Many development agencies seek to work on behalf of the ‘poor’ and the ‘poorest of the poor’, often creating external definitions of poverty and of people living in poverty that are based on a complex list of things that the poor do not have. There are others who have spearheaded efforts to define poverty based on criteria derived from members of (largely) rural communities, many of whom would be considered poor. All such definitions ultimately result in some type of grouping of people into different categories of ‘poor people’. By creating a list of characteristics of poverty, agencies believe that they are better able to target ‘the poor’ as beneficiaries of interventions to eradicate poverty. This article is intended to challenge development organisations (governmental and non-governmental) to look beyond simple definitions of poverty that are based on static characteristics. It is intended to provoke readers to re-evaluate some of their ideas about definitions of poverty, and to critically examine their agency’s role in the business of poverty.
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