As many of you may already know, Nuru has been incredibly fortunate to work with 4 UC Berkeley graduate students at the Goldman School of Public Policy (GSPP).  Each of them are taking the research question “What is the best Metric System possible for holistically measuring the level of extreme poverty in rural villages? ” and coming at a solution from entirely different perspectives.  I love the diversity of thought and it will only make our final Metric System 2.0 that much more solid.

In the course of his research, one of the GSPP students “discovered” the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Assessment Tool (MPAT). The MPAT was released on March 23, 2010 and developed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome.  Clearly, it is a very new innovation in the poverty measurement space, and it sure seems like it has been thoroughly researched and field-tested.

I am currently in the midst (though sadly not yet the middle) of reading the 103 page user guide and the 211 page MPAT book.  Though I am not yet finished with this bed-time reading, I am excited about the possibility it may hold for us.  And this is why…

So, here’s how Nuru has been describing what we are trying to develop in terms of a shared measurement system / standard measuring stick for the entire international development industry, across culture, countries, and organizations:

To facilitate rigorous accountability and transparency, Nuru is pioneering a new holistic metric system, the Poverty Index, which can be used universally in the fight against extreme poverty.  The purpose is two-fold:

  1. To create accountability across organizations and efficiency in the development industry by having clear results that highlight what is working and what is not.
  2. To keep a constant focus on the goal of leaving within 5 years by implementing regular assessment of each Metric and quickly altering course, when necessary.

And here’s how the MPAT User Guide describes the purposes of the MPAT:


“MPAT is designed to be universal enough to be relevant to most rural contexts around the world, yet specific enough to provide project managers and others with a detailed overview of key dimensions relevant to rural poverty reduction efforts. MPAT provides an assessment, an overview, of ten dimensions central to rural livelihoods (see Figure 1), highlighting where additional support or interventions are likely to be most needed” (p 7).

“As such, MPAT strives to capture those domains that are, arguably, fundamental to human well-being and, by extension, to poverty reduction in a 21st century rural context. This is done by using survey questions that are broad enough to be applicable in most rural contexts, but precise enough to act as quality proxy measures for the components they represent” (p 8).

“Standardization means that the same tool is used the same way each time; this in turn means that if MPAT is used in the same project multiple times, then the indicators/results can be compared to each other. The same holds true if MPAT is used in different countries – this is part of MPAT’s value: the ability to make comparisons across space and time. Indeed, a reliable, standardized assessment tool can support project monitoring and evaluation, by being implemented at project start-up (for a baseline assessment), for a mid-term review and finally for a project completion assessment” (p 9).

So, does the MPAT actually measure what Nuru wants to measure?

Nuru focuses on 5 primary target areas that each encompasses multiple sub-components:  Agriculture, Health, Education, Water/Sanitation, and Community Economic Development.

MPAT includes 10 dimensions:  Food and Nutrition Security, Domestic Water Supply, Health and Healthcare, Sanitation and Hygiene, Housing/Clothing/Energy, Education, Farm Assets, Non-Farm Assets, Exposure and Resilience to Shocks, Gender and Social Equality.

Sounds pretty holistic to me…

Does anyone else see any remarkable similarities?  Might we have found the one?

Let me be very clear.  Nuru has just begun analyzing all of the poverty measurement system recommendations and our own Poverty Metrics Best Stuff Out There research.  We are nowhere finished.  I do not know if MPAT or a revised MPAT will rise to the top of our recommendations.  But I am intrigued.

And I am extremely interested in hearing other people’s perspectives, especially experiences from anyone who has used the MPAT in the field.  PLEASE contact me with any thoughts about the MPAT – the good, the bad, and the ugly!  I wanna know!