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Limitations and Frontiers: Concepts, Measures, and Applications of the Capability Approach

Webinar with Sabina Alkire
6 August, Friday, 10:30-12:00 BST (GMT+1) / 11:30-13:00 CEST (GMT+2)

Description: Since HDCA was launched in 2004, applications of well-being and multidimensional poverty have gained ground, including applications drawing from the Capability Approach. It has been a period of intense reflection, experimentation, hope, competition, and learning. In parallel, the data environment and availability of qualitative, quantitative, and participatory data has bounded forward, as has policy interest in topics central to the capability approach. This has truly been a fertile period.

This talk will review a few advances, then focus on and call for creative investment in some high priority gaps, such as:

  • Can poverty and well-being measures be linked, to understand a fuller set of aspects of life for poor and non-poor alike?
  • How and when must research create spaces to reflect on what people value and have reason to value?
  • Can management techniques in business be a ‘new frontier’ for work in how to advance capabilities and human development – for the working community and via the products?
  • With the data revolutions, why has it proven so difficult to obtain accurate, regularly updated data on capabilities?
  • How can the interface between data providers (singly and in groups) be created, so they can interact with their own data accurately and swiftly. Can they edit or update data? Can this and should this link to ‘how to’ resources?
  • Should diverse data sources be merged at the level of a person? Is it feasible to maintain impeccable privacy controls?
Naturally this talk draws on a number of papers prepared with dedicated co-authors.

Recording available here


Sabina Alkire's slides available here


Sabina Alkire directs the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), a research centre within the Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford. Sabina works on a new approach to measuring poverty and well-being that looks at clustered disadvantages. This multidimensional approach to measurement can consider overlapping challenges in health, education, nutrition, standard of living, work, and other valuable aspects of life. With her colleague James Foster (OPHI Research Associate and Professor of Economics at George Washington University) Sabina devised a counting-based method for measuring multidimensional poverty that has been widely used by governments, international agencies, and other actors. She has participated in and learned from initiatives seeking to take a broader approach to well-being, such as the French Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (instigated by President Sarkozy); the United Nations Human Development Programme Human Development Report Office; the European Commission; and the UK’s Department for International Development. Sabina has published numerous articles and chapters on the capability approach, human development, poverty, and well-being.



April - August 2021 Webinar Series

Multidimensional Well-Being:
Concepts, Measurement, & Applications

Questions/Suggestions? E-mail us at: 2021multidimensional [at] gmail.com

The webinar series brings together and into conversation established scholars, junior researchers, and practitioners working to conceptualise, measure, and improve multidimensional well-being. It addresses and allows for discussion regarding both long-standing and contemporary issues regarding the conceptualization and measurement of well-being, with a special focus on applications related to the Capability Approach.


General themes running through the series include concepts of well-being, philosophies of well-being measurement, methodological issues including formal procedures for multidimensional measurement, the role of participation and deliberation, empirical applications and challenges, policy uses and implications, and current research frontiers.


The series is hosted by a group of junior HDCA scholars and aims at providing a forum for exchanges and discussions between junior and senior researchers and practitioners, and in combining their competencies. All are welcome.