The Ladder of Life: Exploring locals’ perceptions of poverty and its trends

Woman wheat farmer in Rajbari District, Bangladesh. Photo: Ranak Martin.

This tool is used to gather data from focus groups with poor women and men about the poverty in their communities.

Why is the tool important?

This tool explores women's and men’s understanding of poverty trends in their community, and the factors and processes that shape these trends.

By understanding local experiences of poverty, we can get insights into the local culture of inequality, normative expectations and social group differences. This also tells us about people’s perceptions of opportunities for and barriers to escaping poverty.

Who is the tool for?

Designed for scientists and research teams, the tool can be adapted for formative or applied research objectives, monitoring and learning needs, longitudinal research, and mixed method approaches.

How can I use the tool?

To explore people’s understanding of their community’s poverty trends, and what shapes these trends, the tool requires evidence from focus groups.

The focus group discussions investigate the local culture of inequality, normative expectations, social group differences, perceptions of opportunities for and barriers to escaping poverty.

Focus group sizes are eight to ten poor people (women and men) in each study village. The tool calls for a four-member field team of two facilitators and two notetakers (one of each gender for each role) and takes approximately 60–90 minutes to complete.

When and how was it developed?

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and GENNOVATE published this tool in 2018, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and CGIAR Research Programs on MAIZE and WHEAT.

Where can I get the tool? Who can I contact?

You can download the Ladder of Life PDF here [1.06 MB].

To find local trainers where you will undertake a study, contact:

Lone Badstue (CIMMYT)

Patti Petesch (CIMMYT)

Petesch, Patti. 2018. Ladder of life: Qualitative data collection tool to understand local perceptions of poverty dynamics. GENNOVATE resources for scientists and research teams. CDMX, Mexico: CIMMYT.


Working Paper

Poverty and gender issues

Barbara C.M. van Koppen, Constantina Safilios-Rothschild, 'Poverty and gender issues', 2014