Microfinance Impact Survey: A Call to Rebalance Industry Priorities?
This paper presents the results of a survey of Banking with the Poor Network (BWTP) members to understand how they, as microfinance practitioners and providers of a range of financial services to the poor and disadvantaged, understand the impact that microfinance has as well as what works and what could be tweaked in the model. It is important to note, therefore, that this paper reflects the practitioner’s perception of impact, rather than the effects reported by clients themselves.
If microfinance practitioners expect financial services to have an impact on incomes - and the BWTP member survey suggests this is the case - then there is sufficient evidence that what the industry is doing now is not working (enough). Yet the industry’s priority is heavily weighted toward more of the same - increasing access. BWTP survey respondents say that client usage of financial services is far more important than access in contributing to positive changes in clients’ lives, but there has not been the same systematic and concerted effort to find ways to address usage issues as there has been to increasing access.
This paper presents a case for making understanding and positively impacting client usage as much of an industry priority as access has been for two decades.