Themicroloanfoundation's Blog

Mzungu in Kasungu: What is a Chair?
June 1, 2010, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Great post from our social impact researcher, Daniella, down in Kasungu.

No, the muzungu in Kasungu is not getting philosophical! The chair question one of many issues that I was discussing yesterday with the Branch Manager and two Loan officers of Mchinji branch, our second pilot location. They’re going to be doing the PPI (Progress out of Poverty Index) in a group setting, compared to Kasungu branch where we’re testing it in the home setting.

Martha Nkhoma, the Operations Manager, and I were training the branch staff in how carry out the questionnaires that make up the three pilots (social assessment including the PPI, training feedback and exit surveys). One of the PPI questions asks, ‘does your household own a chair, table, upholstered chair, sofa set or coffee table?’. On the face of it this looks like quite a simple question, right? Not so much. We have to define what constitutes a household (does a relative who stays every so often count? what about children who are away at boarding school? or orphans being cared for in the home?). Then, silly as it sounds, we have to define what a chair is. It has to have a back, not be a stool or bench, it has to be functional and not lying broken in a corner. Quote of the day at this point is “if you can sit in it, then it’s a chair. If it’s a pile of sticks then it’s not a chair.” And so it goes on, with definitions for an upholstered chair, coffee table etc. The details of data collection are complex and it’s important the front line staff understand not only the intricacies, but comprehend the bigger picture of why we’re doing this so they can explain it to the clients.

Martha and I came away from the day’s training activity feeling positive. The staff were engaged and asked searching questions. The next step is for the staff to test their new knowledge in the field and for me to discuss any potential problems and feedback with them before the pilots can kick off.


2 Comments so far
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That’s great. I really can imagine the need for such questions in a rural context, one can’t take things for granted. Even if it is the definition of what a chair is.

How does a PPI work btw? I am curious as to how it’s carried out.

Keep up the good word,

Comment by Shanil Samarakoon

Hi Shanil,

Thanks for your comment – looks like you guys are doing some really interesting work too…keep us informed!

PPI basically acts as an indicator to show us a) the level of poverty those we help are at when they join the programme b) the level of poverty (or hopefully not!) they are at when they complete one of our loan cycles.

It works as a list of 14 questions based on things such as how many members are in a household, the kind of assets a family owns, eating habits etc. We will be releashing a full update once the results of the pilot study are released – watch our here and on Facebook and

All the best,


Comment by themicroloanfoundation

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