Announcing NextBillion Financial Health: New Partnership with MetLife Foundation Reflects the Evolution of Financial Inclusion
Editor’s note: Throughout 2017, NextBillion is organizing content around a monthly theme, dedicating special attention to a specific sector alongside our broader coverage. This post is part of our focus on financial inclusion for the month of June.
The concept of financial inclusion has served as an effective rallying point for years, focusing global attention on the need for greater access to financial services among underserved communities.
But over time, the term has come to feel a bit limited. Sure, inclusion is great – but there’s a growing recognition that simply providing people with access to financial services isn’t enough. These services must also be put to good use, helping people to actually improve their lives and livelihoods. If not – as business leaders and policymakers around the world are discovering – seemingly impressive impact metrics can prove hollow, as newly opened accounts remain unused and clients’ lives unimproved. And of course, access to too much credit, for example, can leave clients worse off than they were before.
That’s why many of the leading voices in the financial inclusion movement are shifting their focus to a more outcome-driven concept: financial health. To achieve financial health, it’s not enough for clients to simply have access to financial products – or even to use them regularly. The term goes beyond these metrics to encompass everything from clients’ ability to balance income and expenses, build savings and manage debts, to their capability in using a range of financial tools to plan for future needs and recover from unexpected shocks.
Here at NextBillion, we’ve watched this evolution with growing interest – and approval. We’ve never shied away from exploring the most vexing challenges of doing business with vulnerable populations, including the risks and excesses it sometimes entails. So the financial inclusion sector’s emerging emphasis on client outcomes strikes us as great news across the board. That’s why we’re pleased to announce a shift in our own coverage – and an exciting new partnership.
This week, we’re officially re-launching our Financial Innovation site with a new name and partner. The site will now be called NextBillion Financial Health, and it’s being sponsored by MetLife Foundation. As you can learn in our interview with its President and CEO Dennis White, the Foundation is very much on the forefront of boosting access to financial products and ensuring that they’re used for the benefit of clients. As White puts it, the Foundation shares our concept of how the new NextBillion Financial Health site can best serve our readers: By providing a platform for sharing “input, data, analysis and articles that ask the big question of what works, and how to get more people financially included, and financially healthy, to make long-term improvements in the quality of their lives and their futures.”
White also adds an important point: “We’d like it to be a site where people can go to find out what’s working, and importantly, what’s not working. There needs to be an opportunity for both the good and the not-so-good to be discussed.” That strikes us as an ideal summation of NextBillion’s role in the growing social business media space. We’re looking forward to working with MetLife Foundation as we pursue this mission.
As we look toward this next chapter, we’d also like to thank our outgoing sponsor, the Citi Foundation, for their generous, long-term sponsorship of the site. Their years of support allowed us to launch NextBillion Financial Innovation and to build it into one of the core media resources in the financial inclusion world, and we are enduringly grateful for it.
Going forward, readers will notice that the new Financial Health site will focus more tightly on the challenges and opportunities in offering consumer-facing financial products, and less on the impact investing landscape. (Our impact investing coverage, financial services-related and otherwise, will now be based on our Investing zone.) Beyond that, our coverage will continue to evolve in step with the fast-moving inclusive finance sector, as financial services providers grapple with the challenges – and embrace the opportunities – of working with low-income clients and communities.
James Militzer is NextBillion’s Senior Editor.