Poverty Alleviation & Studies On Empowerment

Understanding the processes that motivate and sustain feelings of empowerment

Charting how empowerment impacts poverty alleviation

 Mindbridge has partnered with India-based organizations such as PRADAN, a thirty-year old non-governmental organization (NGO) working to alleviate rural poverty, in order to understand the complex interaction between: 1) NGO programming, 2) socio-political structural factors and 3) psychological mechanisms unpinning motivational behavior (such as agency and feelings of empowerment). With this information, Mindbridge seeks to link how changes in psychology impact, and potentially increase, gross annual income among the rural poor.

Identifying the precise effects of a given intervention is a complex and challenging task. This issue is particularly salient in an uncertain economic climate, where governments are under great pressure to promote programs that can recharge growth and reduce poverty. For many organizations, a method for combating systemic poverty has been the introduction of Self-Help Groups (SHG). Since the founding idea for SHGs in the late 1970s, where the focus was on inter-loaning and group savings, programming within contemporary SHGs can now vary widely. Current SHGs while continuing to include inter-loan programs now extended to include rural micro enterprises, literacy and educational programs, as well as direct attempts at promoting cognitive behavioral therapy approaches to influence behavior.


Once such organization is Mindbridge’s partner, PRADAN, a pioneer in the promotion of SHGs in India, having formed its first SHG in Alwar, Rajasthan in 1987. The work undertaken by PRADAN is centered on enhancing the livelihood capabilities of the rural poor through the implementation of a holistic engagement model. This model integrates the introduction of technical/organizational skills with an explicit interest in catalyzing community member agency through the introduction of psychological programming. However PRADAN is not alone. There are hundreds of of organizations promoting SHGs in India with nearly 12,000 SHG sites established throughout the country.


Understanding what works, what does not, and how measured changes in experience are attributable to a particular project or intervention are crucial to any organization. However, standard methods of impact assessment are usually ill equipped to ascertain the multidimensional reality of the lived, psychological experience. This becomes even more critical when organizations employ psychological techniques in order to produce behavioral change. Today, the term SHG has become nearly synonymous with concepts such as “empowerment” and “agency,” with nearly 100,000 articles online dedicated to the discussion of microfinance, self-help groups, and empowerment. For organizations, such as PRADAN, where the development of such psycho-socially motivated projects, such as Self-Help Groups (SHG), are noted as “key tools in fulfilling its missions and goals,” understanding the psychological dimensions underlying the motivation of changed behavior is of crucial importance. And yet, to date, no psychological study assessing the role of SHGs on the experience of agency or empowerment, and how this ultimately impacts gross-annual income, has ever been attempted.


Beginning in the summer of 2016, Mindbridge will launch an India-based three-year study in order to understand the complex interaction between: 1) NGO programming, 2) socio-political structural factors, and the psychological mechanisms underpinning motivational behavior, such as agency and empowerment. With this information, Mindbridge will link how changes in psychology impact, and potentially increase, gross annual income among the rural poor.


neuroscienceMindbridge is a not-for-profit organization connecting psychological and neurobiological insight to non-profit and government-sponsored humanitarian efforts.


  • Engagement – project-specific study design
  • Assessment – individually tailored assessment tools
  • Ambassadorships – connecting research to organizations


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