> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, CFI

A couple months ago we announced a new program coming out of the Center for Financial Inclusion and Accion designed to produce actionable research for the microfinance and financial inclusion industry. We’ve been busy since, overwhelmed by the positive response we had to our announcement, and torn between many high-quality research proposals.

In recent days we selected four fellows to carry out research that we think will have an influence on the future of financial inclusion. Without further adieu, I would like to introduce you to…

Guy Stuart, Microfinance Opportunities 

“Is G2P an On-Ramp to Financial Inclusion?”

Guy will ask whether G2P payments serve as an on-ramp to financial inclusion, and what factors best explain the successful transition from cashing out G2P payments to active use of an account. The research will study this in-depth in two countries, Pakistan and Colombia, using the Benazir Income Support Program and the Familias en Accion program as bases for analysis. The research will be supported by the Pakistan Microfinance Network and Centro de Formacion Empresarial de la Fundacion Maria Santo Domingo, using key informant interviews, focus groups, and site-based observations of G2P transactions. Guy is the Executive Director of Microfinance Opportunities. He has extensive experience conducting research on the financial capabilities of low-income consumers.

Leon Perlman, Independent Consultant 

“Challenges of Technology Access in Enhancing Financial Inclusion”

Leon’s research will look in detail at the opportunities and challenges of the current and projected technological evolution. The research focuses specifically on changing technology, bearer services, access platforms, and user devices. To articulate these challenges and opportunities, Leon will take a market-level approach to policy, pricing, access coverage, cost of devices, challenges to security, and usability. Leon Perlman is a PhD-level expert in digital financial services, payments systems, financial inclusion, mobile technology, and compliance, with over 16 years of experience in the sector. He has also advised central banks, finance ministries, the ITU, the Gates Foundation, GSMA, the World Bank/IFC, and the World Economic Forum.

Christy Stickney, Independent Consultant 

“Financing the Growth of Enterprise (How did they do it?!?)”

Christy will ask the question of how entrepreneurs transition from microenterprises to small businesses. By looking at time series data from financial institutions and enterprises in multiple markets, her research will identify patterns and practices among entrepreneurs who have utilized financial services while successfully growing their businesses. The research will also leverage face-to-face interviews with selected clients and their loan officers beyond institution-level data. The purpose of the research is to offer insight into what a successful business model would be for MFIs seeking to expand their outreach into the small business sector, and better serve their current client base in growing their enterprises beyond the micro-level. Christy has been engaged in microfinance since 1993, having developed loan and savings products for women micro-entrepreneurs and then going on to design a variety of other types of financial products and services. Since 2010 she has worked as a consultant in financial services and inclusive market development, and is based in Costa Rica.

Amy Jensen Mowl, IFMR Finance Foundation 

“Big Data for Financial and Social Inclusion: Opportunities and Challenges for Alternative Data and Credit Analytics in India”

In developing countries, “big data” analytics has been touted as having the power to unlock the door to more fair, convenient, equitable financial access to all citizens. While its promise is compelling, the evidence on the ground is thin, and recent debates in high-income countries have highlighted very real fears that these data and technologies will exacerbate the financial and social inequities they were engineered to alleviate. Amy’s work attempts to fill the knowledge gap in India and serve as a starting point for a longer-term, action-oriented engagement with stakeholders in the sector. Amy Jensen Mowl is a development economist based in India specializing in financial inclusion. She has nearly a decade of experience conducting qualitative and quantitative research in the country, her most recent focus being on the institutional and structural barriers to financial inclusion.

We look forward to sharing with you the fellows’ research as they move forward!

The research fellows webpage can be found here.

Have you read?

Increasing Poverty Outreach: Suggestions from Recent Research

New Research Highlights Increasing Use of Alternative Data in Credit Reporting

Individually Tailored Financial Education: What Research Tells Us Is Possible