Tools for participatory analysis of poverty, social exclusion and vulnerability


Review a selection of quantitative and qualitative tools and methods used by development agencies to undertake micro-level participatory analysis on poverty, social exclusion, or vulnerability. Identify the scope and intended application of these tools, the skills required to use them, and any lessons learned.


Among the tools reviewed are:

  • Ranking: Commonly divided into three approaches: problem ranking, preference ranking, and wealth ranking, which enable practitioners to gain an understanding of local perceptions and preferences on a range of issues, including poverty.
  • Seasonal Calendars: Visual tools which can be useful for identifying periods of stress and vulnerability (United Nations 2006, p. 119).
  • Storytelling methodologies: Recommended in complex social situations and involving participants verbally exploring issues they face in their lives.
  • Participatory theatre: Recommended in difficult environments and when dealing with sensitive topics. This approach involves actors interacting with the public on a social problem, for example HIV/AIDS education or human rights issues (SFCG 2009).

Who uses the tools is as important as the tools themselves. Qualities and skills recommended for practitioners include the following: cultural sensitivity and awareness; previous experience (or adequate training) in using the tool; respect, humility and patience; training in recording, reporting, synthesis, and analysis; facilitation and communication skills; and skills in advocacy and project cycle management.

Best practices and lessons learned include:

  • Being aware of ethical issues: It is important to carefully manage local expectations and ensure that communities are not disadvantaged by the process.
  • Visual sharing: Visual techniques, such as models or diagrams, can stimulate conversation, encourage the inclusion of marginalised community members (especially those with low literacy levels), and are often easier to triangulate than other approaches.
  • Accessibility: The language used during the participatory process should be accessible to the widest possible range of participants. Attention should be given to gender sensitivities and steps taken to include women.