Move Forward Elmira: A Poverty Stoplight Initiative from Cornell Cooperative Extension

Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Poverty Reduction Coalition of Elmira, and the Natural Leaders Initiative are offering a new program in Elmira to improve the lives of its citizens. Now approved for the people in the City of Elmira’s census tract 6 (see map below), “Move Forward Elmira,” a Poverty Stoplight Initiative, is kicking off tonight from 5-7pm in the rear parking lot of Grace Episcopal Church (375 W. Church St). They are hosting this event for the residents of the census tract as a gathering place for neighbors to meet and greet. It is family friendly; offering free food, music, and a work clothing giveaway for men and women.


Census Tract 6 neighborhood in Elmira, NY


What is the Poverty Reduction Coalition?

“The Chemung County Poverty Reduction Coalition is part of a larger, state-wide project with other CCE organizations and Cornell University’s Tom Hirschl, professor of sociology. The objectives of the larger project are to engage local community leaders in shared learning about the activities and policies affecting poverty in their area. The project seeks to enrich the knowledge base on contextual poverty to create educational and awareness programs, and to then disseminate this information to policy makers throughout the state.

The goal of the Chemung County Poverty Reduction Coalition is to begin a dialogue on the realities and prevalence of poverty in Chemung County, which is concentrated in the City of Elmira. We are looking to unite community leaders and members that work to address this issue to further our efforts to combat economic hardship in our county.”

What is Move Forward Elmira?

This is a program initially being offered to people who reside in the City of Elmira’s Census Tract 6.

If you live in the Census Tract 6, you may have already seen this flyer:

What is the Poverty Stoplight?

“The Poverty Stoplight Methodology seeks to eliminate the multidimensional poverty that affects the families with whom we work. It allows families to trace their own poverty map and develop and implement a clear plan to overcome it.

Through a visual survey which uses a series of photographs, families self-assess their level of poverty in 50 indicators grouped into 6 dimensions of poverty which are: Income & Employment, Health & Environment, Housing & Infrastructure, Education & Culture, Organization & Participation and Interiority & Motivational. Each indicator is defined as Red (extreme poverty), Yellow (poverty) or Green (not poverty). For applying the Poverty Stoplight survey, we use software developed in conjunction with Hewlett Packard.

This methodology seeks to provide innovative solutions to poverty, while identifying practical solutions that are normally there, but cannot be distinguished without the advice of a person who acts as a mentor.”

Example of a question on the Poverty Stoplight

Watch this video to learn more:


Some quotes from assorted news sources:

The Poverty Stoplight is a metric and, at the same time, a methodology that helps families measure their level of poverty and identify as well as create customized strategies to solve their specific deprivations. Dr. Martin Burt, Director of the Fundacion Paraguya, developed the Poverty Stoplight as a means to help reduce poverty in Paraguay. Based on the success there, it is now used in more than 25 countries. The United Nations recognizes the Poverty Stoplight as an example of a successful poverty reduction program. The Elmira project will be one of only three in the United States, which include New Orleans and Washington, DC. Dr. Burt has agreed to work with the CCE Chemung and the Chemung County Poverty Coalition to implement it in Elmira. The Coalition members have been working on the indicators for the metric over the past several months and will be finalizing the Elmira version in the next month.

Using an app on a phone, tablet or computer, families take a visual survey to produce a poverty map that allows them to see the details of their poverty on a dashboard. Families select images, categorized as red, yellow or green, that resemble their reality for each poverty indicator. Through its geo-tagging capabilities, the app then generates poverty maps for entire communities, allowing stakeholders to make targeted efforts and to better channel resources in a joint effort to eliminate poverty.









The Library District works with the Poverty Reduction Coalition to identify needs and meet people’s needs for resources in the area.  We have developed this Elmira Survival Guide to assist our patrons in immediate need of assistance:

Chemung Schuyler Survival Guide_Emergency services for patrons BROCHURE

For more resources in the area, call 2-1-1 or visit