Solving Problems, One ‘Stoplight’ At A Time

Eradicate poverty? Similar to scooping water out of a sinking ship using only a perforated bucket, it can seem like an impossible feat. But like most difficult tasks, the problem could be that we’re taking the wrong approach.

Set down your buckets. There may be a solution.

Welcome to Poverty Stoplight. More than just a website, it represents an innovative solution that’s been seven years in the making. Thanks to the Ballard Center and Jeff Sheets, former director of the Laycock Center, BYU students had the opportunity to develop this website in partnership with the world-renowned non-governmental organization (NGO) Fundación Paraguaya.

So, how does Poverty Stoplight work? Essentially, it is a survey that puts the power in individuals’ hands by enabling them to self-assess their level of poverty and then convert the diagnosis into a plan to overcome it.

“It is a tool for social innovators to gather detailed information at the household level, which is then used to eliminate poverty in society,” says Martin Burt, founder of Poverty Stoplight and executive director of Fundación Paraguaya.

Through careful research, fifty indicators were identified as appropriate measurements of poverty; these indicators are grouped into six dimensions in the self-assessment. “They range from a person’s monetary status to their education to their emotional state,” says Todd Manwaring, director of the Ballard Center. “As we know, poverty cannot be defined as just a financial issue.”

The survey is extremely user friendly, using clear and simple visuals to accommodate those with lower literacy levels. To rank each indicator, there is a choice between red, indicating extreme poverty; yellow, indicating poverty; or green, indicating no poverty. Hence the name Poverty Stoplight.

Once the survey has been administered, field workers help formulate a customized plan with the individual or family. They return periodically to evaluate the plan and see how their efforts have helped the client’s poverty status.

Although the website just recently went live, Poverty Stoplight has already had a positive impact, so far helping thirty thousand families escape from poverty. Not a bad accomplishment to list on your résumé.

BYU students ranging from a wide spectrum of majors were involved in the research, promotion, and design of the website. “I had seen a YouTube video about Fundación Paraguaya and really wanted to get involved,” strategy major Preston Alder says. “Even though I was studying business, they hired me as a video editor and throughout the semester I worked on promotional and case study videos.”

Interview Setup

BYU students from different fields of study had the opportunity to help in the development of Poverty Stoplight.

“BYU has four aims towards education,” Manwaring says. “The Ballard Center is here to help students realize the fourth aim, which states that a BYU education should be leading to lifelong learning and service. I am so excited about this project with Fundación Paraguaya because students were able to use their skills as sociologists, filmmakers, advertisers, etc., in an effort to solve social problems.”

To learn more about ways you can get involved through the BYU Ballard Center, click here.