respect for our planet and for all those who inhabit it.

Xavier Godinot,
The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty Research Coordinator