Understanding Poverty & Development - Ujamaa Global Mission


Oct 28, 2013 (4 years and 8 months ago)


How we choose to define poverty and the causes
of poverty will directly impact how we
conceptualize development and solutions to
poverty. It also defines the reasons why we choose
to be involved in poverty alleviation efforts.

If poverty is seen as only a lack of material things
then the answer is providing material goods. If
poverty is the result of poor personal choices then
the answer is changed behaviors. If poverty is the
result of societal oppression then the answer is
changing societal structures.

What is your personal view of poverty?

What is your personal view of the nature and
purpose of development?

A focus on international development first began after WWI.
Early perspectives focused on poverty as the lack of material
goods. Heavy emphasis on a modern worldview and that
development is them (the materially poor and the global South)
becoming like us (the materially non
poor and the West).

There followed a development in theory and practice from simply
a lack of material basic needs to a lack of knowledge, information
and skills. Then a further development to the concept that the
basis of poverty is a lack of access

economic, political, social and
environmental access. The poor lack access to credit, natural
resources, markets, political voice, etc.

With these shifts there was also a shift in theory and practice from
large scale, macro
economic reformations toward small scale,
centered and community
based programs.

Physical Causes

Lack of basic needs such as food, water and shelter

Poor health and education

Lack of basic assets such as money, land and livestock

Social Causes

Unjust social structures and malfunctioning social institutions


Lack of access to social and political capital

Unjust worldviews and cultural institutions

Unjust actions by the non

Mental Causes

Lack of knowledge and technical information

Limited ability to learn

Poverty of being

a self
defeating and minimalizing self

According to Bryant Myers, poverty is primarily
the result of broken relationships

relationships with God, with self, with others and
with the earth

which are themselves a result of
sin. Poverty is when people’s relationships do not
work toward their well being.

Therefore, at its deepest level, the cause of
poverty is spiritual.

The poor are those who possess a marred
A poverty of being.

The poor are those who have forgotten or been
denied their true vocation.
A poverty of

The poor are those whose relationships work
against their well being.
A poverty of

Poverty of Being

the materially poor often possess a
marred identity in which their self and communal image is a
reflection of the negative stereotypes propagated and
maintained by the non
poor. They believe in a false and
negative myth of who they are and what they can be,
instead of seeing themselves as being created in the image of

Poverty of Purpose

the materially poor often possess a
poverty of purpose in which they understand that they are
the servants of others and have nothing substantial to offer.

Poverty of Relationships

the materially poor often have
relationships that do not benefit them and lack the
opportunities, knowledge and abilities to develop
relationships that could benefit their well being.

Poverty of Being

the materially non
poor also possess
a marred identity

a god
complex in which they
believe they have a right to benefit at the expense of
others and that they know what is best.

Poverty of Purpose

the materially non
poor often
have forgotten the purpose for work set by God, which
is to care for His creation and for others. Instead work
is viewed as a means for self
gain. Because of this, they
diminish who they can be and who God desires for
them to be.

Poverty of Relationships

The materially non
often do not have relationships with those who are
materially poor. By doing so, they blind themselves to
the struggles going on in the lives of millions of people

From this perspective, both the materially poor
and the materially non
poor are both in a state of
poverty, only in different ways. This is not to
minimize the poverty of the materially poor, but
instead to indicate that the poverty of the
materially poor cannot be addressed without
addressing the poverty of the non
poor. For both,
there is the need for redemption and healing in
their relationships with God, with self, with
others and with the rest of creation.

In looking at the poor and non
poor, marred identity
and god
complexes it is important to remember that
these are not static terms. A person or group can
possess both a marred identity and god
seeing themselves as less than some but better than
others. This can occur between groups, within
communities and within families.
A materially poor
man may suffer from a marred identity in regards to his
relationship with his wealthy employer but a god
in regards to his relationship with his wife and children.
addition, people may fluctuate in the degree to which
they suffer from a marred identity and/or god

Friedmann sees development as the
mobilization of disempowered family’s social
power into political power in order to bring
about political change to improve their quality
of life.

Friedmann focuses on not the indivdiual, but the
family as the basic social unit. Sees households as
being empowered in three ways: socially, politically
and psychologically

Twin goals of biblical transformation:

Changing People:

Recovering true identity and true vocation

Restoring Shalom:

Just and Peaceful Relationships with God, self,
others and creation




Believing that they are
made in the image of
God and therefore have
inherent worth

Believing that they

gifts to contribute and
they are called to be
productive stewards


Laying down their god

they are made in God’s
業慧e⁡湤⁡ e t⁇od

Be汩lv楮i t桡h⁴桥楲⁧楦is
慲e⁦ r s桡h楮iⰠ湯t
co湴ro氬⁡湤⁴桡h⁴桥y 慲e
to 慤


The purpose of transformational development is
not only increasing resources, building capacity
or access or creating choices. These are important
aspects of development only when they help the
poor to recover a sense of who they are and what
their purpose is.

In this, transformational development is about
creating relationships that are just for both the
poor and non
poor and that create prosperity
through peace.

According to Myers the foundation of
development lies in the redemption of

relationships with God, with
others, with one’s self, and with the rest of

For those with a marred identity the idea is that
they begin to see themselves as someone of worth
capable of improving their own lives

For those with god complexes the idea is that they
begin to realize that such complexes lessen who
they are and that development for them involves a
humbling of self.

Serving those who are materially poor without
causing more harm is an important issue that
every person seeking to engage in poverty
alleviation must continually examine.

The Modern Worldview

The Traditional Worldview




Christian Witness

Personal Religion


Hear, see, feel & touch

Science and technology




High God

Formal religion


Shamans and magic

Ancestors and spirits

Curses and blessings

Folk religion


Hear, see, feel & touch

community & family

Folk science


A majority of Western approaches to development,
including that of the Church, is focused almost exclusively
on the physical world. If people are sick it is because of
poor nutrition, dirty water, polluted environment, etc. If
people’s crops fail it is back of environmental factors.

For many people who are extremely poor materially,
especially in the global South, the answer is spiritual. If
people are sick it is because of a curse. If their crops fail it is
because they have angered the spirits. For Christians it is an
act of God or the influence of demons. The middle plays a
very important role in the well
being of life.
Story about
malaria and mosquitoes

who sent the mosquitoes?

It is not uncommon for people to seek answers in all three
levels at once. If they are sick they go to the doctor for
Western medicine, to the church for prayer and to the
traditional healer for traditional medicines. This is not seen
as contradictory, but rather a practical approach to cover all
of one’s bases.

Participatory Action Research is based on the ideas that the materially
poor and disempowered have inherent strengths and capabilities to bring
change to their lives and that development workers and researchers are to
be co
learners and actors with these communities.

We do not do it for them and they are not wholly responsible for bringing
change to their lives. Instead, there is to be a partnership in which both
sides use their strengths to bring about social change.

In PAR community participants play a central role in every aspect of the
development project, from planning and design, to implementation, to
evaluation and adjustments.

An emphasis in PAR is not only in ensuring the completion of the project
but also seeking to help community members learn how to critically
assess their situation, resources and strengths, to plan and work together
to achieve a common goal, and to access need resources and assistance.

God’s story




A shared story


new story

Our new


Our story

It is important to remember that we are not
bringing God. He has always been there and will
always be there seeking to bring about change.

It is also important to remember that the people
we serve have a story which will continue long
after we leave. This means that their perspectives
and views must always be respected and often
take precedence over our own.

It also means that any development must be
owned by them. They must want it, they must be
intimately involved in all aspects of the project and
they must be able to continue it after we leave. If
these criteria are not present then true
development cannot occur.

Chambers, Robert. 2005.
Ideas for Development

Sterling, VA:

. 1999.
God of the Empty

Handed: Poverty, Power, and the Kingdom of God

Monrovia, CA: MARC.

Corbett, Steve.
. Chicago:

IL: Moody Publishers.

, Thomas. 1992.
Empowerment: The

Politics of Alternative Development
. Cambridge,


Myers, Bryant. 2011.
Walking with the Poor



. 1999.
Development as Freedom
. New York:

Anchor Books.