development websites

Dollar Street – how the world lives

This week I read Factfulness, by Hans Rosling and his regular collaborators, son Ola and  daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Ronnland. Between them they founded the Gapminder foundation, and developed the TED talks that Rosling was best known for. Hans died last year and as last words go, Factfulness is pretty special. But I’ll tell you about it next week.

Today I wanted to mention Dollar Street, a web project that features in the book. One of the key messages from Gapminder is that we don’t know how the world lives – something they have proven repeatedly with their quiz about global trends. Dollar Street aims to rectify this situation by helping us to visualise progress in everyday terms. It’s hard to understand what development looks like through statistics. How about photos instead? Photos that show what people eat, where they sleep, how they travel?

Gapminder sent photographers out around the world to photograph ordinary people and their possessions and everyday lives. Then they have plotted all the households on a line, like a street with all the homes in the world, running from the poorest on the left to the richest on the right. It’s a fascinating portrait of humanity, highlighting the things we hold in common, the things we aspire to, and the many small steps forward – a salt shaker, a bar of soap, a lock on the front door – that constitute progress as a lived experience. Well worth exploring.


  1. What a powerful project! I found myself feeling guilty about our excess, even though we are moving in the direction of being a more self-sustained family and producing less waste. There’s so much need in the world and this project really puts things in perspective for me.

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