This report identifies and reviews a selection of tools and methods used by bilateral, multilateral and non-governmental development agencies to conduct social exclusion and other social approaches to poverty analysis. In recent years, development agencies have grown increasingly dissatisfied with income-only approaches to understanding poverty, and have begun to focus on the role of social factors in shaping development outcomes. As such, there has been growing consensus on the complementarity of economic and social policy in order to achieve development outcomes. In particular, understanding social exclusion has come to be seen as key to ensuring that all poor people benefit from poverty reduction interventions (DFID 2009). While exclusion can occur on economic, social and political levels, allocation of resources and access to goods and services across social groups is often shaped by social relationships and power relationships, which – in turn – affect the distribution structures themselves (Gacitua-Mario et al 2006). These are not dimensions that can be easily captured by quantitative measures. Donors – including DFID, SIDA, GTZ and the World Bank – have thus turned towards new approaches and methods for conducting social analysis of poverty. Some of the main trends include:
- Growing consensus on the multidimensional nature of poverty. This has, in turn, created a need for multidimensional indicators to measure aspects of poverty that cannot be easily captured by income-based data, such as social disadvantage, vulnerability and powerlessness. (Gacitua-Mario and Wodon, 2001). These are intended to complement money-based measures by considering multiple deprivations and their overlaps.
- Increased understanding of the need for mixed-method approaches to analysing poverty. The acknowledgement that traditional economic measures are not adequate indicators on their own to measure poverty has also paved the way for approaches that combine both qualitative and quantitative tools and methods. Most donors strive to incorporate both types of data into their analyses (for example, the World Bank’s Country Social Assessment, SIDA’s Gender Assessment). In many cases this entails drawing upon existing quantitative data and supplementing with newer qualitative data.
- Growing popularity of participatory approaches. The popularity of Participatory Poverty Appraisals (PPAs) undertaken by a range of development actors (Norton et al) has had the knock-on effect that participatory approaches are built into many donor frameworks. For example, the World Bank states that their Social Assessment (SA) and Gender Analysis (GA) methods incorporate participation and social analysis into the project design process. These methods are also carried out in country economic and sector work to establish a broad framework for participation and to identify priority areas for social analysis. In some cases, it has been highlighted that the final analysis is less important than the participatory process involved in generating analytical categories and collecting data.
- Acknowledged value of integrated approaches to understanding the varying dimensions of poverty. These include social, political and economic dimensions. Some combine these dimensions within one framework (for example, the World Bank’s Country Social Assessment). Others suggest using a given framework in conjunction with further frameworks that take different approaches. Drawing on multiple frameworks (for example DFID’s GSEA, with Human Rights Assessment, Strategic Conflict Assessment and Country Governance Analysis; or the World Bank’s Country Social Analysis and Gender Assessment) can help shed light on formal and informal power relationships that impact on poverty reduction interventions. Some donors also recommend drawing upon the frameworks developed by other donors where possible.
- A strong emphasis on gender. Gender equality is seen as a core dimension of work by development agencies. Whilst some, like SIDA, pledge to mainstream gender into all areas of work including social analysis (SIDA 2009), others have published detailed guidelines on carrying out standalone gender-responsive social analysis or gender analysis (GA) (DFID 2009, World Bank 2005).
- Need for flexible approaches. Whilst some donors have prepared detailed guidance on carrying out social analysis (for example, DIFD’s Gender and Social Exclusion Analysis), others have produced purposefully general guidance to allow for flexible usage across a range of sectors and countries. Examples of general guidance include UN DESA’s guidance on measuring social integration; SIDAs Multidimensional Poverty Analysis; and the World Bank’s Country Social Analysis and Gender Assessment). Nevertheless, most donors emphasise the need for flexibility in using frameworks. They emphasise that there is no one-size-fits all approach and that indicators must be designed taking into account local country context as well as policy objectives.