Equality Insights (EI) and the Individual Measure of Multidimensional Poverty (IMMP) are underpinned by a twelve year, multi-stage research program.
Motivated by a desire to improve existing measures of poverty to make it possible to assess the relationship between gender and poverty, an interdisciplinary team set out to answer the question: What is a just and justifiable measure of poverty that is sensitive to gender and capable of revealing gender disparities where they exist? The result was a new, gender-sensitive measure of multidimensional poverty.
Developing a new measure of poverty from the ground up
Foundational research and testing of EI and the IMMP was done through a four-year, international, interdisciplinary research collaboration, led by the Australian National University (ANU) in partnership with the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) and the Philippines Health Social Science Association, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Oxfam Great Britain (Southern Africa), with additional support from Oxfam America and Oslo University. This project, ‘Assessing development: designing better indices of poverty and gender’, was funded by the Australian Research Council and partnership organisations (LP0989385). The tool developed was later named the Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM).
A three-phase research design used mixed methods to develop a new approach to measuring multidimensional poverty, and was informed by participatory and feminist research methodologies. The fieldwork involved thousands of participants experiencing poverty across 18 sites in six countries. Grounded in the insights from participatory research, the views of men and women experiencing poverty, civil society organisations working on the ground for change, and feminist and development scholarship, the IDM was developed to assess 15 dimensions of life that women and men experiencing poverty said mattered. The IDM’s approach of sampling all adults in a household was also informed by the relevant literature and selected for its power to provide insights on within-household differences.
A successful proof of concept trial in the Philippines demonstrated that individual-level, multidimensional, gender-sensitive and scalar measurement of poverty is both possible and desirable.
The first IDM study beyond the proof-of-concept trial was subsequently carried out in Fiji (2014–17) by IWDA working with Fiji Bureau of Statistics, with funding support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Fiji. This study focused in areas previously identified by a World Bank study as having a high incidence of poverty. The study confirmed the IDM as a tool that extends available insights into multidimensional poverty. It also identified aspects of the measure and survey that would benefit from further testing and refinement.
Readying the IDM for global use
In 2016, as part of a wider focus on closing gender data gaps, the Australian Government made a further investment in the ANU and IWDA to ready the IDM for global use.
From 2016-2020 the IDM Program teams at ANU and IWDA delivered significant methodological updates including revised survey instruments, dimension scoring and index construction, four additional datasets from varied contexts in Asia, the Pacific and Africa, a prototype of data visualisation and data querying capability, regular contributions to global discourses on individual and gender-sensitive multidimensional poverty measurement and addressing gender data gaps.
A strengths-based approach to the future
The IDM has demonstrated the power of multi-stakeholder partnerships in developing and refining new solutions. In the trajectory towards use at scale, the next step is to integrate the IDM into ongoing work of partners so it continues to contribute to change in ways that utilise and benefit from each organisation’s strengths, mandates and priorities.
To assist with distinguishing between complementary areas of focus and directions of further development, from July 2020 the IDM will be available for use under the new brands:
Equality Insights implemented by IWDA
Individual Measure of Multidimensional Poverty implemented by ANU
Drawing from our common history, both organisations take forward the twelve years of preceding work with a focus on individual level, gender-sensitive multidimensional poverty measurement at our core.
Equality Insights will offer a shorter variant of the survey tool, increasing accessibility for low resource and/or low capacity actors to understand poverty in their context and inspire change in support of inclusive and impactful poverty alleviation. Equality Insights will leverage IWDA’s long-term, feminist partnerships to engage with women’s rights organisations and movements, putting data in their hands and co-analysing the data for actionable insights. Together we will support a growing use of evidence for accountability and advocacy towards the realisation of gender equality.
The Individual Measure of Multidimensional Poverty (IMMP) will continue to develop a strong research and evidence base for assessing and responding to poverty. Drawing on the research, teaching and policy capacity of The Australian National University we continue to undertake cutting edge research, designed to contribute to global knowledge and build a pool of users. IMMP will be based in the Poverty and Inequality Research Centre within the Crawford School of Public Policy, the region’s leading public policy school. A key focus of our work will be to engage with stakeholders to deliver the greatest policy impact from the unique datasets generated by individual measurement of multidimensional poverty.
Through these two brands we improve our reach, bring individual measurement to a wider array of development actors; influence policy through our respective, core constituents and persuasively demonstrate why individual-level, gender-sensitive measures of multidimensional poverty are vital to achieving poverty eradication and gender equality.