Wrap-Up of The Evidence Project—What the Evidence Tells Us

This is the culmination of my 15-month exploration of what we are learning about microfinance and world hunger—not just what Freedom from Hunger is learning from its own research into what works and what doesn’t, but also the research of others looking at similar strategies and populations around the world. The Evidence Project is a series of posts organized by Theme—see the list of Theme read more...

Wrap-Up of The Evidence Project—Building a Theory of Change

I have not offered an expanded Benefits Diagram (as Freedom from Hunger calls its theory of change) since Theme Six, when I completed the discussion of “intermediate outcomes.” Since then, I have explored the evidence pertaining to the business cases for Credit with Education and Saving for Change and the evidence for “ultimate impacts” (reduced poverty, increased food security and improve read more...

Impact on Child Nutrition Status

Theme Six of this blog is about better health and nutrition practices and greater use of vital health products and services. The emphasis is on knowledge and practices, not health and nutrition outcomes, because at that point in The Evidence Project, I was examining intermediate outcomes rather than ultimate impacts. Now it is time to shift to ultimate outcomes in the arena of health and nutrition read more...

Impact on Household Food Security

Theme Four of this blog is about household savings and consumption-smoothing. Post #49, in particular, showed that improvements in consumption-smoothing and ability to manage financial shocks are fairly reliable outcomes of microfinance access. This general conclusion is affirmed, in terms of better ability to manage liquidity and risk, by the just-released results of the impact study of Compartam read more...

The Poverty Outreach of Savings Group Programs

The standard message from advocates is that savings group programs reach poorer people than do credit-led microfinance institutions (MFIs). In post # 78, I found that MFIs in general don’t do a great job of including the poor. Even the poor-oriented MFIs seem to struggle to include a higher percentage of poor people in their clientele than exist in the local population. Not a high bar. What is t read more...

The Poverty Outreach of Credit with Education through Village Banks

In the June 2009 issue of Enterprise Development and Microfinance, I summarized Freedom from Hunger’s experience with village banking offered by credit unions and rural banks. Here I excerpt the section titled “Poverty status of clients.” For most of the past two decades, widely accepted poverty measurement methods that can be used by microfinance practitioners have not been available. Mo read more...

Impact on Household Poverty—the Poverty Gap and the Poverty Bubble

In Theme Three, I found that the more credible impact studies of access to microfinance had uncovered little statistically significant positive impact on household income and consumption. This general conclusion is affirmed by the just-released results of the impact study of Compartamos in the state of Sonora, Mexico, led by Manuela Angelucci, Dean Karlan and Jonathan Zinman. The logical conclusio read more...

A Business Case Based on a Different Notion of the Market

Picking up on the “different notion of the market” in my last post (# 76), I would like to propose a good way for the savings group movement to make its case to the philanthropic and public financing markets. The first part of the case would be solid, incontrovertible evidence that savings group programs can facilitate large-scale financial inclusion and capability where no mere MFI or mobi read more...

A Different Notion of “the Market”

Is there a business case for savings-led microfinance (specifically savings group programs) that is at all comparable to the business case that has been made in Theme Seven for credit-led microfinance (specifically village banking)? Referring to my last post (# 75) and its three levels of program structure (client, provider, investor), my question resides at the second level—the local service read more...

A Different Notion of “Sustainability”

When advocates of credit- and savings-led microfinance dialogue about “sustainability,” they talk past each other. Each side means something different when they use the word. They focus on different units of analysis—the financial service institution vs. the savings group. Though a small amount, revenue for savings-led microfinance may be generated from the savings group members to support f read more...