Viewpoint: Learning from Financial Inclusion Research: What Should We Expect?
By Timothy Ogden
There is a real puzzle in the world of financial inclusion: Where’s the impact? The question is not unique to financial inclusion, but it is a particularly pressing one. After more than 30 years in the spotlight, the lack of clear, compelling and consistent evidence that financial inclusion interventions reduce poverty has raised questions about whether continued investment is wise. There are a number of efforts to look at existing evidence and come to conclusions about whether, where and why financial inclusion matters.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this puzzle lately, in part because I’m engaged in a comprehensive review of the evidence for investing in financial systems for CDC. But I’m not the only one thinking about it. CGAP is working on a new theory of change. IPA has a review of evidence on resilience. Dvara Research has a financial inclusion evidence gap map for India. Caribou Digital has an evidence gap map for digital financial services. And 3ie and the Campbell Collaborative have published a “systematic review of reviews” of evidence on financial inclusion interventions, and there are more similar efforts.
Before considering what conclusions these various reviews reach, it’s worth stepping back to think about what we should expect to find in impact evaluations of financial inclusion programs — and what we should expect to learn from reviews (and reviews of reviews) of these impact evaluations.
Photo courtesy of Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion.