Jane Stevens, December 2017
'Poverty' and its alleviation lie at the core of SDC's mandate and therefore is the key objective of SDC's engagement in Bangladesh. Since late 2013, SDC Bangladesh has been working to raise awareness among staff and partners about poverty (and related concerns, such as inclusion), and to assess how it monitors its interventions. Since 2014, when SDC Bangladesh started to report annually on how many people living with poverty were addressed through its interventions, it became clear that partners needed additional guidance to identify, target, monitor and measure the effects of their activities in relation to poor and disadvantaged people. In 2016, an exercise was therefore undertaken by SDC Bangladesh and its partners with the following objectives:
The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) facilitated this process in order to meet SDC's aims. This was organised through the SDC Quality Assurance and Poverty Reduction Section's collaboration with IDS on Poverty, Politics and Participatory Methodologies (click
here for more information).
Naomi Hossain, a fellow at IDS, worked with a Bangladeshi consultant and the SDC Bangladesh team. She:
The study concluded that the concept of poverty being used in SDC Bangladesh successfully operationalises both a common meaning of poverty and a theory of change. Understandably however, not all partners had an equally strong or common grasp of poverty as a multidimensional and dynamic concept rooted in power relations. This collaborative study and the ensuing report helped improve the common understanding of what poverty is and how it fits into theories of change. The study's concept of poverty has three parts:
The work also highlighted how gendered disadvantage is present in each and every social, political and economic relationship: essentially embedded in the fabric of Bangladeshi society. This means that women or gender relations cannot be 'targeted' for programming in quite the same way that minority ethnic or climate change-affected groups can be. This requires somewhat deeper and wider gender analysis to be mainstreamed throughout the conceptualisation of poverty and how gender influences the theory of change.
The Briefing Note is based on the study and provides information on how SDC Bangladesh conceptualises, targets, monitors and measures poverty.
What was the added value of IDS?
SDC Bangladesh lead for this work, Melina Papageorgiou, described the collaboration as 'very valuable and useful'. The SDC Bangladesh team had already undertaken internal reflection and had drafted a first concept of poverty which was seen as an important step before the work with IDS got underway.
The IDS consultant,
Naomi Hossain, who was matched to this accompaniment, has a long experience of living and working in Bangladesh and understood the context and complexities of SDC's work. She was hence able to slot into the study easily and efficiently. Her expertise was particularly useful in the 'conceptualisation' process where the team and partner's understanding of poverty was reviewed in depth and adjustments to the original design were made as a result.
Naomi was also able to challenge the idea that large, quantitative research processes are always necessary. She demonstrated to SDC staff and partners how small, inclusive participatory methodologies can be just as, if not more, effective and useful. This encouraged and supported a shift in approaches that was valued by the SDC team and its partners.
Looking to the future, Naomi felt that SDC's conceptualisation of the different kinds of poverty and marginalisation experienced by Bangladeshi people has the potential to be extended. She suggested that operationalising the poverty focus for the SDC and its partners could include learning workshops for new programmes and staff, possibly at the domain level. These could involve collaborative efforts to strengthen conceptualisation and understanding of the issues of poverty and exclusion being addressed through SDC programming, and share good practice with respect to targeting, monitoring and measurement.
The offer of this sort of IDS accompaniment is open to all SDC county offices and more general information about what is available is can be found
here. If you are struggling with a concept, exploring new territory, or would simply like the presence of an expert to help you navigate a particular task, please get in touch with Stephanie Guha to discuss your needs: she will be pleased to talk to you and to match you up with someone to accompany you.
Briefing Note 'Operationalising the poverty focus for Swiss Development Cooperation - Bangladesh'