Category Archives: 7 Layer Poverty Model

Covers the 7 Layer Poverty Model at a high level

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.

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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!



What Can One Guy Do?


Yes. That’s true. We don’t want to patronise you. There are over 7 billion of us individuals on the planet, apparently – and you’re just ONE of them. Using United Nations statistics, those below the so-called ‘Poverty Line’ are around a quarter of that total – some 1.75 billion people in all. Of that rather daunting number, some 1 billion or so (who’s counting?) are considered to be in “extreme poverty”, often defined as those living on less than the equivalent of US$1.25 a day.  It can be pretty tough for some of us, but probably worst of all for these. And there’s around a billion of them. Facing this tsunami of need, what can one person do to make a difference?  After all, trying to help meet the needs of just ONE person would be enough!

solving poverty, teach a man to fish, solving poverty, overcoming poverty sri lanka.

And with that simple thought, you might just be on to something.

Thinking about it, you ARE just one person, but then seeking to help JUST one other person overcome poverty might indeed be ENOUGH to make a difference. That is…assuming there were a billion others like you willing to do just the same. And we think there might be.  But that’s not your problem; it’s ours, ok? At least, we have made it ours. That’s why we call ourselves “Give A Billion”, because we think there are at least a billion people out there who would be more inclined to engage in solving global poverty, if they could JUST focus on helping ONE person – ideally one person they can identify with. It is our job* to encourage those 1 billion people and help them engage effectively in overcoming poverty – JUST one person at a time.

*We regularly get visitors to this site from over 125 countries worldwide, which collectively represent over 90% of the planet’s population. Good ideas spread quickly.

overcoming global poverty, teach a man to fish, poverty solution, Shan State, Myanmar

If you are one of those people: welcome aboard!  We have some things that will make your journey a whole lot easier!  For starters, leave the other 1 billion helpers to one side for the moment. We’ll get around to them in good time. Let’s talk about you. YOU are the one reading this, so YOU are our main concern right now – you are the one who wants to make a difference in the world. Do you know how many other internet users like you, there are in the world? It was already estimated at over 2.4 billion in 2012. Over 750 million of those are now on Facebook alone! Hundreds of millions also use Twitter and Weibo. If you use any of those tools, or at least know of them, then the idea of being one in a billion people that are somehow ‘connected’, is not a new concept for you, right? You ARE still just one person – but you’re also ‘one in a billion’ of them.

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Have you ever wondered about that? If there are 7 billion people in a line, notionally ranked from ‘richest’ to ‘poorest’, where exactly would you stand in that line? Look ahead of you. How many hundreds of millions of people do you imagine are richer than you? And how many billions behind you are poorer, looking ahead at YOU as one of the richer ones? Whatever your position, the queue itself would classically follow something called the “normal distribution curve” of values. (If you don’t know it, put the search term into Google and look at the images that come back). That means some at one far end of the scale are spectacularly rich. In 2013, Forbes Magazine estimated that the richest 40 people on the planet had a combined wealth of around 1 Trillion dollars. That’s US$1,000,000,000,000.  Or one thousand lots of 1 billion dollars. But they are not our main focus here.

solving poverty, overcoming poverty in Kathmandu, Nepal

At the other end of the scale, you have some people who are the poorest of the poor. If a billion people live on less than US$1.25 a day, then that means some of those are going to be desperately poor, living on less than even half of that. The bulk of the world’s population, however, will fall somewhere in the middle of that queue we talked about. And that got us thinking…


If there are 7 billion people alive today and some 1 billion are in extreme poverty – then by simple maths, some 6 billion are relatively “better off” than that – although for some, it is not by much.  And out of those 6 billion others, we’ve said we want to engage 1 billion among the richest half of those people to help the 1 billion classed as in ‘extreme poverty’ – at the other end of the scale. This way, it’s more like a one-to-one relationship – and no one person feels they have to shoulder the burden for it all. Out of the willing force of 1 billion people, we can all do our OWN chosen bit to help – and let the others do theirs.

poverty solutions, poor housholds, poverty definition and poverty statistics


Here’s a sequence of attitudes that you may have felt in yourself at some point, or met in others:

1. You can do nothing: The challenge facing you is too great. Give up.

2. You’re not sure you can do anything: You are not against helping, but you doubt that anything you do will really matter that much.

3. At least you’re doing something: Since doing something must be better than nothing, surely you must have some moral superiority over all the millions out there ‘doing nothing’.

4. You’re doing ‘what you can’: Actually, it is more that you are doing all you feel like doing for now, so your conscience should leave you alone.

5. You’re doing something specific: You have considered the options for action and have picked the actions that best suit you and are realistic at this stage.

6. You’re trying to do everything: You will burn out. Please stop before that point!

solve global poverty one person at a time with this powerful global model

We are looking to help move a billion people up the rankings to stage 5 in the list above. For all those people who are already at stage 6, we want to do what we can to help you move back to stage 5.  But we have to admire your dedication, all the same.

In our best moments, when we are feeling at our most humane, we might imagine the needs of the billion poorest people on the planet, all gathered together on a gigantic set of scales, weighing the scales down massively on one side. We see ourselves climbing onto the scales on the other side and notice…nothing. We scarcely ‘move the needle’.

Against the massive weight of the needs of a billion people, we make virtually no impact. Now, however, imagine just ONE person on the other side of the scales. How do you feel now, when you step onto your side of the scales? Whatever the actual challenge involved, does that not feel more achievable? Which approach would YOU choose?overcome global poverty one person at a time, solving poverty, poverty solutions

Now go a stage further. Whatever the details of your own circumstances, imagine that you can PICK out someone on the other side, who most closely MATCHES your own natural sympathies. They may have certain similarities to you, that help you identify with them all the more. Whatever it is that YOU happen to be looking for in such a person – imagine they HAVE that. There are a billion to choose from – chances are you can get pretty close.


Now, consider your motivation level. That thing you are feeling right now – it’s called EMPATHY.  Can you imagine, in your lifetime, if you maintain that level of motivation and empathy, that you might be willing to do whatever it takes to help THAT kind of person help themselves out of poverty? All you might reasonably ask, is that they also be willing to help themselves along the way and that someone facilitates the introductions for you.  Does that seem fair?

feed the poor, one aspect of overcoming poverty, solve poverty, end poverty


One thing now. Two things later. But either way, be sure to act. If you are already a user of Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, or something similar, pick out ONE thing from this site that you think is most suitable to let others know about – and just share that. That’s it for now. For later, from elsewhere on this site, make sure you understand the 7 Layer Poverty Model yourself and could explain it to others.  Then thirdly, set your heart and mind to consider some kind of one-to-one person sponsorship at SOME stage in your future, when YOU are ready. Not through us, but through an organisation YOU have hand-picked, from among the best-of-the-best out there.

face of poverty, poverty images, help the poor, poverty definition

You may already be used to making one-off gifts to other noble causes, as and when they ask. And indeed you may experience a lot of people asking! That does all make a difference. But lifting people PERMANENTLY out of extreme poverty is different. It either takes a lot of money once, or a lot less money, invested effectively, spread over a longer time. Which would you prefer to do? Sponsorship schemes through various organisations all around the world, tend to focus on children – for a whole host of good reasons.  They consistently look for around US$30 a month – or a dollar a day.  (It’s usually only around US$50 a month for an entire family though). That seems to be the going rate. It is memorable, in that it is pretty close to the UN poverty line threshold number of US$1.25 a day.

make a difference, helping social structures, solve poverty together

If you cannot afford to invest that regular amount into one other person’s life right now, try engaging with similarly-minded others in the exact same position, until you can jointly afford to sponsor a person together. It could easily work as part of a group you already belong to. But do it happily, willingly and freely. Not because guilt made you do it, but because you can’t seriously imagine something else you would rather be doing with that money and with that ONE person you have in mind.

make a difference as part of a global team, let the model do the work, team

We don’t want to discourage one-time giving, because it all counts. But keep in mind the ONE person on the other side of the scales from you. Will their life undergo lasting change from a one-off donation? Would you not rather change that ONE person’s life for better and forever?

Getting them there may take several years, whether through school, university, training,  employment, medical school, or some other means. You are investing the time and money to ‘teach them to fish’, not just ‘giving them a fish’, as the traditional saying goes.

That will normally take regular giving from people like you.

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When you have done that, THEN you will have an amazing story to tell. You will be able to share the impact you have made in transforming someone else’s life forever. And the next time someone talks about charity and aid making no lasting difference, YOU can tell them YOUR story.  You may not have ‘changed the whole world’, but you WILL have changed the whole world for that ONE.

Yes, there will always be more that you COULD do. There will usually be more that some may ASK you to do. There may even be more that you WANT to do. But commit yourself, in your OWN heart and in your OWN time, to do this one thing:  balance the scales for that ONE person. Then, you will have truly made a difference that matters. You are indeed just one person…

make a difference, solve poverty one person at a time

But to us, you are…

One in a Billion!

Relative Poverty: How Much Is Enough?

IF ALL POVERTY IS RELATIVE – HOW MUCH IS ‘ENOUGH’? We advocate the 7 Layer Poverty Model, where extreme poverty is simply understood to imply: ‘not enough of the 7 humanitarian basics’.  Other posts & pages on this site cover what those basics are and how the model uses them.  Since poverty is fundamentally understood to be a relative concept, one person can be poorer than another (using some agreed measure), yet it need not be considered a problem.  Here we encounter the idea of Variance versus Significance with reference to relative poverty.

solving global poverty, eradicate poverty, water in poverty model Nepal, Durbar Square

VARIANCE VERSUS SIGNIFICANCE Two people both need drinking water. Let’s say we’ve assessed that they both need 3 litres per day to thrive, within a given environment and set of conditions.  If person A actually has access to 3 litres and person B has access to 30 litres, then B is indeed ‘richer’ than A, by this specific measure. That is variance.  However, if both have ‘enough’ for their requirements, then what does it matter that B is richer, when measured in absolute terms?  There is difference, or variance, but no real significance in this specific instance.  As long as both have ‘enough’, then the very real (tenfold) difference lacks any real significance for us, in this admittedly limited example.

Difference and Similarity. Abstract Concept.

So then, with relative poverty, we hit upon the concept of THRESHOLDS, however defined, which somehow guide us as to what is ‘enough’ for our needs.  This might be thought of as an upper limit threshold, with any more being effectively surplus to our immediate requirements.  With respect to the 7 Layer Poverty Model, however, our focus will often be drawn more to the lower threshold.  That is, how much is ‘not enough’?  The upper limit threshold may remain of some academic interest; the lower limit threshold can often become a matter of life and death for the person in question.  Quite significant then.

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HOW MUCH IS NOT ENOUGH? For each of the Poverty Model’s 7 layers, there is the working notion of a lower threshold, relevant to the individual (or group) concerned, below which humanitarian concern would not reasonably wish the individual to go.  The World Health Organisation, among others, is behind large quantities of useful public information on what the human body typically requires, at various stages of development and for varying degrees of overall wellbeing.


This can be translated into assumed global standards and recommendations, regarding the Humanitarian Basics of water (drinking water quality standards) and food (recommended daily amounts).  In the absence of some better alternative, we would encourage the adoption of the relevant WHO’s guidelines in such matters, as to what constitutes such things as ‘drinkable water’ and ‘adequate nutrition’.  But what of clothing, shelter, healthcare and the rest of our 7 Layers? WHAT ARE MINIMUM HUMANITARIAN STANDARDS? In short, we believe these are best generically outlined, but locally defined.  We do not believe it is practical to define a single global standard for shelter, for example.  Consider the relative requirements of Eskimo igloos, versus Bedouin tents, versus those groups who spend their entire lives on the open water in parts of Asia.  Each requirement is shaped by the chosen lifestyles of the people group concerned.  We believe that the best people to ask would be the local people themselves, testing what they say against comparable experiences and practices elsewhere.  We will illustrate with the example of clothing, but first we must unpack the 3 elements that most interest us, within each Humanitarian Basic layer.

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WHY CONSIDER ATTRIBUTES, ACCESS & AVAILABILITY? For each Humanitarian Basic layer of the Poverty Model, there are 3 things to consider: Attributes; Access; and Availability.  The first considers upper & lower recommended thresholds for the key things we might want to measure.  Imagine a notional range from 0% to 100% for each factor. Once the upper threshold is reached, there is no particular relevance for us to continue measuring the attribute beyond that 100% threshold figure.  An assessment below the minimum threshold effectively counts as ‘none‘, while an assessment above the ‘good enough’ level would score as ‘high‘. The second factor within a layer, assesses the realistic, real-life choices from the perspective of the individual and considers how accessible the best Humanitarian Basic of a given ‘quality’ is, for the individual concerned.

woman beggar

Here we must consider ‘Most Probable Choice’ (MPC) for that individual. If a person must make a daily choice between obtaining good quality water located an hour’s walk away and poorer quality water nearby, our measure must be based on the MPC of that individual, regardless of the choice that we think WE might, or they should make, in their circumstances. Access is again best assessed, for our purposes, with a ‘Simple‘ high/medium/low/none system, or a more ‘Detailed‘ 0-9 assessment system if and when required.  Other posts on this site cover the assessment of ‘Access’ in more detail. To get an idea of how Access is measured comparatively, try taking our Global Poverty Survey to experience the questions yourself, easily accessible from this site’s home page.

overcome poverty obstacles, freedom from oppression, make a difference

Once attributes and access (based on MPC) are determined for the individual, then we can consider the Availability of that ‘supply’ to the individual.  We must recognise that those facing relative poverty typically face fewer & starker choices, when it comes to disruptions to their lives and livelihoods. This is experienced by them as variations in availability of any given supply, through more frequent and significant disruptions to the ‘normal’ supply of a given Humanitarian Basic.  This sounds more complicated than it is.

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Consider a person who is used to the supply of a reliable source of good quality fresh water, from a well in their garden.  That well represents their MPC for water.  In that sense, they have free, unrestricted access to a regular supply of good quality drinking water, but we would assess their ‘access’ at 2, rather than 3, because it is not immediate and ‘on-tap’ within the dwelling.  However, during a dry season, or under extreme drought conditions, the water table feeding the well may fall and the well could run dry. In that case, availability of supply is disrupted and we must consider the MPC of alternative sources of supply for that individual, in which case their ‘access’ measure would change accordingly. The implications of the MPC in such cases may be minor, or major. They may even be life-threatening.

Bhutan - October 2010: An older man praying to Buddha with a pra

Having grasped something of the attributes, access and availability considerations for water, let us now apply the same approach to something far less generic and less consistent between individuals worldwide: Clothing.

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ATTRIBUTES OF CLOTHING: THE 5 C’S Clothing, like all the other Humanitarian Basics, is of interest to us from the perspective of the 3 A’s: attributes; access; and availability.  That sounds nice and consistent for our core model, but what does it translate to on the ground?  How can you legislate over what count as minimum thresholds for clothing, such that you can determine who suffers from ‘clothing poverty’ – even assuming there is such a thing? (For those who doubt the use of such a term, be aware that the term ‘fuel poverty’ is well-used in political and media circles in the UK. It is currently defined there, as households spending more than 10% of their take-home income on fuel.)

Portrait of a Buthanese man wearing traditional dress and eating

We propose 5 C’s as the most relevant attributes to consider for Clothing, but the notion of ‘Clothing’ should be broad enough to include such related subjects as make-up, hair, decoration and other adornments.  We suggest these as global, generic model guidelines, that are then best used to assist determining what is locally and culturally relevant to the people groups being assessed.

the face of global poverty, solving poverty issues, helping the poor help themselves

In the absence of some compelling reason to adopt alternative guidance in a specific case, we suggest the following: 1. COVERING: There is typically a perceived role for clothing, that it should be sufficient to provide adequate, culturally-relevant covering. This pertains to both protection from the elements and appearance. It deals with both the experience of the wearer and the impact on the observer. 2. COMFORT: It is recognised that when it comes to clothing, compromises between attributes are often made. Common sense and our own experience show that the wearer may choose to sacrifice some comfort in the pursuit of some wider goals. However, the generally accepted principle here is, all other things being equal, adequate clothing should be comfortable for the conditions typically faced. Those conditions may be Sub-Saharan or Arctic.  Again, the primary consideration is the most probable choice (MPC) for that individual. If the person chooses uncomfortable clothing for the sake of some other goal, that is one thing. If they have to wear uncomfortable clothing, because they have no other reasonable choice – that is another.  Comfort encompasses all relevant considerations, including warmth and fit, combined with weather and waterproofing for typical year-round conditions.

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3. CONVENTION: This attribute relates to what is considered socially normal, or acceptable for the people groups to which the individual belongs. This might include work, religious and other relevant social scenarios. Hence, one might be considered ‘poor’ if one does not have the range of clothing considered appropriate for the typical range of social functions for the individual, whether ceremonial or otherwise. It may defy local social conventions to show up at a religious ceremony in work clothes. The author remembers wearing a traditional Bangladeshi ‘lungi’ to a formal ceremony, not realising that it was considered casual work wear for rural men. Even the ‘poorer’ locals advised me that it was not considered appropriate for the occasion.  I was ‘richer’ than the local people, but I was still ‘poorly dressed’ – and to them, that mattered. Again, the need for local people to help define relevant thresholds for the attributes is clearly evident.

Portrait of young masai woman, beauty in poverty and reason to solve poverty

4. CONDITION: Clothing is subject to ‘wear and tear’. At the same time, latest fashions may even sometimes favour a ‘distressed’ look, costing hundreds of dollars to achieve.  While we all accept that we cannot wear all new clothing all the time, there is also a lower threshold where the clothing being worn goes below a minimum socially-acceptable state.  Again, our particular interest is where the person concerned wears such clothing as their MPC, not out of positive choice, but rather driven by necessity. 5. CHANGE: The principle here applies before wear and tear. It relates to prevailing social norms about the individual possessing and wearing a periodic change of clothes. While members of religious orders may choose a life of relative poverty and wear pretty much the same style of clothing each day, even here there may be an expectation regarding the frequency with which their clothes are washed. This will usually dictate a suitable change of clothes.

overcoming poverty together, solving human poverty at household level in poverty model

Thus, taking all 5 attribute considerations together, one might reasonably look for a locally-defined minimum ‘wardrobe‘ of clothing; a collection of basic items (adapted for size, age and sex, religion, customs, etc) that might still mark the individual out as relatively ‘poor’, yet adequately sartorially equipped for participation in their community. It is against THAT locally-defined and culturally-relevant standard that we then assess an individual’s position.


Using the Simple Assessment approach to the Model, would deliver a score of high, medium, low, or none against each of the measurement criteria. Note that to score ‘none‘ does not require that the individual has NO clothing at all, but that their position is locally accepted to have gone below the minimum acceptable threshold for any individual in that culture. WHY MEASURE THIS STUFF? Let us keep in mind why any of this matters. We are recognising that poverty is a relative term, a concept consisting of 7 key layers in our Model. Having defined poverty generally this way, we want to move towards mapping it accurately, person-by-person, for anybody on the planet.  This enables us to better consider the ‘Poverty Profile’ of the individual.  This is not to label them negatively with another ‘buzz phrase’, but to give all stakeholders a consistent view of the present state of that individual, seen through that individual’s own experiences relative to their culture and community. (Follow this link for more detail on Poverty Profiling).

Red thumbtack on globe. Isolated 3D image

All this is not just theory. We’ve actually done it, just to prove it is possible. Via the picture link on the Home page of this site, you can take our ‘Global Poverty Survey’, which has been constructed as an online Simple Assessment survey, using the Standard set of questions. At the end, we ask people to enter their Country & nearest City or Town. This way, their details remain confidential in our example global Study. However, responses COULD be linked to exact GPS co-ordinates, if the Study required it. Alternatively, it is possible to copy and paste in a URL web address to the relevant location, using Google Maps referencing, as a record of a more precise location. Already, we are capturing responses from countries like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Kenya, as well as from more developed nations, like the UK. So go ahead & try it yourself. Make yourself that one in a billion.

7 Layer Poverty Model V1_Mar2014

Simple or Detailed Assessment approaches assist us greatly when we come on to Map Poverty”, for a given individual/group and time period.  I might consider myself among the top “1% of the 1%” most privileged people in the world; but I can still have my status assessed to generate a Poverty Profile, using the 7 Layer Poverty Model – just like everybody else. All I have to do is answer some experience-based questions and choose which statements best describe my own situation. In our example Survey, you do the compound calculations yourself, based on your own responses. However, a full online system would complete all such calculations automatically and tie them to a unique GPS location, as required. Imagine what access to that quality of data might do to assist current global efforts to prioritise resources in the eradication of poverty.

teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime, overcoming poverty and solving poverty issues

This is part of the power of the Poverty Model. It can be usefully applied to every one of the 7+ billion people on the planet, while in no way claiming to be exclusive, or exhaustive. Our own agenda concentrates most on those considered among the poorest of those billions.  However, the Poverty Model shows no such bias. It applies equally to all. That is why we want you to understand it, use it & explain it to others who will listen. And we thank you again for being… One in a Billion!