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The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Does 'shame-proofing' anti-poverty programmes improve their effectiveness? Theory of change and impact policy evaluation in cross-national settings

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Photo: Kenya, Africa. Photo Credit: Evandro Sudré/Flickr under license CC BY-NC 2.0
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Principal Investigator: Robert Lloyd Walker. Lead Organisation: University of Oxford

Co-investigator: Sony Pellissery; Grace Bantebya; Lichao Yang; Elaine Chase

Our ESRC/DFID funded research (RES-167-25-0557) suggested that shame associated with poverty is ubiquitous and structural being imposed by others in their dealings with people in poverty. Shame may serve to perpetuate poverty through eroding individual agency, while policies that stigmatise could be counterproductive in adding to the debilitating effects of shame. This research has proved very influential, spawning replications and adding poverty-related shame to the topics covered by the ESRC 'Understanding Society' study, following the successful inclusion of questions in the ESRC 'Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK' survey. It also led directly to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) including the principle of governments having respect for the rights and dignity of social protection recipients in Recommendation 202 on social protection approved in 2012. The UN has cited the research to support its guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights. However, while the previous research yielded a model hypothesising how shame and stigma might exacerbate poverty, the research was not designed to provide evidence of casual relationships. Hence, new research is proposed to rectify this omission by testing the effectiveness of social protection policies that have been 'shame-proofed' against those which have not. The robustness of the test is much enhanced by simultaneous replication in Uganda, India and China; each evaluation is sensitive to local circumstances, but shaped by a common theoretical framework with a core of standardised measures and comparable methods. In Uganda, theory of change evaluation, which employs diagnostic techniques to examine whether underlying logic of the policy works in practice, is combined with impact evaluation to measure the relative effectiveness (and value for money) of shame-proofing. Theory of change evaluations will be conducted in China and India with the prospect of impact evaluations being added with financial support from the ILO. The research builds on a current study undertaken by the same research team, funded by the Norwegian Research Council, to develop the shame-proofed policies that are to be refined, implemented and evaluated in the proposed research. The evaluation will entail a mix of surveys, depth interviews, focus groups, investigative research and extraction of administrative records. In addition to establishing whether shame-proofing is cost effective and whether the underpinning policy logic works in practice, the research will: 1 Advance poverty studies by conceptualising poverty as a multi-dimensional embracing material and psycho-social dimensions that take account of poverty dynamics. A person's score on each dimension determines the severity and nature of the poverty experienced at a point in time while scores at different times reflect how aspects of poverty are causality related - for example, material deprivation at time 1 might increase poverty related-shame at time 2. 2 Employ the family of statistical techniques called Structural Equation Models to measure poverty defined as above and to establish the effectiveness of social protection policies in reducing poverty. 3 Engage end-users and others in developing and refining shame-proofed policies consistent with the ILO and UN principles that also reflect local needs and voices. Aside from the required Key Stakeholder Workshop, further policy seminars and public meetings are planned in Uganda, China and India to coincide with project planning meetings. Academic articles on the poverty-shame nexus and measurement will be accompanied by policy publications and templates for implementing policy consistent with ILO and UN guidelines. In sum, the research engages directly with two of the three ESRC/DFID Call questions: 'Pathways in and out of poverty' and 'Political and institutional conditions' and both cross cutting issues: 'Structural inequalities' and 'Measurement'.

Our previous research (RES-167-25-0557) has established expectations among three separate communities. First, the academic community has responded positively. With our support, Gary Parker, Mary McKay and Lawrence Aber at NYU are replicating the work in contrasting communities in New York, and Cleopas Sambo will do similar work in Zambia. Questions on poverty-related shame were successfully included in the ESRC 'Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK' study and have now been added to the ESRC 'Understanding Society' study following its recent long term content review. The proposed study seeks experimental evidence for the causal processes suggested by the earlier research. Second, following a briefing seminar in 2012, the media have taken up the research supported in part by an ESRC Knowledge Exchange grant. Pegasus Theatre incorporated material in an education pack for UK schools associated with a production of a new play The Heap. Mediae inserted storylines in a TV soap opera Makutano Junction aired in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and the Media Trust produced a documentary shown on the Community Channel. Eon Productions are advising on the possibility of a documentary incorporating results from the US replication. We will use our established contacts to investigate a new documentary being made based on the proposed evaluations of shame-proofed policies. Third, presentations of the research have been made to the ILO, World Bank, the United Nations, DFID and, as part of the impact plan included in the earlier research, to policy communities in Uganda, India, China, Norway and Britain. In direct response, the ILO added the principle of governments having respect for the rights and dignity of recipients of social protection to the historic Recommendation 202 approved by 185 countries in 2012 which provides a blueprint for social protection globally. Relevant staff in the World Bank and the current and former UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty have been briefed on this proposal as has the International Council for Social Welfare, a global consortium of NGOs focussed on social protection provisions. The Millennium Development Goals are to be recast as the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 when it is anticipated that the important role of social protection will be highlighted. With limited resources, it is critical that policies are not only socially just, but cost effective. If the proposed research demonstrates that shame-proofing makes policies more cost effective, then it will supply an economic argument in support of a human rights approach to tackling poverty. It will offer guidance to governments, donors and NGOs as how to make the delivery of social protection more effective. Seminars with members of the policy community and public meetings are proposed in each of the three study countries to coincide with project planning meetings, a strategy that previously proved very productive and efficient. In addition, we will use the good auspices of the ILO to reach its global membership of governments, employers and trade unions as well as establishing an impact network of interested parties. The ongoing VAM-funded project to develop shame-proofed implementations in Uganda, India and China is based on participatory principles and establishing working relationships and a commitment to implementing change. The first key stakeholder workshop in Uganda will, in our case, have retrospective and prospective elements, reviewing the collective learning that led to the creation of the shame-proofed implementations; and reinforcing the commitment to continual improvement and to the proposed ESRC/DFID funded monitoring and evaluation. This and subsequent workshops and public meetings in India and China will be attended by national and municipal policy makers, representatives of NGO and private sector providers, donors, end-users and academics.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Social Policy and Intervention
Fund Start Date: 
July 1st, 2015
Fund End Date: 
April 30th, 2018
Fund Currency Code: 
Fund Value: