Global Experts Offer First Look at New Research on Microfinance
More than 200 researchers, practitioners and business leaders convened in New York City for a first look at research results on the impact of microfinance. The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010, co-hosted by the Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at NYU Wagner and other leading research and financial institutions, was held Thursday, October 21st; 22nd; and 23rd at headquarters of the Deutsche Bank and the Moody's Corporation.
The research presented at the Conference follows on the heels of an initial report, released in 2009, about the first-ever randomized evaluations of microfinance, which sparked a debate over whether and how much microfinance is helping the poor. The results of several follow-up studies presented at the latest Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference offer fresh insights on how and to what degree microfinance affects the lives of poor households around the world.
"The results of the first microfinance impact evaluations were controversial because the world was eager to find that one magic bullet that will finally "solve" poverty," said Esther Duflo, co-author of one of the first-ever impact evaluations of microfinance in India, and professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The studies showed that microfinance is not magic. But while we didn't discover that microfinance launches people out of poverty, we did discover that it's making a very real difference to some people. The new, forthcoming research will help us discover more about who benefits from microfinance and help us design financial products that work better for the poor."
The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010 attracted senior researchers, policymakers, practitioners and investors committed to preparing the next generation of thinkers and leaders in microfinance, and to the global expansion of financial markets in poor communities. The event was hosted by not only the Financial Access Initiative (FAI), but also by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Moody's Corporation, Deutsche Bank and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).
Important new impact results from a randomized evaluation of a microfinance program in Morocco were aired, along with evaluations of microsavings and microinsurance, and livelihood programs for the "ultra poor." Conference sessions were devoted to the presentation of new research on microfinance product design, social performance measurement, and consumer protection. Additionally, illuminating sessions were dedicated to bringing together researchers and practitioners to design future research on product design and financial inclusion that will help usher in the next generation of services for the "bottom billion."