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:
This chapter identifies good practices that should be considered when undertaking participatory policy research for policy change. Emerging good practice builds on the diverse impacts of key variables discussed in the previous chapter. It is divided into three main areas in which issues are similar and linked: first, issues to be considered from an institutional perspective within the World Bank;1 second, good practice when managing a PPA in country, at the national level, including how to open up the dialogue in participatory policymaking; and third, emerging good practice in conducting participatory research with the poor at the community level, and the principles behind this method of data collection. There is no unconditional good practice in this type of work because the best approach will be determined by the context. However, box 8 gives some suggestions for good practice and minimum standards that have emerged from experience with the Bank’s PPAs. These issues are then discussed in more detail throughout the chapter.
The recent introduction of the poverty reduction strategy (PRS) represents a significant shift in development thinking. This chapter explains the background to the development of the PRS.1 It then shows how the PPA is relevant to the development of the poverty reduction strategy by focusing on four key features of the PRS that benefit from direct consultations with the poor: poverty analysis, consultation during formulation of the strategy, monitoring of implementation, and evaluation of outcomes.