Out of Poverty, Into Power


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This post was written by guest columnist, Barbara DiGangi, a Licensed Master Social Worker and co-founder of Project Bond. You can follow her on Twitter @BarbaraDiGangi.

Are we doing the work we intended to? Are we fulfilling our mission? Are we reaching those who need help the most?

As we harness our passion and talents towards social good, these are the questions we must continuously ask. In order to produce successful outcomes, we must ensure that we are being strategic, accurate, and intentional in pursuit of our cause. With advancements in technology and competition for funding, measurement and evaluation are necessities at all stages. If we take an honest, hard look at our organizations, how are we performing?

The Progress out of Poverty Index® (PPI®), created by the Grameen Foundation, helps measure poverty with ease and accuracy. Customized for 45 countries, the PPI measures poverty based on the answers of a 10 question survey regarding a household’s characteristics and assets. These answers are scored and cross-referenced to the country’s PPI look-up table, which indicates the likelihood that the household is living below the poverty line.

Over 250 anti-poverty programs have utilized the PPI with Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) making up a large percentage of these programs. Rags2Riches (R2R), an eco-ethical fashion company in the Philippines, utilized the PPI to evaluate their outreach and determine whether their program was reaching poor artisans in the communities they serve. The PPI confirmed that R2R is reaching their target. R2R’s future planning includes determining whether the poverty level of the artisans correlate with productivity and the program’s high drop-out rate. 

PRISMA Microfinance has utilized the PPI since 2008. By analyzing its PPI data by gender, urban and rural settings, type of loan, and type of business, PRISMA was able to understand the differences and relationships between various factors impacting business growth. In 2009 and 2010, data showed new female clients were poorer than men in rural areas. This informed PRISMA to make a greater effort to reach women in those areas and to figure out which program would work best for this group.

Overall, the PPI has positive reviews, benefits and implications. Poverty rates can be tracked over time in order to determine if a group is moving out of poverty. This data can be easily communicated to stakeholders as well as inform program development and practice. The PPI acknowledges the relationship between assets and poverty rather than only taking income into account. It is also sensitive to the differences among each country. It would be interesting to see how the tool can be applied in America as the current poverty line faces a ton of criticism.

Additionally, it would be helpful if more governing bodies utilized this tool to ensure their anti-poverty programs are, in fact, reaching those in need.

As the Grameen Foundation expands use of the PPI by administering it via smartphone, developing a suite of business tools and partnering with umbrella organizations - the PPI is becoming a game changer in the fight against poverty.

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