Asset accumulation and urban poverty reduction theme: research output
This is GURC’s flagship research programme initiated by Caroline Moser prior to coming to Manchester, culminated in the completion of her seminal book Ordinary Families: Extraordinary Lives: Assets and Poverty Reduction in Guayaquil 1978 - 2004’ in September 2009. This monograph is based on nearly thirty years of research into urban poverty in the Global South, and analyses longitudinal household level data from Guayaquil, Ecuador. The research objective is to understand how households in a Third World urban slum relentlessly and systematically struggle to get out of poverty by accumulating a portfolio of assets, while simultaneously pressing the local authorities to provide physical and social infrastructure. The research identifies the causes and consequences of variance in household asset portfolios and associated socio-economic im/mobility. It intentionally crosses the ‘divide’ between the academic and policy worlds, and has been written to have a formative impact on practitioner approaches to alleviating urban poverty.
The extensive body of research underpinning the book, has elucidated a new paradigm relating to the accumulation of assets. This framework theoretically challenges conventional definitions of poverty, by shifting from income / consumption measurements of poverty to a focus on asset accumulation. Equally important its explicit focus on long-term asset accumulation strategies (as well as intergenerational asset transfers and accumulation) highlights the limitations of short-term, static ‘snapshots’ of poverty and associated ‘quick-fix’ solutions, by documenting how such policies miss changes in poor household’s well-being over time, as well as generational differences in aspirations and opportunities. The framework shows how individuals become their own agents in escaping poverty by accumulating human, social, financial and productive capital and interacting and negotiating with the state, civil society, and NGOs to consolidate their gains. The outcome is a more sophisticated understanding of the complexities of inequality, poverty and asset portfolios that helps counterbalance pervasive, persistent, and embedded stereotypes and myths about global poverty and urbanization. The framework shows that achieving ‘the end of poverty’ is more complicated than those indicated by sector-specific, top-down ‘solutions’. Such insights translate into strategies that better assist people in developing countries improve their own well-being.
Following on from this, GURC has elaborated further research on a number of themes deriving from the original research on asset accumulation and poverty reduction. These include urban climate change asset adaptation, transnational migration and cities, and asset planning and cities.
Moser, Caroline (2009) Ordinary Families: Extraordinary Lives: Assets and poverty reduction in Guayaquil, 1978-2004, Washington DC: Brookings Press; Spanish Edition, (2010): SUR, Santiago.
Moser, Caroline and Andy Felton (2010) The gendered nature of asset accumulation in urban contexts: Longitudinal evidence from Guayaquil, Ecuador in Kanbur, R. , Beall, J. et al Beyond the Tipping Point: Development in an Urban World, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Moser, Caroline and Andy Felton (2009) The construction of an asset index: Measuring asset accumulation in Ecuador, in A. Addison, D. Hulme and R. Kanbur, Poverty Dynamics: A Cross –Disciplinary Perspective, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Moser, Caroline and Anis Dani (Eds) (2008) Livelihoods, Assets and Social Policy, Washington DC: World Bank
Moser, Caroline (2007) Reducing Global Poverty: the Case for Asset Accumulation, Washington DC: Brookings Press
Scaling up asset accumulation strategies on cutting edge development concerns
Principal Investigator: Caroline Moser
Summary: In 2007, the Ford Foundation approved a US$ 600,000 grant for the implementation of the project ‘Scaling up asset accumulation strategies on cutting edge development concerns’. The main purpose of the project was to strengthen the research capacity of two post-doctorate academic researchers from Southern Universities in relation to asset accumulation and cutting edge issues (such as transnational migration, HIV/AIDS and climate change) through a two year research programme at the Global Urban Research Centre (GURC), University of Manchester. The original project which closed on the 31st of December 2011 was extended until July 2012. In addition to terminating the activities of the original project, the following activities will be carried out during the extended time frame:
i. Systematization of the Urban Asset Planning (UAP) exercise in Cartagena:
For future training and capacity building on both the UAP conceptual and operational framework, GURC will develop an audiovisual presentation. This activity was not included in the Ford Foundation grant on ‘Urban Asset Planning in Cities of the Global South’, but can be undertaken with the local partners in Cartagena (Universidad Tecnológica de Bolivar) along with the pilot asset planning exercise to document the different methodological phases that will take place in the city in July 2011.
ii. Capacity building on the asset framework:
With the project funds GURC employed a talented young researcher, Philipp Horn, from March to July 2011. During this period, Philipp will participate in the UAP case study in Pondicherry, India and help GURC to systematise and prepare for publication, as working papers, the overall conceptual rationale and methodological background on the UAP and the results of the planning exercises in both Pondicherry and Cartagena.
iii. Further dissemination of longitudinal research on asset accumulation and urban poverty reduction:
The publication of Caroline Moser’s book ‘Ordinary Families: Extraordinary Lives’ has fostered considerable interest in the importance of longitudinal perspectives on urban poverty at the academic and policy levels. Yet, to date, such longitudinal studies remain the exception. To increase the profile of such important work, GURC will organise a collaborative workshop with counterpart institutions. It will bring together a number of prominent researchers that in recent years have finalised, or are in the process of finalising longitudinal studies on urban poverty. The workshop will not only focus on the results of these studies, but as importantly, on the methodologies that have been used for longitudinal research. To build capacity on longitudinal research approaches and methodologies, a number of young researchers from Latin America, Asia and Africa interested in assets and urban poverty reduction will be invited to participate. Papers presented as well as the workshop discussions will be systematized, published and disseminated worldwide as a book.
Funder: Ford Foundation funded research project.
Project duration: January 2011 - July 2012 (second phase).
Urban asset planning in the global South
Principal Investigators: Caroline Moser and Alfredo Stein.
Summary: To date, while there has been considerable progress in the identification of asset accumulation as a critical strategy of the urban poor to increase their wellbeing, capabilities and income levels, nevertheless there is still an urgent need to translate such theory into operational planning practice. This project provides an important opportunity not only to disseminate the asset accumulation/adaptation framework beyond the research and policy community to urban planners, but also to collaboratively test its utility for urban development planning practitioners and poor communities, both grappling on a daily basis with the increasing social, economic and environmental challenges in cities in the global South.
The project draws on the synergies between theoretical research on asset accumulation and community-focused action planning. To date Caroline Moser and colleagues in GURC have undertaken a significant body of conceptual and empirical research on the assets of poor urban households. In her longitudinal study in Guayaquil, Ecuador Moser first identified the important linkages between the accumulation of assets – including physical, human, financial and social capital-and poverty reduction, as well as their gender disaggregation. The framework was also used in studies in Colombia and Guatemala to assist in identifying the way in which violence and conflict erodes or transforms the poor’s assets; further research on Ecuadorian and Argentinean migrants to Barcelona focused on the role that international migration plays in the transfer not only of financial capital but also civic and political capital assets, and most recently participatory climate change adaptation appraisals (PCCAA) in Mombasa (Kenya), Estelí (Nicaragua) and Lusaka (Zambia), documented asset adaptation to increasingly severe weather at household, small business and community level.
The objective of this project is to take the asset accumulation/adaptation theoretical framework, link it to bottom-up community action planning practice and develop an approach to urban asset planning. The planning methodology is intended to enhance the negotiation and contestation capabilities of local poor communities not simply to access services, but rather to identify and achieve new asset-based economic and social opportunities.
The asset planning approach will be tested and introduced into the urban development planning practices of two secondary cities – Cartagena (Colombia) and Pondicherry (India).
Funder: Ford Foundation funded research project.
Project duration: 1 October 2010–30 September 2012.
Contacts: caroline.Moser@manchester.ac.uk and firstname.lastname@example.org