The Multidimensional Aspects of Poverty Research


Photo from ATD Fourth World International, during the planning meeting that happened in France in September, 2016.


What is the best way to understand and identify the multi-faceted realities of poverty? How about a research process that involves people who have a lived experience of that reality and other experts in poverty eradication policy and best practice development? This is exactly the Multidimensional Aspects of Poverty (MAP) project that ATD Fourth World is undertaking in collaboration with Oxford University (England) Professor of Social Policy Robert Walker.

The Multidimensional Aspects of Poverty* research will happen in 7 countries. Three-year projects in Bangladesh, France, Tanzania, and the United Kingdom will be the main research sites while smaller scale satellite projects in Bolivia, the Ukraine, and the United States will carry out similar research that augments the overall findings. A research team will be based in New York City and through the Merging of Knowledge approach coordinate research groups in New York City, Boston, Oakland (CA), and possible other sites.

The Merging of Knowledge approach has been developed by ATD Fourth World over the last 20 years and recognizes people with a direct experience of poverty as co-researchers alongside academics and practitioners. It’s an approach that prioritizes the experiences and knowledge of people with a lived experience of poverty, recognizes the diversity of those experiences, and permits all participants (people with lived experience of poverty, academics, practitioners, and others) to work in a nonjudgmental setting while doing critical and in-depth research.

Here in the United States, working groups of people with an experience of poverty, other groups of academic researchers, and other groups of practitioners in poverty eradication programs will work within their “peer groups” to determine different aspects of poverty. The findings of these peer groups will then have the opportunity to be enhanced by the work of the others through a Merging of Knowledge Seminar where representatives from the different groups meet and work together later next year. This seminar will take the findings of the peer groups, and through merging and confronting those findings, aim to construct more fully informed findings to the multidimensional aspects of poverty in the United States.

To get this participative research off the ground, a Merging of Knowledge methodology training in New York City kicked off the project on December 3-4, 2016. It included 25 participants from St. Mary’s Center in Oakland (, ATD Fourth World groups in Boston and New York City, as well as others ready to employ the Merging of Knowledge practices in their daily work.

This project will implement a research model where people with a direct experience of poverty have a voice in defining what poverty is in order to contribute to the global thinking on poverty eradication. It will help the United Nations and other international and national institutions reach the UN goal of “eliminating all forms of poverty by 2030”. The dimensions and aspects of poverty defined in this research project will help policy makers develop projects that address the right problems, design more effective programs, and then evaluate, hopefully with people experiencing poverty, if those efforts are working.

We know that the people most directly impacted by the realities of poverty are best placed to identify and help us understand the many dimensions and aspects of poverty. This unique research project offers an opportunity to truly incorporate that expertise and build relevant and successful efforts.

* This is the current name of the project in the United States. Internationally it is also called Determining the Dimensions of Poverty and How to Measure Them.