Tag Archives: poverty model

Solving Global Poverty


Solving global poverty?  It’s a pretty big ask.  Surely if it was that easy, someone would have done it by now, right?  And aren’t there hordes of smart people working on that problem already? I mean, what about progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals?  At ‘Give A Billion’, we do recognise that much good work has been, and continues to be done on tackling the problem of poverty worldwide. But consider for a moment, the global problem-solving power of a brand new IDEA.


Imagine just how different things might be  today, if the first person ever to invent the wheel had been able to share that simple and brilliant idea with everyone – globally and immediately. Today, the internet is the world’s best global delivery mechanism for such powerful new ideas. You just have to have a good one. And that’s what we think we have. A REALLY good one, in fact. But why don’t YOU be the judge of that? If you want to discover what it’s all about, you can start with  the image below. It sits right at the heart of all our poverty thinking – just like the hub of a wheel…

7 Layer Poverty Model V1_Mar2014

But first, a quick word to those who might initially be tempted to quickly dismiss our own efforts, without even understanding them. We would first politely ask this question: When it comes to overcoming world poverty, are we all, collectively, already going about things the best way humanly possible?  Is there no room in our minds to consider the prospect of a better way of thinking and working together?



We think there is. It is called the “7 Layer Poverty Model“. You can find out all about it on this web site.  Functioning like the hub of our conceptual wheel, it sits at the heart of our 3 step plan to solve global poverty, namely:

  1. Define poverty
  2. Map poverty
  3. Focus the fixers

The 7 Layer Poverty Model is the core concept that links these 3 steps together and integrates them all. To help any remaining sceptics to at least hear us out, let’s consider the phrase “5 a day”.  What does that phrase mean to you?  For hundreds of millions of people around the world (in their own language of course), that phrase means something like: “We should all ideally aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, because it is good for us”.


Now, hold on just a second, where exactly did that phrase start?  People have been eating fruit and vegetables (among other things) for thousands of years before that phrase.  Who decided on 5? And how did they persuade us all to believe them anyway? And will someone please tell me EXACTLY what a “portion” is?!



The fact is, eating a mix of fruit and vegetables each day probably is a pretty good idea for the health of most of us, if we have the option. In that sense, it’s nothing new. Before the idea became established, there was perhaps a broad awareness about the general health benefits of various types of fruit and vegetables.  We all knew we “should” eat them, but there were nagging questions, which confused the issue for us and blurred the lines of decision. How much? Of what type and variety. And how often? When people get confused, they tend to make poorer choices. Better education of the masses was required. In that particular case, regarding the somewhat complex matter of personal nutrition.


Then along came some bright spark and told us the MODEL ANSWER was FIVE! Five portions of fruit and vegetables every day was the magic number.  Years later, this idea has caught on very well among more developed nations.  All kinds of produce suppliers now seek to promote their products as “one of your 5-a-day”.  The model has become part of every day life and conversation for many of us.  We all automatically know what they mean, without any further explanation. Or at least, we think we do.



But there are a few problems with the model, admittedly. Some of them quite serious. Do we know at what AGE a child should begin their 5-a-day regime?  Are 5 portions of grapes as ‘good’ as 5 different portions of leafy green vegetables?  Do fast food fries and potato chips count the same as broccoli?  And is a portion driven by size, or weight?  There are also the issues of food allergies, processed versus fresh fruit and vegetables, the starch levels in some vegetables, the nutritional impact of how the vegetables are actually cooked, the relative merits of cooked versus raw vegetables, and so on.


Whoever came up with the 5-a-day model was probably aware of these potential issues too. However, we assume that they decided that the BENEFITS of standardising on a single nutrition model of 5-a-day, outweighed the disadvantages of people not properly understanding all the details. The purpose of such models is to simplify reality to such a level that most people can understand it.

sprout in hands over the water and sky


This is the same principle we are promoting in the 7 Layer Poverty Model. It is a tool in the service of solving global poverty. It is recognised as a simplification of the real world, but it is a very useful one. It is based on both scientific knowledge and common sense. It helps convert a rather vague and abstract general notion of ‘poverty’, into something definite that even 5 year olds around the world can relate to.


They know what it is to feel thirsty, or hungry. They understand what clothes are and what having a place to live means to them. They know what it means to get ill and to get better. They will also have some understanding of what it means to be forced to do something they disagree with and what it means to feel included – or left out of a group.  All these basic ideas have their own place forming the 7 Layers of our Poverty Model.

Poverty itself is a 7 letter word. We define it helpfully in 7 words. We have set out a compelling plan to solve it with only 7 words. The Model has 7 layers and identifies 7 key ‘stakeholders’ or ‘actors’ in overcoming more poverty sooner, with the same resources – or less. This unique Model stems from fresh and innovative thinking regarding solving global poverty, using Systems Thinking to help. The 7 Layer Poverty Model remains the conceptual hub, but there is a whole ‘wheel’ of supporting ideas to work with it. And what better way to help end the systemic cycle of poverty, than with a conceptual wheel? To discover more, why not start with our ‘Best 7 Ideas’ page?



Our guess is that hundreds of millions of people around the world now know something of what “5-a-day” is meant to mean. Our goal is to help a billion people understand the 7 Layer Poverty Model and how that understanding translates into solving global povertyovercoming more poverty, more quickly and more effectively. Now you’re here, YOU can play your own big part in that.

So we thank YOU personally for being…

One  in  a  BILLION!

How Can A Model Solve Poverty?


Poverty is a problem, but whose problem is it to solve poverty?  And how exactly can a poverty model help? This article answers both questions.  We promote a 3 Step Plan to solve poverty, namely: define it, map it and focus its ‘fixers’. That’s it. All problems, at their heart, are human in origin.  Don’t agree? Then take the example of the polar bear. It may be true that some of their natural habitats are under threat, through global warming. However, polar bears themselves do not perceive this as a ‘problem’, as such.

polar bear oblivious to global warming and desire to solve poverty

For those that it affects, it is just their immediate reality. For those that it doesn’t affect, they remain blissfully unaware of the issue. In the same way, global poverty is a human problem, not just because it is human in origin, but that ‘problems’ themselves are ultimately all human in nature. Nature itself doesn’t register a formal opinion either way. If it did, it might well consider human poverty as another form of ‘natural selection’; an enforced instance of ‘survival of the fittest’. In contrast to such anthropological Darwinism, human history provides a long track record of human problems being solved by human ideas. Karl Marx (1859) claimed that “Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve”.  We contend that solving poverty is no different and that the 7 Layer Poverty Model may prove just such an idea. So let’s examine it together and see if you agree.

Solving global poverty, poverty images, Thailand, Akha village, Akha people


The challenge to solve poverty is a human one. The 7 Layer Poverty Model is a human idea. It is not the complete answer in itself, but it is a key tool in solving the puzzle, in that it provides a COMMON and consistent way of understanding the complex problem of poverty and its many contributory causes. It is intended to be sophisticated enough so that most experts can use it, but simple enough so that most people can understand it. It draws from simple concepts that are familiar to us all and shows an effective way of combining them in a single, 3-dimensional model, consisting of a 7 layer cone sat on top of a ‘target’. Like this…

7 Layer Poverty Model V1_Mar2014

It uses a standardised definition of poverty that can be simply understood and simply communicated. That definition can be given in 7 child-friendly words. Poverty is: “not enough of 7 things we need”. To the expert, that translates to “the relative absence of 7 Humanitarian Basics”. But let’s just take the child-friendly definition for a moment.

It breaks down into 3 simple ideas:

1. There are some things we all need as humans

2. There are 7 important ones to keep in mind

3. ‘Poverty’ means not having enough of them.

The 7 Humanitarian Basics are: water, food, clothing, shelter,  healthcare, engagement (within the community) and freedom from oppression. Could you explain these things to a 5 year old in language they can understand? Could they then explain it to their friends?  If so, that is more than half the battle: defining the problem in such a way that most people actually understand it. But is it still powerful enough for experts to use? Let’s now consider the problem from the perspectives of those whose job it is to actually solve poverty – those whom we call ‘the fixers’.

Sadhu, Holy man, religions often prioritise solving poverty within beliefs



The 7 Layer Poverty Model recognises seven ‘players’, ‘actors’, ‘stakeholders’, or those who otherwise recognise they  have a particular role in solving poverty for any given individual on the planet. First and foremost is that individual themselves (excluding those who opt for some form of poverty out of choice and preference). You may have heard the phrase: “God helps those who help themselves” in this context. The Poverty Model recognises that the person typically most motivated to lift any given individual out of poverty, is the individual themselves. The model therefore starts by identifying that motivated individual, represented by the 7-layer cone at its centre – at the ‘bulls-eye’ of a sequence of concentric circles – like an archery target.


With some rare exceptions, people around the world mostly choose to organise their living among others. That model of organisation proves pretty consistent globally. Individuals tend to cluster into households of one or more. Households tend to cluster into communities. Both such ‘social structures’ are thus represented by the two ‘ghost’ cones surrounding the central, individual cone. One can imagine that in many (but not all) cases, the relative absence of Humanitarian Basics experienced by the individual will also be experienced at the household level.

One can also imagine aggregated assessments for Humanitarian Basics taken at the whole Community level, using techniques like the Small Area Estimation approach adopted and promoted by the World Bank. The risk of such aggregated information is the loss of detail for the individual and their household. This is one of the strengths of the 7 Layer Poverty Model, relative to Small Area Estimations, where levels of granularity only extend as far as the community as a whole.


Within the 7 Layer Poverty Model, the individual, their household and their Community are the first three out of our 7 key ‘fixers’ recognised and represented. The other 4 are represented by the 4 sectors of the target pattern underneath the cone. These fixers are: multilateral agencies, non-governmental organisations, social entrepreneurs and in-country governments. Statistically, countries do not tend to change their boundaries that much, or that often, even though some remain in dispute to this day. This enables us to look consistently at remarkable aspects of the history of poverty globally, at the macro-level, over 200 years and for some 200 countries, using published statistics from the United Nations.

Poverty issues face Three generation of himba women. Epupa-Kaokoland-Namibia

So, surrounding the individual, the Model recognises a household, which may be one or more persons, but is otherwise largely self-defining. They are considered a single ‘household’ because they think and act as such. Beyond that boundary, there is the Community to which the given household is considered to belong, however loose, shifting, or complex those relationships may prove to be in practice.  Underpinning Communities is the support (however tangible) of the government of the country to which it is typically considered to belong – such that it would think of that community as its citizens and thus, to some extent, its responsibility.

Red thumbtack on globe. Isolated 3D image

While countries have long seen themselves as part of various geographic empires, regions and continents, recent decades have also witnessed a particular rise in new multilateral entities, formed through alliances between multiple countries and across continents. Of particular note and influence in the context of solving poverty, are the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League and the European Union. These are referred to collectively within the Poverty Model (and elsewhere), as examples of ‘multilateral agencies’. They are another of the seven fixers, represented in the Model as one of the 4 ‘sectors’ making up the ‘target’ pattern underneath the cone. We think of it as operating like a ‘safety net’, underneath the individual, their household and their community.

solving global poverty, eradicate global poverty, global poverty model, poverty profile


Multilateral agencies have a publicly declared interest in the general wellbeing of citizens who exist beyond the borders of any one constituent member state. The United Nations was formed with the idea that ‘an attack on one was an attack on all’. This reflected a sense of shared problems and shared responsibilities among the member states within the multilateral agency. Member charters and codes of practice define what each member state commits to sign up to.  It is typically considered part of the price of ‘membership’.


Such shared public commitments have variously extended to such significant things as: the International Bill of Human Rights; the Geneva Convention; and the Millennium Development Goals. Such internationally recognised standards and commitments are impressive enough in themselves. So many authorities, from so many differing countries, speaking so many different languages, over so many years, have all agreed on them – at least notionally. Those agreements may not go far enough for some member states, but their great power is in their perceived consensus. So it is with the 7 Layer Poverty Model.

organisations solving poverty, poverty models, overcoming global poverty


Within the Model, non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) may include both charities and religious groups, operating at a local, national or international level.  However, this category is usually seen to exclude companies, in the traditional sense. NGO’s may have a tight focus on one particular community, or their reasons for being may extend all the way to international ambitions and activities. The Red Cross, or Red Crescent is a well-known example of the latter. Poverty-focused charities are of obvious interest for us, within the 7 Layer Poverty Model, but clearly most faith group members around the world would also recognise some common responsibility towards ‘the poor’ – even if it may prioritise the poor among the group’s own notional ‘membership’.

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in church


The Poverty Model does not expressly exclude companies from having a place within the broad category of NGO’s, insofar as they are usually organisations which are not actually ‘governments’, despite some of them being ‘state-run’ or part state-owned.  Companies do have an important  role to play in providing employment, which is a factor recognised within the “Engagement” layer of the 7 Layer Poverty Model. Some companies even make notable contributions to charities, financial or otherwise.

Closeup of business people shaking hands over a deal

However, companies are not treated as a separate priority group within the Model, as their stated goals are not typically seen as primarily distinguishing and serving ‘the poor’ as such, or addressing poverty, specifically.  Yes, some of their actions may help alleviate some aspects of poverty, but they would not see it as their primary “job”. Companies have priority obligations to their own stakeholders, as part of their own reasons for being. These may include ‘society’ as a whole, but the majority of companies usually see themselves as geared more towards satisfying shareholders, customers, suppliers, management and staff. ‘Society’ may be ‘in the queue’, but it’s not at the front.

Hand and word Teamwork

We also think that efforts at persuasion are best directed at the individuals who invest in and run those companies – all of whom may enjoy a greater degree of individual free choice than some of the people their decisions can adversely affect. We recognise that there are many techniques of persuasion in such circumstances and we wholly advocate the positive, constructive ones, recognising such free choice. We do not support the use of intimidation and violence to achieve our goals and in that sense, we do not advocate any perceived need “fight fire with fire”. So how DO we aim to help solve poverty?

solving global poverty together, overcoming poverty, how can i make a difference


We define poverty as the relative lack of 7 Humanitarian Basics. These Basics are organised in a tiered-hierarchy, in recognition that this stepped idea broadly reflects how an individual’s priorities work out in real life for those facing poverty – in its multiple dimensions. Each Humanitarian Basic forms a Layer within the cone structure.

7 Layer Poverty Model V1_Mar2014

Each Layer can then be subject to a Simple Assessment in terms of 3 considerations: Attributes, Access and Availability – for every individual on the planet and without the need for data aggregation. Such an Assessment is qualified with a measure of high, medium, low or none, based on categorising responses to 21 questions. Conceptually then, every individual can be represented by a 3-dimensional cone, with each of the 7 layers of the cone made up of 3 inter-connecting sectors – all of which can be subject to Simple Assessment. Each individual is represented as being surrounded by their household and Community, in the from of ‘ghost’ cones. The cones together sit on top of a ‘safety net’ made up of 4 sectors, representing the 4 macro-scale fixers.

Conceptual image of sphere and arrows. Isolated.

Together, these constitute the 7 key fixers that we recognise as having a sustainable, long-term interest in solving poverty for every individual facing it on the planet. The collective, shared intention is to assist each motivated individual to improve their own life and circumstances – sustainably. The value of the model is to facilitate a common language and understanding, enabling us to better define poverty, map poverty and focus the fixers sharing the same common agenda. That is how a simple model can help solve poverty. It is a simple, but powerful tool, that can be used alongside Systems Thinking, to overcome more poverty sooner, with the same or less resources.

Global poverty images, Can Tho floating market, Delta of Mekong, Vietnam.

We hope you will share this agenda with us and with others who will do the same.

And we thank you again for being…

One in a Billion!



Poverty Measurement So Simple Your 5 Year Old Gets It


Not necessarily.  When it comes to measuring, understanding & overcoming poverty, we want to avoid oversimplifying what can often be truly complex issues.  However, we also want to ensure that we DO simplify things to the point where MOST people can understand them.  That’s why we always want to keep in mind the idea of a 5 year old child discussing poverty issues with their friends.  If we can put things into terms that they can understand, then we figure the rest of the world should be able to follow right along. That’s where the 7 Layer Poverty Model comes in.

7 Layer Poverty Model


When it comes to communicating a potentially complex idea like poverty, we realise that people can switch off quite quickly if they don’t follow you.  The precedent for us here is the message of “5 a day” regarding the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables in the regular human diet.  How many years did experts understand the benefits of more fruit and veg in our diets, but struggled to get their important message heard, until “5 a day” came along?

how to solve global poverty, overcome poverty with poverty solutons and poverty models

We know it is more complicated than that underneath the surface, but at least it is simple enough that kids will talk about it and multiple stakeholders in the issue (governments, health organisations, produce suppliers and parents) can get behind it.  So let’s not kill it with complexity!  There may well be a case for adding complexity to the 7 Layer Poverty Model with subsequent enhancements, or bespoke applications to a specific set of circumstances.  However, for the sake of the broadest possible understanding & adoption among the global stakeholders in overcoming poverty – let’s keep it simple for now. Agreed?



After all, who wants to develop a model that is so complex that nobody else understands it?  You may achieve individual insight, but not collective understanding.  And for now, collective understanding is our more pressing goal.  And we have a billion people to reach. Lots of different languages to consider too. We believe that we will all overcome far more poverty, far more quickly and with far fewer resources, if we CO-ORDINATE our present efforts more effectively.  To improve co-ordination, we must first improve understanding.  To improve understanding, we must establish a common Poverty Model that is powerful enough that most stakeholders can use it, yet simple enough that most kids can understand it.

child poverty, child starvation, child poverty statistics, solve poverty for children

This is why we promote the 7 Layer Poverty Model and why we ask that you would do the same. So get sharing!

And once again, we thank you for being…

One in a Billion!