I’m very pleased that I enrolled in (and passed) a new MOOC on Designing a Multidimensional Poverty Index offered by UNDP via their Learning For Nature Online education portal and Oxford Policy and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).

If you’re interested in learning more about deprivations and how they are measured, then this course might well suit you.

Poverty was traditionally evaluated simply in monetary terms, if you had less than a certain amount of money then you were identified as poor. Though monetary measures are certainly indicative of poverty, life is complex and it is now recognized that it is possible to be deprived in some matters and not in others simultaneously in concert with monetary poverty or outside of it.

The course lives up to its promise that “… you will learn to develop a holistic multidimensional poverty index that integrates income-based inequalities with deprivations across health, education, housing, sanitation, employment and livelihoods, food security, environment, and other living standards to inform the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” The subject of this course is contained in this document “How To Make A Multidimensional Poverty Index”

Prior to taking this course I had no knowledge about how poverty is assessed but was aware that levels of poverty were recognized as falling in many countries in response to national and international development efforts. After five weeks of lessons and explanatory video, I feel I have a much clearer understanding of

, monetary and multidimensional.

Central to this course is the understanding that different individuals , households and communities have different levels of access to resources and services that in combination facilitate a certain quality life. The quality of life experience can differ markedly even within households and between siblings, so contextually sensitive measures are necessary if inequalities are to be revealed and addressed. Countries can assess their development progress against the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and process data garnered by census, administrative processing or surveys according to a rather clever and adaptable system of measuring multidimensional poverty called the Alkire-Foster Method.

The multidimensional poverty measures are flexible because they can include quantitative and qualitative data (where the qualitative data is assigned an ordinal range i.e. 1-5 as in a Lickert scale) and can include whatever sets of dimensions (i.e. Housing, Education, Access to Health Care, Clean Drinking Water, Electrification, Assets etc.) and indicators within those dimensions (i.e. Does your home have solid floors?) as the particular purpose of the measure requires. The indicators can be allocated similar or different weighting to reflect their relative importance. Not all deprivations are considered equally serious and the indicators are pre-agreed and estimates are created with different weightings and compared to the known realities for verification prior to inclusion within the final measure. People are identified as poor or non-poor in each indicator according to a pre-agreed cut-off for that indicator.

The Global MPI
Dimensions that comprise the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index from the MOOC.

The figures are comparable within sub-national areas within the same national multidimensional poverty index and also internationally at national levels in the global index (measuring common dimensions).

Different countries are using the system in different ways to suit their pre-agreed purposes and development priorities. It’s interesting to see how the same tools are used differently from country to country. The indices can be used in various ways : e.g. to monitor poverty, to aid policy, set budgets, allocate resources to the neediest target groups and justify expenditures by recording tangible, measurable progress and shortfalls. Government departments with shared dimensional responsibilities are in competition to deliver positive impact to reduce deprivations. Key advantages of the method include dis-aggregation by dimension and by demographic and geographic groups, transparency for communication and robustness through testing.

The Alkire-Foster method is a cornerstone of sustainable development and could be applied to a whole range of different measures, including well-being and engagement with nature.

Between the start and conclusion (extended deadline is April 26, 2020) the World changed a great deal due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and there was a very interesting additional lesson in the threats to human well-being and economy from the pandemic and the need for social isolation. There’s a concrete example of how the Alkire-Foster method is proving useful in identifying the most at-risk groups within developing countries. Multi-dimensional deprivations can be lethal these days. https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/sg_report_socio-economic_impact_of_covid19.pdf