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The Relational Capability Index (RCI)

The research has allowed CODEV to elaborate and implement a mixed (quantitative and qualitative) methodology, with a focus on the quality of social ties as a core condition for socially sustainable development, and for proper CSR implementation. We believe our work on relational capabilities to be useful in order to analyze the impacts of CSR programs and identify the root causes of underdevelopment. We argue that quantitative data and indicators need to be complemented by socio-cultural and political studies.

1)     Overview

The relational Capability Index (RCI) tries to capture the quality of the social bonds among people, and provides information on their social fabric. The index entailes three dimensions: integration into networks, private relations, and civic commitment.

Table 1. Dimensions and components of the RCI

This approach is complementary to other development indexes that measure material deprivations, such as the MPI (Multidimensional Poverty Index, OPHI and UNDP), which “is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 100 developing countries. It complements traditional income-based poverty measures by capturing the severe deprivations that each person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and living standards.”[1]


2) Relational capability and poverty: definitions and philosophical roots

2.1) Relational capability

As mentioned above, we distinguish three different dimensions of relational capabilities; that is, integration into networks, private ties and civic commitments. Building on the distinction between economic, cultural and political aspects of social cohesion[2] and justice[3], we show that each of the three dimensions of relational capability is related to a certain type of inclusion/exclusion within a society, as detailed below.

  • Integration into networks is related to socio-economic inclusion: somebody who has no job, and little access to information, telecommunications and transport, is deprived and somehow excluded from relational material networks. Looking for an improvement to this first socio-economic dimension means looking for a better distribution of relational assets (for information), as well as job opportunities and transportation means.
  • Private relations are related to a cultural/social dimension of inclusion. For instance, a person who feels that they are not loved by their family, who has no friends, or who cannot rely on others in case of trouble, is culturally/socially excluded. This has to do with their lack of recognition, and with the isolation they experience. A condition for inclusion consists of a person’s social and cultural recognition.
  • Civic commitments are related to the political dimension of exclusion. A person who cannot vote, and who cannot take part in community/society life, suffers from discrimination and a lack of control over their political destiny. A key issue related to civic inclusion is the ability to participate in social and public life, as well as to be represented at different political levels.

2.2) Poverty

In order to define relational deprivation (or poverty), we first define poverty lines (or cutoffs) at the component level, as described in Table 2:

Table 2. RCI poverty lines

Second, we define poverty lines at the level of dimensions: someone who is deprived in at least one component of a dimension is considered deprived in this dimension. Third, we define poverty lines at the level of the index: someone is deprived if he/she is deprived in all of the three dimensions at the same time.


The choice of poverty lines is has philosophical roots in:

  •  Martha Nussbaum’s perspective concerning central capabilities[4]: indeed, by adopting cut-offs below which an individual is considered as relationally deprived, we implicitly defend the idea that a certain minimum threshold has to be looked for in each dimension of one’s social life
  • Our Walzerian perspective: we stress the idea, which was well expressed by Michaël Walzer,[5] that a condition of self-respect is the recognition of a person in at least one sphere of their existence. Since each of our dimensions represents a specific sphere of life, we consider that someone who reaches the highest score in terms of capabilities in at least one sphere should not be considered deprived, whatever their score in the other spheres.


This is reflected in the way we aggregate the three pillars of the RCI.

3) Index aggregation

In order to build the index, the most common methodology within multidimensional approaches to poverty is that of normative computation (a large body of literature has been inspired by the Alkire-Foster method[6]). This consists of an arithmetical aggregation of three dimensions of poverty that are theoretically defined. Each dimension is an equally weighted average of components, and is also equally weighted in the index computation.

However, dimensions of the RCI can be aggregated in different ways (for the axiomatic and the weightings, see Giraud et al., 2013[7]) but the definition of the poverty line is always the same: if an individual gets the maximum value in at least one dimension, he/she is not relationally poor.

To summarize, there are two different kinds of measures: the extent or share of poor (proportion of relationally poor people in the sample); and the intensity of poverty, calculated using different weightings and means (arithmetic, geometric, etc.). We obtain the synthetic RDI index by multiplying the share of poor and the intensity of poverty; and the synthetic RCI by multiplying the share of non-poor and the intensity of capabilities.


4) To go further 

Working papers on the RCI :



[2] Bernard, P. (1999). Social Cohesion: A critiqueCanadian Policy Research Networks.

[3] Fraser, N. (2009). Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World. New York: Columbia University Press.

[4] Nussbaum, M. (2000). Women and Human Development. The Capabilities Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[5] Walzer, M. (1983). Spheres of Justice. A Defence of Pluralism and Equality. New York: Basic Books.

[6] Alkire, S. & Foster, J. (2008). “Counting and multidimensional poverty measurement”, OPHI Working Paper.

[7] Giraud, G., Renouard, C., L’Huillier, H., De La Martinière, R., & Sutter, C. (2013). “Relational Capability: A Multidimensional Approach”, ESSEC Working Paper 1306.