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> Posted by Chris Wolff

At long last, Game of Thrones (GoT) has returned to our world!

Showing us ways the realm can collide with our realities, the cast’s appearance on Conan at last year’s Comic-Con drew attention to care for refugees fleeing Syria with the IRC. So here’s an allegory global citizens can follow: “Game of Thrones: Financial Inclusion edition!”

To play this game, start by identifying which character best embodies your own industry or strategy. Here’s a rundown of all the actors that can alleviate poverty in various manners.

Banks = Lannisters. As the major incumbents with the most money and power, in both worlds they’re a strong ally, but better make sure your interests stay aligned. I’m not referring to the villainy or goodness of individual characters, but as a family house you have to admit the kingdom hasn’t run without them. And as with the rivals who take Tyrion in and listen to his counsel, wouldn’t you want such a seconded expert able to understand multiple perspectives and models?

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> Posted by Joanna Ledgerwood, Senior Advisor, Access to Finance, Aga Khan Foundation

The following post was originally published in the Guardian Development Professionals Network DAI Partner Zone.

The microfinance industry has come under withering attack in recent years, pilloried among other things for its high interest rates and its coverage, which is often estimated to reach less than 10 percent of the population. But practitioners, the media, and the public should understand that microfinance is a broad term for a highly differentiated financial sector that is not without its successes. Each type of provider — from banks to savings groups — plays a particular role in providing the continuum of services typically needed to promote “financial inclusion” in underserved areas.

My recently published book, The New Microfinance Handbook: A Financial Market System Perspective, addresses the need to broaden microfinance’s reach to meet the diverse financial service needs of clients. For financial inclusion to increase, each type of institution must be deployed in the contexts in which it works best. Together, funders and governments must take a holistic, context-driven approach to improving financial services in poor areas — referred to as the market systems approach. While the commercialization of microfinance has had its successes, we need to consider the entire system, especially community-based providers, if we are to reach the rural poor with appropriate financial services.

The Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP), an NGO set up and supported by the Aga Khan Foundation in Tajikistan, is a good example of a market systems approach where a variety of financial initiatives work collaboratively. Launched as a relief and humanitarian initiative, MSDSP transitioned to become a development organization, promoting good governance and local economic development. Recognizing that the legacy of distrust in the formal financial sector has been particularly damaging to people living in mountainous areas — already subject to isolation, marginalization, and deep poverty — MSDSP aims to address the lack of accessible financial services.

In the remote rural areas where MSDSP works, community-based savings groups (CBSGs) are at the heart of a successful effort to bring financial services to the poor, supported by a broad spectrum of financial and social institutions. Based on tested models in Africa and South Asia, CBSGs are simple savings and borrowing associations. Under the direction of elected leaders, groups of 15 to 25 members gather biweekly to manage their financial activities. After two months of training followed by approximately seven months of close supervision, CBSGs continue to operate, without external support, for many years. Members access loans and pay interest of about three percent per month, and all interest received contributes to increasing the loan fund which is periodically, usually annually, distributed back to members. No external capital is required, making CBSGs transparent and profitable for the members.

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Credit Suisse is a founding sponsor of the Center for Financial Inclusion. The Credit Suisse Group Foundation looks to its philanthropic partners to foster research, innovation and constructive dialogue in order to spread best practices and develop new solutions for financial inclusion.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.