Sustainable Livelihoods

Sustainable Livelihoods is an evidence-based approach designed to capture the many effects of social and economic exclusion on people’s lives.

It focuses on supporting individuals and communities to develop asset-building strategies that can move them towards resilient livelihoods.

Drawing on an international development model honed through 20 years of collaboration, learning and adaptation among Canadian practitioners, Sustainable Livelihoods Canada (SLC)’s Framework and tools offer practitioners and funders practical, participatory ways to promote livelihood development and social justice.

An Overview of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework

This Framework explores four dimensions of a livelihood, all of which can be customized to working with individuals, groups and communities, and to different local contexts.

The Vulnerability Context

The Vulnerability Context is what creates and perpetuates people’s vulnerability to poverty, and what has to be addressed in order to support more active, strategic interventions.  We encourage you to customize SL to identify the challenges you face in your communities.


Assets are the building blocks of any sustainable livelihood. SL identifies six broad asset areas, which usually include but are not restricted to: basic needs, connections, money, identity, skills/knowledge, and health (see Diagram). Building strengths holistically in these areas is essential to advancing social inclusion and participation in the economy.

The Stages of Livelihood Development

The stages of livelihood development are the asset building steps that people cycle through as they build assets and, over time, move towards social and economic engagement. SL supports people to develop livelihoods strategies that build the conditions and capacity to participate.

The Policy and Institutional Context

The policy and institutional context refers to the context, driven by institutions and their current policies, that can influence and determine people’s access to resources and prospects for success. SL promotes learning and advocacy to strengthen poverty reduction initiatives.

SL Backgrounder

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