> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly and Veronica Trujillo, Fellow and Consultant, CFI and MIF/IDB

Where can you find up-to-date and comparable information on the state of microfinance and financial inclusion? Which are the most trusted sources? These issues were recently explored in a research effort designed to lay the groundwork for broadening the scope of the EIU Global Microscope on the Business Environment for Microfinance from an emphasis on microfinance to financial inclusion. As part of this process, Fusion Research conducted a detailed assessment on the relevance of the Microscope.

As sponsors of the Microscope, what we found through the study was a pleasant surprise. Seventy-nine percent of people surveyed (more than 500 microfinance sector stakeholders from different countries around the world, with a high proportion of participants coming from Latin America and the Caribbean) were at least aware of the Microscope, and most of these people have used or consulted it. Closely trailing the Microscope, 76 percent of people surveyed were aware of the MIX Country and MFI Benchmark Reports.

Market Analysis of Microfinance Resources

In terms of actual use of the tools, the MIX leads the way, almost tied with the Microscope. When we look at use of the tools by stakeholder type, we see a greater diversity in which tools different kinds of people use.

Investors are most and equally likely to use the EIU Country Reports and the Microscope. Their need to know the country microfinance context and level of market development to make better decisions is likely to explain such preference. Those who work for financial services entities seem to like the detail and competition data that the MIX provides. Their second most used source is the Microscope, revealing the importance for them of country regulatory and operative environment. Foundations appear to use the Microscope and MIX data in tandem. The Global Findex (The World Bank Global Financial Inclusion Index) is most used by regulators/policymakers and DFIs/foundations, while academics, think tanks, and those working in business or consulting are most likely to use the Global Microscope.

Respondents to the survey, on average, reported using between three and four resources in their work. In terms of usefulness, MIX reports and the Global Microscope on Microfinance were rated as very useful for more than 55 percent of the people interviewed.

Awareness and Use of Tools by Stakeholder Type

The amount of data that we have on microfinance and financial inclusion is growing. Information providers therefore know that their audience has a limited amount of time to spend on any one resource. We suspect that those resources which remain relevant over the next decade will be those which, in addition to delivering high quality content, have an effective communication strategy behind them, and offer multiple interactive and web-based tools and data for analysis. This outreach and engagement will help resources appeal to a wide variety of stakeholders. Other aspects the microfinance audience seems to appreciate are in-depth as well as succinct analysis of each market, easy comparability of information, and transparency in the way rankings are created, which is a key element to support validity.

We on the Global Microscope team are excited about what the results mean for the relevance of the tool for the audiences we are trying to reach. And we’ll be eager to see how the Microscope will be used more or differently as we re-configure the methodology to cover financial inclusion more broadly.

We are curious to know: what are the resources that you most frequently turn to in your work?  And what do you look for when you choose your frequently-consulted sources? Feel free to leave your answer below in the comments.

This post is also published on the MIF/IDB Blog.

*Data for all figures comes from Fusion Research and Analytics.

**A note on the methodology: The survey, conducted by Fusion Research and Analytics, was composed of over 500 people in about 30 countries. The sample was a convenience sample, with Latin America and the Caribbean over-represented. Follow-up phone interviews were conducted with over 40 people in the sample.

Have you read?

Global Microscope Finds the World Getting More Microfinance-Friendly

Announcing the Launch of the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) Microdata

G20 Financial Inclusion Indicators: The New Data Sandbox