April 5, 2016

Survey of the Poor: Concept and 2016 Plan


Concept note and 2016 plan for the Survey of the Poor.

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In partnership with Oxfam International, the GlobeScan Foundation is launching the first-ever Survey of the Poor to give voice to this important global public, and provide metrics to help development aid organizations assess their impact and better target their efforts.

Given the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the increasing emphasis on accountability and effectiveness in reducing poverty, the time is right to overcome the methodological challenges and organizational inertia that have kept such a study from being undertaken. We believe that it is unconscionable that there has never been an authoritative and quantitative, large-scale global study that truly captures the voice of the intended beneficiaries of development aid. No one is regularly and scientifically asking the individuals at the base of the global economic pyramid about how the billions of dollars—and the organizations that deploy those dollars—are helping their families and communities, and what could be done differently. We believe this study will fundamentally change the very definition of poverty, as well as the conversation on aid effectiveness, transparency, accountability and governance in the delivery of aid, as well as contribute to the achievement of the Global Goals.

The Survey of the Poor is the world's first statistically meaningful survey of the poorest of the poor around the world. It will operate as an incisive mechanism to capture objective and subjective assessments of their quality of life, their aspirations for the future, and provide a platform for feedback on aid programs, policy directions, and the implementation of government and non-governmental interventions over time. It will provide a forum for feedback from the individuals and communities that aid is intended to impact and influence; and as a result, provide a unique and powerful source of intelligence to the development community and policy makers alike. 

During 2016, the first Survey of the Poor will interview a sample of 20,000 poor and ultra-poor citizens worldwide (2,000 in each of 10 countries - India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, DRC, South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico1; and widely report the results during the first quarter of 2017. Our ambition is to conduct the study annually, using revolving modules of questions to provide both longitudinal tracking and depth of analysis in key areas (e.g., Global Goals, education and training, gender, climate change, etc.).

We have been working collaboratively with both global experts and local research teams to develop and test culturally-appropriate and effective research questions and methodologies, and will combine technology (e.g., mobile telephony) with face-to-face interviewing to ensure we access the most vulnerable populations. The outcome of this work will be a series of high profile releases and reports that not only outline the most pertinent findings of the research, but also provide meaningful context and analysis for policy decisions across civil society, business, government, and multilateral organizations. The data will also be made available for academic study.

Most of these countries are on the World Bank’s list of the 10 countries with 80 percent of the world’s ultra-poor citizens.

Work-to-Date (2015 Pilot Study in India)

To ensure that we create a relevant research program for the aid community, we have enlisted help from a diverse set of experts around the world to help with the development and implementation of the project. Their good judgement has been instrumental in our progress to date. Individual experts from a wide range of organizations have kindly participated in a year-long collaborative process convened by the GlobeScan Foundation; including from Oxfam International, the World Bank, DfID (UK), SIDA (Sweden), IDRC (Canada), USAID (US), Gates Foundation, UN Foundation, Open Society Foundations, BRAC (Bangladesh), among others. We have also enlisted the help of some 20 social research colleagues from around the world in developing our methodology and research questions.

During 2015, in addition to a thorough review of related projects to distill best practice in reaching the ultra-poor, the GlobeScan Foundation conducted qualitative and quantitative research among the ultra-poor in India in order to pilot test the initiative. First, a series of focus groups were completed in both rural and urban India – where we traveled from the slums of New Delhi to Kolkata, and from the Jharkhand capital city of Ranchi to the remote and tribal village of Gumla. We spoke to slum dwellers, tribal elders, activists, social workers, professors, economists, journalists and government councillors about the definition of poverty and the life of those who reside within its borders. These conversations challenged the way we think about poverty and our approach to the design and implementation of the Survey of the Poor.

As a result of our work and collaboration to-date, we have further developed our research instrument and fielding methodology which we are piloting in India during April and May of 2016 by conducting face-to-face and mobile telephone interviews with a sample of 1,000 people living in poverty. Results of this pilot study will be released in the second quarter of 2016 and used to finalize both methodology and the questionnaire for rolling out across 10 countries later in the year.

Next Steps

The GlobeScan Foundation has self-funded most of the development work for the Survey of the Poor initiative, including the focus groups and 1,000 interviews associated with the India Pilot Study. We have been grateful for some funding assistance from the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa as well as generous in-kind assistance from our India research partners at Team CVoter in New Delhi.

For the 2016 roll-out of the first global Survey of the Poor – interviewing 20,000 people living in poverty across 10 countries – the GlobeScan Foundation is circulating a partnership proposal and detailed budget for consideration by potential funding partners. Ideally, the 2016 initiative budget of US$2.4 million will be shared across six funders (@US$400,000 each) to help ensure the broad use and sustainability of the Survey of the Poor.

About Us

The GlobeScan Foundation is dedicated to helping achieve a more sustainable and just world for all. To accomplish this we develop and apply a range of social science tools to give voice to global publics, help unlock collaboration and accelerate progress.

We build on the global research capabilities of GlobeScan Incorporated (founded in 1987), including well-established working relationships with research institutes around the world. GlobeScan is best known for conducting the 20-country BBC World Service Poll on topical issues (annually since 2005), for its annual syndicated Radar public opinion research service across G20 countries, for its respected thought leadership on corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and for its balanced client list that includes major global companies (Unilever, Disney, IKEA), civil society organizations (Gates Foundation, ICRC, Amnesty), and multilateral agencies (IMF, ADB, WHO).

Established in 2012, the GlobeScan Foundation is a federally-incorporated not-for-profit private foundation based in Canada. Our president, Doug Miller, is a widely quoted global pollster (BBC, The Economist’s “World in 2016”), and author of “Can the World Be Wrong? Where global public opinion says we’re headed” (Greenleaf 2016).


For more information and background on the Survey of the Poor initiative, please visit the Survey of the Poor pages on our website, or contact:

Eric West, Foundation Development
GlobeScan Foundation

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T: +1 519 371 8251

GlobeScan Foundation

The GlobeScan Foundation is dedicated to helping achieve a more sustainable and just world for all. To accomplish this we develop and apply a range of social science tools to give voice to global publics, help unlock collaboration and accelerate progress. Learn more here