How to eliminate poverty in the near future

Written by Martín Burt, CEO for Poverty Stoplight

We must applaud the economic growth of recent years. It is documented that jobs created by the private sector are responsible for the reduction of poverty in the countryside and the city. The problem is that this prosperity is not shared.

A policy of poverty elimination should not separate economic policy from social policy. It should not center itself on individuals, but focus instead on families. Is a rural road a social or economic policy? Is it used to bring production to the market or to facilitate the entry of an ambulance? Can a child be poor “alone”? Of course not! Families are poor or not poor. Does earning USD 1.90 (International Poverty Line) per person a day make us “not poor”? Of course not! We must overcome the simplicity of measuring only monetary poverty and understand the multiple dimensions of poverty.

Multidimensional poverty is not just about income. In addition, there is employment, housing, infrastructure, health, environment, education, culture, organization and citizen participation, as well as the state of mind and motivation. Domestic violence and tolerance towards people who do not think as one are as determinants of poverty as public transport and the generation of decent jobs.

Current social policies are disoriented because they focus in a dispersed and uncoordinated way on individuals and not on families. A support program for children over here and a prevention program for teenage pregnancy over there, some organizations training young people for their first job over here and others supporting older adults over there. While poverty of income is measured, paradoxically, many organizations and government institutions do not reward the generation of income but education and vaccination. In general, we encourage the traps of poverty by promoting welfare without empowerment.

This makes the governments disconnect from their people. The ministries and other government organizations act separately and with partial policies. The measurement of their success is not the elimination of poverty, but increasing their budget execution and public spending, creating a sense of dissatisfaction both in public administrators and in the population. And the perverse thing happens: governments seek to increase the coverage of welfare instead of declaring it obsolete and unnecessary.

It does not necessarily have to be this way. There is technology (social and digital) to articulate not only the work of state institutions with the private sector and civil society, but also with churches, young leaders, trade unions and social movements. However, the main articulation must be with the people themselves, with all families. There are not 7 billion people in the world; there are only 1.7 billion families at a rate of 4.5 people per family. Since poverty is multidimensional and by definition affects all families in one way or another, it makes no sense to divide the population between poor and non-poor families. All the families must be mobilized, giving them a leading role in the definition and solution of their problems and shortcomings.

There will not be a single poor family in the world: this should be the motto of governments, the private sector and society in general. A multidimensional tool will allow each family to self-diagnose and design, with a menton’s support, a family plan to eliminate their poverty and aspire a better life. Each family knows what is right and what is wrong. Each family knows its gaps, and each family needs a specific combination of services to overcome them.

By choosing the family and not the individuals as a unit of measurement, governments can count on a common thread to guide its policy of eliminating poverty. Additionally, by consulting with all families, they can have an accurate diagnosis of the real situation of the population.

The demand for social services is not difficult to articulate taking into account the amount of people living in poverty and the amount of organizations and government institutions. Knowing the demand and having one mentor per family, governments will be able to promote two innovations: the Single Registry of Families and the Single Window of Public Services.

Where to start? Some ideas include: Identifying and training mentors to cultivate a relationship of trust and respect with their assigned families. Developing action plans per regions. Encouraging private sector companies to support the elimination of poverty that affects their workers. Mobilizing families and communities to actively seek to overcome the poverty that affects them. Redefining success so that it measures the real impact on families and not only the number of activities carried out in a year. Promoting incentives so that overcoming poverty is good business for all. And also developing mechanisms that prevent families from being politically discriminated and making sure that their confidential information is protected.