We tend to think that poverty is so far removed from us, when the reality is that your colleagues, friends or neighbours could be living in poverty.
Poverty is not just a lack of money or income, it is multidimensional. There are three types of poverty; poverty of the stomach (hunger and the need for physical safety), poverty of the mind (lack of knowledge and skills), and poverty of the spirit (inability to hope, love and trust).
The reasons for poverty are also more common than we think. Our youth are told, “Just get a degree and then you will be okay”. That is not true in today’s world, especially not in South Africa where we have a 31% unemployed graduates rate noted in the first quarter of 2019. We are setting them up for failure! No wonder they become despondent. They have massive amounts of study debt and no means to take care of that debt.
Furthermore, customary processes (like Black Tax), CSI programmes that are not working well (skills development alone has no social impact, we have to do mind-moving programmes with Life Skills and Asset-Based Community Development), and traumatised individuals not receiving counselling, all add to poverty.
Consider the effect this might have on your business and your organisation’s bottom line. If any of your people are suffering from any type of poverty, they cannot be functioning effectively — never mind optimally. Moreover, your clients or customers are becoming more and more concerned about your social impact in their decision to do business with you. Your organisation is an integral part of society and the community in which it operates.
For an organisation, having social impact means that its activities have a positive effect on the social wellbeing of its employees and the community or environment where it operates. It is not only important for your organisation to create social impact; you need to measure it. Fortunately, there is a tool available that can do just that – the Poverty Stoplight. It uses six dimensions, 50 indicators and 3 conditions to quantify the level of poverty in a household strongly aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.
In its essence, Poverty Stoplight is a movement towards eradicating poverty. It is a practical methodology and self-evaluation, visual survey tool that allows households to self-diagnose their level of poverty and quality of life. Poverty Stoplight empowers people to understand and map their own choices.
At the same time this tool can be used for base-line and ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of programmes aimed at poverty eradication, enterprise development and community upliftment and empowerment.
Corporates and government can and should use the Poverty Stoplight tool to understand and improve:
1. Employee engagement
The reasons for unengaged employees, especially in the African context, often lie in socio-economic circumstances, not the workplace. Most organisations don’t want to go there fearing they will have to provide the answer to the problem, and they don’t. Knowing and supporting is plenty.
2. Employee wellness
Many corporate campaigns tell people what to do to lead a healthy lifestyle without taking into account the realities of their everyday lives. Poverty Stoplight can help you to focus your employee wellness programme on the issues that really matter.
3. Personal change as a driver for systemic change
Understanding the people in a process is the key that unlocks successful change. When people cannot see progress, achievement or change in themselves and their own environments, corporate KPIs, targets and goals are meaningless. Assisting people to move their personal mind-sets from poverty to abundance, creates the space for a similar shift in their professional thinking.
4. Systemic understanding Poverty Stoplight’s aggregated data reveals patterns in communities or groups of people i.e. employees, which allow government and companies to implement
systemic changes aligned with the real requirements.
5. Managing community / employee relations
constructively – meet them where they are at This is achieved by mapping what people have, and not asking what they need. This methodology is aligned with Asset-Based Community Development and allows everyone in the process to self-diagnose and take responsibility for the part they have to play.
A fellow member of the Poverty Stoplight movement, Food Lover’s Market (FLM), partnered with Poverty Stoplight and branded their people initiative as Love My Journey. FLM is a large retail corporate with 16 000 employees. They have been working through ways to identify how best they could understand their employees and the underlying social issues they may be facing in their day-to-day- lives outside of work. FLM had no idea what was going on in their people’s lives and had no way of finding that out, until they met Poverty Stoplight. Their CSI manager, Kate Marais, says “You can feel the difference when you walk into a store that has had Love My Journey (PS) and one that hasn’t. The energy is different. They become accountable to each other. It’s changed the dynamic.” This is not just philanthropy. This is about agency — employees and their households, as well as the households in your community gain the capacity to act independently and to make their own free choices. The aim is to motivate these households to pull themselves out of poverty. Personal development is key, and this is where developmental work comes in. We have implemented Poverty Stoplight in our Abashintshi project for Sappi.
As an official partner of Poverty Stoplight, we can assist you with the implementation of this measurement tool to dramatically improve stakeholder relations, employee engagement and return on investment in your organisation. The DevCom team takes on work that provides us with the opportunity to influence the quality of life of the people our clients engage with to deliver measured business results and social impact.