When Client Needs and Provider Responses Go Beyond Financial Services

We know the poor need more than microfinance to address the causes and conditions of their poverty. Ideally, the poor would have access to a coordinated combination of microfinance services and other development services to improve business, income and assets, health, nutrition, family planning, education of children, social support networks and so on. The question is how to ensure a “coordinate read more...

What Does the Evidence Mean for Freedom from Hunger?

Over the past month, I have been asking whether the poor can build social capital and their own self-confidence and broader sense of empowerment because of their use of microfinance services. Lynne Davidson Jarrell has provided us her summary of the main points of the seven posts. What does all this mean for Freedom from Hunger? For 25 years, Freedom from Hunger has designed, tested and taug read more...

Theme Five Wrap-Up: Increased Social Capital & Improved Self-Confidence?

by Lynne Davidson Jarrell Lynne has graciously volunteered to summarize the posts under Theme Five, from her perspective rather than mine. Note that she points to the posts relevant to each topic she covers (the numbers are hyperlinks). Each post on this blog is assigned a unique number in chronological order of posting, and all the posts for each theme are listed by number and title on the rig read more...

Field Agents Matter, Too: The Social Capital Builders

The last post (# 59) in Theme Five concluded that group membership is valued for its own sake, most likely for the social capital gained and the empowerment that comes with that—with this caveat in post # 13—if the field agents who serve the groups are recruited, trained, supervised and incentivized to support positive group dynamics. Group dynamics are important. Of course, the culture and read more...

Given the Impact Research Results, What is the Role of Microfinance in Poverty Reduction?

Pete Sparreboom, a Europe-based researcher and consultant, has written me privately to ask what we should make of the apparent failure of microfinance to lift most of its clients out of poverty.  She has consented to let me post her remarks here. I follow with my tentative answer, a post I did for MicroLINKS as follow-up to last week’s USAID Speakers Corner online discussion. First, here is wha read more...

Groups, Social Capital, Microfinance and Empowerment—a Tangled Web

My last post probably left you confused but hopeful that groups have value for microfinance users, though it was unclear why or how they add value beyond just providing access to credit and opportunities to save in those circumstances where group microfinance is all that is available. The good news is that Dean Karlan can help us dig deeper into the group dynamics that seem to help microfinance read more...

Groups Matter—We’re Just Not Sure Why or How

The last few posts make a compelling but inconclusive case that group-based microfinance fosters women’s empowerment. But there is a contrary view. In Due Diligence (chapter seven, especially pp. 202–220), David Roodman examined the evidence that group microfinance increases the individual member’s “agency” or “freedom” to act in her own best interest (a major dimension of empowermen read more...

Evidence that Microfinance Empowers Women – Schuler and Hashemi

In my first post on empowerment (# 55), I listed the six domains developed by Sid Schuler and Syed Hashemi to describe and measure women’s empowerment. Here I present results from their 1994 report of the effects of Grameen Bank and BRAC membership on an empowerment score (based on these domains) and on use of modern contraceptive methods in rural Bangladesh. In Due Diligence (p. 203), David read more...

Evidence that Microfinance Empowers Women – Freedom from Hunger Studies

For help with empowerment, I turn to my colleagues, Barbara MkNelly and Mona McCord, and their 2001 paper for Freedom from Hunger on the impact of Credit with Education on women’s empowerment. My last post (# 55) provides their summary of what empowerment has meant to researchers of the impacts of microfinance. This post excerpts their summary of results from the 1990s field research by Barbara read more...

What is Empowerment?

The Sebstad & Cohen paper (2000) identified three pathways through which microfinance services can reduce vulnerability for poor households: smoothing income, building assets (financial, physical, human and social) and empowering women. I turned to Michael Woolcock for help in defining social capital in the last post (# 54). For help with empowerment, I turn to my colleagues, Barbara MkNelly a read more...