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Carol Stream, Illinois 60132

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© 2022 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit. EIN: 540907624.

Shalom

A Vision for Holistic Wellbeing

The Multidimensionality of Poverty

Many people think of ending poverty only in terms of putting “money in the pocket” of people living in poverty. Another perspective, thanks scholars like Amartya Sen, is that poverty is multidimensional. People living in poverty face many challenges at once—some physical and many less tangible such as low self-esteem, isolation, and low education and skills.

The Value and Challenges of Multidimensional Interventions

Addressing poverty requires addressing the different kinds of “capital lack” – physical/financial to be sure, but also lack in human capital, social capital, and spiritual capital. Simply put, addressing poverty requires a multi-faceted approach.

But organizations cannot do everything. Understandably, and often by necessity, most organizations narrow their focus to become experts at certain key interventions. How can multidimensional poverty be addressed in this context? That brings us to Shalom.

The Vision of Shalom

One concept arising from the Christian tradition that presents a comprehensive vision of human flourishing has been the concept of “shalom” in Hebrew. Referencing a state whereby a human being is in full, joyful, relationship with God, self, others, and all creation, Shalom offers a vision and a way to assess and address the multidimensionality of poverty and of human existence. Why a biblical foundation? As seen in the recent USAID Strategic Religious Engagement Summit and Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program, accessing the religious resources available in communities can enhance the impact of any development intervention.

The Call to Assess and Strengthen

Before addressing client needs, one must first have a way to assess them. There are a number of tools for assessing different dimensions of Poverty—two prominent tools being the Poverty Probability Index (PPI) and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

While both approaches have strengths, neither seem to capture the breadth of the categories noted above – such as human, social, or spiritual capital, or related categories such as respect in the community, community acceptance and engagement, or ability to have hope and persevere. These dimensions can be difficult to capture.

The Challenge of Accessing and Leveraging Value Systems for Development

Even if we successfully overcome the assessment challenge, many of these additional dimensions are difficult to address, especially by specialist organizations. In some ways, physical and financial capital are the most tangible, and therefore the easiest to address. Other important dimensions have tended to be ignored by specialist communities and the microfinance community specifically. Recent studies suggest that this is a mistake.

For example, a recent RCT showed that facilitating “hope” could, by itself, make a difference in development outcomes. However, addressing social and “spiritual” capital requires deeper engagement of a person’s or a community’s sense of values, attitudes, and experiences. Historically, training in financial inclusion and many other development fields has not done enough to address or leverage client values and attitudes.

Opportunity’s Approach

Opportunity International has built an innovative multidimensional assessment methodology and training that can aid development organizations to catalyze their clients’ journeys in multi-faceted development:

  • The Holistic Community Assessment (the “Shalom Diagnostic”) – a qualitative, story-capture methodology that overcomes the challenges of capturing less tangible dimensions of poverty
  • The Holistic Development Training (“Pathways to Wellbeing”/Shalom Training) – a participatory experience helping clients to take the next steps in their journey toward Shalom. The training can be delivered by specialist organizations because it is streamlined, it stimulates clients to own their individual and collective development journey, and suggests that specialists link clients with additional resources to address challenges arising.