Scott Anderson

June’s Most Popular, Most Shared Posts: Failure and Success in Microfinance Products, Wireless Currency and Bold Ideas in Global Health Lead the List

If you’re a regular reader of business and/or tech publications or blogs, it sometimes feels like the subject of failure could have its own section. Picture it: Right alongside the stock ticker (or for the old paper publication) right next to contents, would be the daily, weekly or monthly FAIL story.

Yes, failure is popular, for two reasons. One, we like to know that other people are just like us, i.e. flawed. They fail at stuff, just like we fail at stuff. Two, we like to read about people who have failed, only to go on to succeed. It’s the story of life, right? There are innumerable quotes on failure, and several false ones floating around the Internet. But here’s my favorite, and I think it’s legit:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

So it takes courage to carry on after you’ve failed. It arguably takes more courage to talk about how you failed, and how you’re carrying on. Which is what Graham Wright of MicroSave did last month, and is probably why his Who Is the ’User’ In ’User-Centred Design’?: When it comes to financial products, don’t discount the role of intermediaries, was NextBillion’s most-read blog post for June.

“In 2000, we had completed two years of what we thought was outstanding work to understand the needs, perspectives and aspirations of the end customers for banks and microfinance institutions. It was time for MicroSave-Africa’s first mid-term review, led by industry gurus Elisabeth Rhyne and Marguerite Robinson … and they gave us a wake-up call,” he writes.

While review praised MicroSave-Africa’s efforts in assessing clients, it pointedly described where they had fallen short.

“MicroSave-Africa has not done as well on the supply side, in part because it has underestimated the complexity and scope of the work needed to introduce new products successfully inside MFIs,” Graham writes in quoting the review.

Graham notes this experience informed MicroSave’s future tools and techniques it now uses to help other financial institutions. For him, it’s an enduring lesson on understanding both ends of the transaction:

“The users in “user centred design” are necessarily both the customers and institution that serves them … and not as one fresh-faced consultant announced to colleagues of mine, ‘the donor who pays my bills’!”

Here are the other most-viewed posts from June on NextBillion

Wireless Currency, Endless Possibility: Seven promising mobile money projects to emerge from BRAC’s challenge By Tasmia Rahman and Paroma Afsara Husain

Bold Ideas for Big Shifts in Global Health: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards its Grand Challenges Explorations grants By Steven Buchsbaum

What Makes Toniic Tick?: Part one of an interview with Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO of the impact investor network By James Militzer

Beyond the Aid Debate: Getting smarter about how markets and charity work together is job one for those working in development By Blair Miller


Most Shared on Social Media

The Impact of Inclusion: CGAP report looks at recent evidence of how financial inclusion can help the poor By James Militzer

Trouble Brewing in Microfinance?: Peru and Mexico’s microcredit sectors appear to be in danger of collapsing – and the market-driven model is to blame By Milford Bateman

Bold Ideas for Big Shifts in Global Health: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards its Grand Challenges Explorations grants By Steven Buchsbaum


Editor’s Pick

Admittedly, I’m skeptical about Bitcoin and its would-be power to transform development and financial inclusion as we know it. So are Paul Breloff and Nathan Krishnamurthy of Accion Venture Lab. However, being immersed in the space, Breloff and Krishnamurthy also can see the forest for the trees. They point out a number of ways cryptocurrency could have a meaningful impact, especially if entrepreneurs work to build fail-safe ways of reducing the risks to the poor and removing other fiscal and technical barriers. Check out their fascinating analysis: Bitcoin and the Bottom of the Pyramid: How cryptocurrency can make good on its promise of financial inclusion.

Congratulations to our winners and to all of our contributors from June. All of their posts can be found here.

Health Care
Base of the Pyramid, failure, microfinance