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> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research and Evaluation Specialist, and Kathleen Stack, Vice President, Programs, Freedom from Hunger

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Recently, Dean Karlan published an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled “The Next Stage of Financial Inclusion.” The key points of his article are that while non-profits led the way in developing microcredit for the poor and started the movement for financial inclusion, for-profit companies have increasingly found it worth their while to offer financial services for the base of the pyramid. The entrance of new players to the market, Karlan offers, is a testament to the success of the early microfinance-focused non-profits. However, Karlan suggests that non-profits still have an important role in continuing to innovate in the financial services space. We agree. This is particularly true for extending financial services to people that banks still consider unprofitable: “the too rural, the too poor and the too young.” We would add disabled populations and the “too old.”

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> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI

We are in full World Cup fervor in the Accion offices around the world, with jerseys making appearances at global staff meetings, water cooler conversations centering on surprise advancements (and eliminations), and a high incidence of lingering trips to the conference room screen to check scores in between meetings and deadlines. You could say things are getting a little heated as the group of teams still in the running gets smaller.

There have been a few attempts to use this global competition as an opportunity to better understand our world. The Wall Street Journal published a “World Cup of Everything Else,” where countries can be matched up on categories from the hottest weather to the biggest eaters of seafood, and Dean Karlan produced a set of predictions based on population, poverty level, and interest in soccer to assess which country would experience the greatest increase in happiness with a World Cup victory (spoiler: Nigeria would have had the most aggregate happiness if it had won the tournament).

But what if the World Cup were a competition based on financial inclusion indicators? If we were to create a bracket where the country with the highest level of financial inclusion advanced, the European countries would all advance, which in my opinion wouldn’t be very interesting.

What if, however, we use the World Cup system to see where the highest number of financially excluded people are? We crunched the numbers to show you, of the countries that made it to Brazil for the competition, who would “win” the title of “highest number of financially excluded people.” Basing winners on the countries with the largest number of people without a formal bank account, we noticed a few surprises.
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>Posted by Center Staff

This post by Alex Counts, President and CEO of Grameen Foundation, shares his thoughts in reading Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel’s book “More Than Good Intentions.” For more from Alex Counts, visit his blog where he describes the process of writing a book on Haitian microfinance pioneer Fonkoze. His post begins: 

Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel’s book More Than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn and Stay Healthy is a practical and important contribution to the popular literature about poverty alleviation and in particular, about the need to rigorously test assumptions in terms of what works, what does not, and how flawed but promising approaches can be improved. Despite its shortcomings, most of which relate to its treatment of microfinance, anyone interested in contributing their time, talent, or energy towards addressing one of the world’s most important problems – poverty – should read this book.

Some years ago I was in a weeklong seminar organized by Citigroup Foundation in Singapore that was attended by some 40 academics, practitioners and business leaders involved in financial services for the poor. From a previous encounter, I had been braced for Karlan to be critical of microfinance. While he did not entirely disappoint in that regard, his comments were more balanced and nuanced than I expected. Especially when the discussion strayed from microfinance, he was the most interesting person in the room. When he spoke, I got on the edge of my chair to make sure I heard him – and I don’t think I was alone. After that seminar, Grameen Foundation began working with Karlan and his colleagues, and we have benefitted from those collaborations.

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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.