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Gathering Allies Worldwide: Dignity Initiative Reflections for 2022

Ganga Ben Vanita leads the renovation of an apartment inAhmedabad, Gujarat, India. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment.

As we wrap up our first year with IDinsight, we at the Dignity Initiative are reflecting on our work and learnings – and that of our allies –  in the 2022 Dignity Report, “Gathering Allies Worldwide”. In this year’s report, we look back on our progress, presenting the tools we have built to help measure and audit dignity within our organization and beyond. We also share some of the work we’ve done embedding dignity ideas and measures into projects across IDinsight. 

In the spirit of gathering allies worldwide, in this year’s report, we invite a global perspective on the dignity agenda, with written contributions from over a dozen of our allies worldwide. In order to build a world where everyone’s dignity is respected, we must work as a collective. Our network of allies is an invaluable asset in the effort to do so.  

Below, we highlight some lessons we’ve learned over the year and a preview of this year’s report.

1. Developing measures for dignity is integral to maximizing the potential for dignity to impact the sector. In Section 3.1 – “Stories of Dignity”, we share some of the qualitative stories of dignity that are vital to our understanding of the human narratives that underline the importance of respect for dignity. Measuring respect for dignity quantitatively as well allows us to empirically understand whether people’s experience accessing services reflects an acknowledgement of, and care for, their full humanity. This year, Tom Wein, Priyanka Khatry, and Rachna Bhimani worked to develop and validate a five-item scale for measuring Felt Respect for Dignity, resulting in a working paper, which we summarize in Section 2.1 of the 2022 Dignity Report – Measures of Respect. See below the five questions used in the measure – and use them in your own work, as programs serving almost 11 million people are already doing:

2. Building cultures of dignity is possible. Our vision of a world where everyone’s dignity is respected is necessary, but it is also ambitious.  Building this world will be a time-intensive and collaborative effort. In Section 2.2 – Cultures of Dignity, we share some learnings from a case study of five organizations that have worked hard to build dignity into their internal cultures. These organizations are Goonj, Partners In Health, All Together in Dignity Fourth World, Tostan, and GiveDirectly. In these case studies, we learn that creating this kind of culture at scale is indeed possible. It takes time, intentional focus on those you serve, and collaboration. We take these lessons with us as we continue to work on embedding dignity values within IDinsight and advocating for them across the sector.

3. A vast network of allies is researching, advocating for, and working to build dignity within their communities, organizations, and beyond. In Section 2.5 – The Dignity Research Agenda, we share more about the 2022 Dignity Symposium, in which we brought together a network of researchers, policymakers, and others to discuss their current work on dignity. The symposium revealed that while many people are interested in dignity, their interests span many disciplines, with dignity often not being the primary focus of their work. To encourage a concerted, coordinated study of dignity, we and our partners identified five themes of dignity research:

If you’re interested in coordinating, collaborating, and recognising the value of studying dignity, we invite you to co-sign the consensus statement on dignity research.

4. Finally, we’re excited to share how we continue to embed dignity into every aspect of IDinsight’s systems, culture, and work. In order to become an accountable and exemplary institution, we must first begin by looking inwards to reflect on how we can improve. This year, we gathered perspectives from enumerators, staff members, and clients that will guide our work on improving respect for dignity in the future. For more information on how we’re working to strengthen dignity within IDinsight, we invite you to read Section 2.8 of the report – Auditing Dignity Inside IDinsight. 

Beyond working on our internal systems, the Dignity Initiative is continuously working to help incorporate dignity ideas into IDinsight’s existing and future projects. Chapter 3 of the 2022 Dignity Report highlights our latest research and shares what we and our allies have been learning about dignity. Some topics covered in this chapter include Cash transfers with respect (Section 3.2), How to ask for consent (Section 3.5), Life as an enumerator (Section 3.6), and Dignity around the world and the sector (Section 3.9).

As the Dignity Initiative, we believe that dignity is inherent to all people, regardless of who they are or how they act. We further believe that because people have dignity, they are entitled to respect, and individuals define what respect looks like for themselves. As we continue to learn, grow, and better understand how to share and uphold these ideals, we invite you to join The Dignity Collective, where allies of dignity gather to learn from each other. We invite you to sign up for the monthly Dignity Initiative newsletter to stay in touch and learn about upcoming events, opportunities to contribute, new tools and evidence, and more.