Reducing poverty and improving wellbeing: time for a new ‘human’ face?

Reducing poverty and improving wellbeing: time for a new ‘human' face?


28 Sep 2023    
1:00pm - 2:00pm

Event Type


28 September 13:00 – 14:00 BST

Register for the webinar here

In the past three decades, development and poverty reduction goals have increasingly been framed around a human-centred approach. Rather than aiming for narrow goals of economic growth and income-based poverty reduction, efforts have adopted a more multidimensional stance that acknowledges the range of needs that underpin quality of life – as evidenced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).

At the same time, policy interventions are often devoid of a ‘human face’. The search for cost-effective, affordable, and scalable solutions has led to a highly technocratic approach that is premised on largely linear and singular understandings of poverty and how to escape it. Policies tend to overlook the heterogeneity of people’s needs and experiences, underestimate the increasingly precarious context in which they are trying to shape their wellbeing, and rarely acknowledge or build on the human connections that are fundamental to living well. In addition, efforts to reduce poverty tend to be narrowly focused on changing undesirable behaviours of people in poverty with little focus on the wider socioeconomic structures, barriers and discourse that drive poverty.

In this seminar, Dr Keetie Roelen argues that it’s time for a new ‘human face’ in policies that seek to reduce poverty and improve wellbeing. Building on research by Dr Roelen and others, including in Bangladesh, Burundi, and Haiti, Dr Roelen proposes that efforts that take greater account of heterogeneity, precarity, human connection, and wider poverty narratives aren’t merely more dignified and respectful but can also galvanise impact and reduce inequality.

Dr Keetie Roelen is Senior Research Fellow and Co-Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Development.