As Nuru International’s Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, I recently had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 7th International Biannual African Evaluation Conference sponsored by the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA). AfrEA seeks to increase Africa’s leadership in evaluating development policies. This year’s conference, “Evaluation for Development: From Analysis to Impact”, took place in francophone Africa (Yaoundé, Cameroon) and brought together more than 500 members of the Pan-African evaluation community including government, academia and other key development players such as the United Nations, private foundations and international non-governmental organizations.

Events such as AfrEA provide Nuru a platform to present our evidence of impact; share lessons learned of our journey toward measuring rural prosperity; and connect with others in Africa and globally on best practices for poverty alleviation. Joined by my colleague from Nuru Kenya, Rogonga Augustine, Nuru presented on the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Poverty Alleviation Strand. The Poverty Alleviation Strand focused on sessions relevant to poverty reduction and multidimensional approaches to poverty alleviation.

Expert Perspectives on Measuring Poverty

Our co-panelists included Heath Prince (University of Texas, Austin) speaking on the Human Poverty Index (HPI), Andrew Doty (Village Enterprise) speaking on his experience with a Participatory Wealth Ranking approach and the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) and Ian Hopwood (formerly of UNICEF) presenting on the Millennium Development Goals evaluation gap. Nuru specifically shared the results of Nuru Kenya’s poverty evaluation results from 2011 to 2013 using a tool called the MPAT.

The relevance of this session to the larger development debate lies in a commonly accepted principle that an increase in income will result in a movement out of poverty. This principle is the basis of the $1.25 benchmark (that people living in poverty subsist on less than $1.25 a day) as often referenced in poverty literature. Research presented by our co-panelist Heath Prince challenges this paradigm since it shows that “there is no statistical relationship between economic growth, as measured by change in GDP/capita, and multidimensional poverty, as measured by the Human Poverty Index.” In other words, as income increases, there are not equivalent improvements in basic poverty indicators.

In addition, research published by the Oxford Policy and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) indicates that when a broader definition of poverty is applied—specifically one that is inclusive of other quality of life measures such as lack of access to meaningful choices—the number of people in poverty moves from 1.44 billion to 1.71 billion. From this, we understand that if evaluators like myself were to apply a one-dimensional definition of poverty based strictly on income, we are likely excluding many from poverty alleviation efforts which, in turn, may have a series of policy-related consequences. Our key takeaway from these discussions was reinforcement that if Nuru is to meet our mission of ending poverty in remote, rural areas, then we must effectively measure an individual’s path out of poverty using a multidimensional methodology.

Nuru’s Experience in Measuring Rural Poverty

Nuru has experience in measuring multidimensional poverty discussed in an earlier blog by Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor Heather Ozhogin and presented during the United Nation’s International Fund for Agriculture Development’s (IFAD) launch of their multidimensional measurement tool in early April 2014. The results of our research in Kenya, while yet to be officially released, indicate that Nuru members have experienced positive improvements in several dimensions of poverty. However, while there is a long history of research around poverty measurement, there are limited community-based organizations that have successfully measured the impact of an integrated development model using a multidimensional measurement approach. At Nuru, we are pioneers in the space of measuring rural prosperity using a multidimensional lens; this is why one of the key takeaways from the AfrEA conference was academic reinforcement that we are on the right track. Stay tuned by following me at @veroviews to learn more about where we land as we further develop our measurement approach in Ethiopia!