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> Posted by Chris Wolff

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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 Hannah Sherman, Project Associate, CFI

To create sustainable impact in the financial inclusion landscapes of emerging markets, providers must engage, train, and/or learn from vast networks of customers. Prospective customers must develop the skills to effectively use financial products. Doing this well is both difficult and expensive. Arifu, based in Kenya, attempts to minimize this challenge by bringing together providers and consumers in a cheap, efficient way. Arifu is a new kind of platform that provides customer capability-building through mobile technology. Arifu tests, refines, and hosts content developed by various educational organizations via SMS on mobile phones. Arifu’s business model is designed with scalability in mind, and it claims that it can be 90 percent cheaper than conventional customer outreach programs.

Arifu’s digital learning experts work with providers to design and develop behaviorally-informed training, advertising, and data collection programs. Department-level financial accounts, budget controls, custom alerts, and cost-benefit analytics help organizations minimize, measure, and justify their programs down to each interaction.

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> Posted by Isabel Whisson and Maria A. May, BRAC

Destructive and devastating, disasters threaten to rob communities of resources, households of livelihoods, and families of loved ones. Difficult to anticipate and inherently costly, is there hope of fostering resilience against them?

Certainly. This year at BRAC’s Frugal Innovation Forum, an annual congregation of development innovators, the conversation centered on “scaling resilience“. In responding to crises as diverse as Nepal’s earthquake, to Typhoon Haiyan, to the collapse of Rana Plaza, a common theme for solutions promoting resilience was to create systems in advance that enable immediate response and recovery.

Having access to financial services is key. According to Michael Kellogg of VisionFund International, “People know what they need following a disaster and are extraordinarily adaptable in identifying ways to meet those needs. Equipping them with money soon after the disaster enhances their capacity to quickly rebuild livelihoods and the economic recovery of the local market.”

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> Posted by Hannah Sherman and Jeffrey Riecke, Project Associate and Communications Specialist, CFI

fi2020_antilogo1In terms of financial inclusion, Haiti has much to be excited about. That might come as a surprise as it is considered to have among the worst environments for financial inclusion efforts, at least according to the Global Microscope. In the 2015 Microscope rankings, Haiti was at the very bottom of the list. Though this 2015 score reflected great progress compared to 2014. In fact, Haiti’s score improved year-on-year more than nearly any other country. This was due in large part to the development of a national financial inclusion strategy. However, Haiti’s path forward, including the implementation of this national strategy, is less than straightforward.

Haiti is still very poor. More than three-quarters of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and about two-thirds are unemployed. According to the Global Findex, in 2014 only 19 percent of Haitians aged 15 or above had access to a bank account, compared with 51 percent across all of Latin America and the Caribbean. Nine percent of the adult population had formal savings in 2014 (compared with 14 percent regionally), and 5 percent were formal borrowers (compared with 11 percent in the region). Small and medium-sized businesses and microenterprises make up the majority of the country’s jobs, and their access to finance is extremely limited.

But in recent years, Haiti has achieved impressive advances in its policy, regulation, and enabling infrastructure. About a year ago the Banque de la République d’Haïti (BRH, the central bank) passed the national financial inclusion strategy, which was supported by the World Bank and other international organizations. Among the strategy’s priority areas are financial education and consumer protection. In July of last year, USAID and Haiti’s Office of Economic Growth and Agricultural Development announced plans to work towards expanding financial access in support of this strategy. Their effort focuses on harnessing partnerships across stakeholder types to pilot and develop interventions.

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> Posted by Joshua Goldstein, Principal Director for Economic Citizenship & Disability Inclusion, CFI

I spent the first two hours of the conference in a speed dating exercise called First Connections, where delegates had five minutes to give each other their elevator pitches before moving chairs to meet the next delegate. I recognize that common perceptions of this sort of activity perceive it as always awkward and often a waste of time. In this case, however, my speed dating was at the annual Skoll World Forum, and its value was indicative of the diverse connections needed to solve the complex challenges of my work on disability inclusion, and of those attending the Forum.

The Skoll World Forum, held in Oxford, England, brings together social entrepreneurs, as well as funders, politicians, media, and others who, in Founder Jeff Skoll’s words, are committed to “solving the world’s most pressing problems.” I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the 11th annual Forum, based on my contribution to a global civil rights struggle to end discrimination against persons with disabilities. My scope of work within this ambitious movement has been developing a set of tools and trainings with my colleagues at the Center for Financial Inclusion to make microfinance institutions and other financial service providers disability inclusive. Along with facilitating the industry’s integration of these tools and trainings, we’re working with in-country stakeholders to develop disability inclusion plans in Ecuador, India, Paraguay, and elsewhere. But achieving disability inclusion in financial services requires more than financial services providers. It also requires the involvement of technology providers, telcos, government officials, educators, community groups, and other actors.

Over 1,000 people from 60 countries gathered to share their ideas and innovations at Skoll. The hope of event organizers is that such a high-level convening of disparate leaders will produce new collaborations and lead to new innovations. And when I say disparate, I mean disparate. I crossed paths with Eli Williamson, Co-Founder of Leave No Veteran Behind, an organization providing educational and employment assistance to veterans facing hardship, as well as Chris Underhill, MBE, Founder of the global mental health organization Basic Needs, and Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides, which combats child marriage.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

A community health worker in Kenya trained by Pathfinder International, using a mobile phone to collect client data. Photo by Sala Lewis.

Each year billions of dollars in cash payments are distributed by development organizations to individuals in need. Across sectors including agriculture, health, and emergency relief, cash payments are dispersed with the intent of imparting a lasting impact on their recipients. As we’ve discussed in this space previously, dealing with cash instead of electronic payments brings risks and inefficiencies to the parties involved, both development organizations and their payments recipients, too, who are likely to have a lot at stake.

Visa, in partnership with NetHope, a consortium of more than 40 humanitarian organizations, is addressing this opportunity to improve development organizations’ payments systems through the Visa Innovation Grants Program, a new initiative providing funding to development organizations for the modernizing of their payments systems. A few weeks ago the program selected the five winning organizations, who will each receive $US 100,000 for their projects. Representing a breadth of sectors, the five organizations are Agribusiness Systems International (ASI), Freedom from Hunger, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mercy Corps, and Pathfinder International.

The payments system projects of ASI and Mercy Corps focus on developing mobile money services for farmers and other actors in agriculture value chains. ASI is working with rice farmers in Ghana, and Mercy Corps with smallholder farmers in Indonesia. The payments systems allow farmers to receive timely and secure payments from agricultural cooperatives electronically, rather than by traveling to pick up cash, which requires expending resources, including time that could otherwise be spent tending the farm.

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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.


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.