Participatory poverty assessments (PPAs) are broadening our understanding of both poverty and the policy process. The limitations of quantitative measurements of well-being have long been recognized, and there is a rich tradition of anthropological and sociological work that uses a range of techniques to achieve an in-depth understanding of poverty for project work. In this tradition, PPAs use a systematic participatory research process that directly involves the poor in defining the nature of poverty, with the objective of influencing policy. This process usually addresses both traditional concerns, such as lack of income and public services, and other dimensions, such as vulnerability, isolation, lack of security and self-respect, and powerlessness.
Including the poor in policy dialogue has great potential for creating better poverty reduction policies. The original rationale of the participatory poverty assessments (PPAs) was to influence the policy dialogue by collecting information on the poor’s perceptions of poverty. Most PPAs have achieved this objective to some degree, but with substantial variation in the level of impact. The PPAs with the greatest impact tended to be those that implicitly or explicitly had more ambitious objectives. It is useful to assess impact in relation to three objectives: