December 12, 2016

‘Leave No One Behind.’

Coady Institute’s Yogesh Ghore contributes expertise to Rockefeller Foundation study of extreme poverty.

Yogesh Ghore has studied some of the world’s most complex market systems, but he also knows the power of a simple story.

From his small office on the campus of St. Francis Xavier University, Ghore and colleagues are researching a harsh reality most of us will never experience – living with a disability in extreme poverty.

An international research collaboration

He’s traveled twice to Uganda to help gather personal stories, teaming up with researchers at two UK-based organizations – the Institute of Development Studies and ADD International.

It’s part of a two-year Rockefeller Foundation project to see if market-based solutions can improve the lives of those who are all but ignored in formal work or business environments.

These are people whose disability, gender or even HIV-status can determine whether they live in a secure home or on the street; whether they can buy their own food or must rely on others.

Field research in Uganda

“So with IDS, we’ve collected 102 stories, half from rural areas in Uganda, the other half in the urban centre of Kampala.

These were disabled people who are economically active and trying very hard to make a living.”

Ghore and the IDS team conducted interviews with individuals and families in rural and urban Uganda.

They met people like Atochi*, who was stricken by polio as a child. Now a single mother of four, she has cobbled together jobs as a tailor, farmer and produce trader.

Or Stella*, born blind in one eye and left a widow when her soldier husband was killed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Although she now runs a successful brewery and vegetable farm, Stella says she continues to battle against discrimination while earning an income to support her seven children.

Facing market and social realities

“Basically we went to them and just asked, ‘Okay, tell us about your life story,” says Ghore. “How you started, how you interact with the market, access loans and deal with customers. What were your obstacles?”

He could then compare their experiences to those of able-bodied people working in similar situations.

“We were also looking for positive, inspirational examples where people have succeeded despite their limitations,” he says.

After the field research, Ghore and colleagues dug deeper by hosting a week-long workshop in Kampala, which included government and civil society representatives.

He says the research will inform the Rockefeller Foundation as it considers funding global projects that promote more inclusive economies.

It will also provide new, relevant content for his own livelihoods and market course at Coady Institute.

“We are learning a great deal about the realities faced by the extremely marginalized,” he says. “As we explore solutions, one thing is clear. One-sized or blanket solutions don’t work.”

*In order to protect the identity of the individual, the names have been changed.