Tackling Poverty: How Much Does The Metre Matter?


Did you know that mankind has been measuring length and distance for millennia? Of course you did. After all, how could the Pharaoh’s have built the pyramids, or Noah the Biblical Ark in ancient times, if nobody else knew what the equivalent of a ‘cubit’ was? What you might not have grasped was that there was no international STANDARD for such systems of measurement.


In Europe, a standard length of measurement used to be set by such things as the distance from the tip of the King’s nose, to the tip of his thumb, when his arm was fully outstretched. I think you can see the problem here. What if the King’s extended arm grows – or even shrinks? What happens when one King is replaced by another. And that happened quite a lot in Europe, over the centuries, believe me. But the BIGGEST problem of all was that measurement lacked any International Standard.


You can imagine the problems that followed. When one railway using one gauge of measurement in one country wanted to join with the network from another country, how could that work when the tracks (and the train wheels that ran on them) were different distances apart? Have you ever tried buying a suit or a dress in a country with a different sizing system? Exactly. Not helpful.


However, it was actually international trade and shipping that eventually helped drive the need for global standardisation on length and distance. Did you know that this was how the metre came about? It was decided that rather than relying on a King’s reach to determine a standard unit of measurement, we should pick on something that wouldn’t change: so they picked the Earth. Hence, a ‘metre’ was defined as one ten millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the planet’s Equator. Now the Metric System (ie the ‘system of the metre’) has gone global. True story.

Red thumbtack on globe. Isolated 3D image


Today, we have established international standards for weights, measures, volumes, quality, business continuity, IT management – and a whole host of other things besides. Yet still no international standard for defining and measuring poverty. Does that not strike you as odd? We acknowledge principles drawn from such disciplines as quality and IT management, that state: “You cannot manage what you do not measure & you cannot measure what you do not define”. Centuries ago, recognition of this core principle drove the international definition and adoption of the metre, to better guide international shipping and trade. Surely the time is right for us to establish and adopt an international definition of poverty, that we can ALL work to.

Poverty Profile Example V1_2014


There is no magic in the metre itself. The magic is in having a standard we all agree on. Similarly, we claim no intrinsic magic in the 7 Layer Poverty Model. We DO claim there is some ‘magic’ in agreeing a common standard, as the basis for a common method of measurement. To have NO such method, to our mind, is madness.

So join our efforts to make our world a little less crazy, by promoting a common international standard for poverty definition and measurement. For that, dear friends, truly matters to over a billion people.

If you are ready to do your part in an epidemic outbreak of such sanity, then we thank you again for being…

One in a Billion!