Sustainable Livelihoods Model

The Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) model supports an upstream antipoverty approach to community economic development. A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets, and activities required for a means of living, and is sustainable “when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets” now and in the future 1. The SL model guides the examination of factors that affect people’s livelihoods, the relationships between them, and helps identify more appropriate entry points for interventions.

An essential characteristic of poverty is a limited ability to accumulate assets. The livelihood assets pentagon frames assets as evolving forms of capital that people are able to draw upon to achieve their livelihood goals: human capital includes skills, knowledge, health, and ability; social capital implies social networks and trust relationships; physical capital is infrastructure such as transportation, housing, and information; and financial capital refers to all financial resources (savings and income); natural capital refers to available natural resources.

The vulnerability context refers to external factors, largely outside people’s control, that have a direct impact on asset status and options.

Policies, institutions, and processes are the social and cultural institutions, organizations, policies, and legislation that control access to capital and influence strategies.

Livelihood strategies refer to the dynamic way people undertake various activities to achieve their livelihood outcomes.

Livelihood outcomes are people’s aspirations with respect to present and future livelihood, and include higher income, increased well-being, food security, and reduced vulnerability3,4.

This research is also informed by a feminist perspective that views IPV and socio-economic status (SES) as issues of power, control, and oppression.5 Violence against women “does not occur spontaneously but is linked to and embedded in the legal/social mechanisms and systems that inhibit and erode women’s equality rights.”6 (p. viii)


  1. DFID guidance Sheets
  2. 2 The SL distance learning guide.
  3. DFID (1999). Sustainable livelihoods guidance sheets. London: Author.
  4. Murray J, & Ferguson M. (2002). Women in transition out of poverty. Ottawa: WEDC.
  5. Varcoe C. (1996). Theorizing oppression: Implications for nursing research on violence against women. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 28(1), 61-78.
  6. Tutty L. (2006). Effective practices in sheltering women leaving violence in intimate relationships Phase II Report 2006. Toronto, ON: YWCA.

Other resources