Savings-Led MF & Youth
It's been far too long since I wrote a proper blogpost. That's mostly because I -- along with what seems like half the world -- tweet rather than blog these days. You can follow me here. And my travelogue-library reduxes are still some ways from completion, alas.Last week I was in Boston to attend a Gates Foundation-sponsored symposium on savings-led microfinance. It was held at the Fletcher School, so great to take a trip down memory lane. Spent time at Harvard and met the founder of SeedingLabs, another social enterprise focusing on in-country scientific research in the developing world and that I am keen to see expand dramatically in the coming years.My eyes were opened to the power of savings as part of a broader platform of financial products and services for the world's poor and underserved communities. I've often encountered legal, regulatory and big-picture policy issues related to savings: what kind of entities can and cannot offer savings, appropriate prudential and non-prudential regulations, and so forth. But I hadn't spent much time on the different grassroots, village-based, self-regulating (so unregulated from a governmental perspective) approaches that are taking root around the world. Although not without their own set of challenges, they offer a robust new tool to deploy as part of a broader financial platform in many countries. Oxfam's Savings for Change program is one such example, but there are a surprising number of others. And there's clearly a role for linkages among these smaller groups with larger MFIs, though much debate remains as to the appropriate "linkages" to forge, as well as when and how to foster them.Following the principal gathering day, there was a half-day open space for microfinance practitioners. Par for the course, it was a highlight of the entire symposium. We spent time discussing topics as broad as the Psychology of Savings (and how cognitive biases factor in) and how to foster more savings initiatives for youth. Regarding the latter I learned more about organizations like the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) with savings-led programs in the U.S., and Aflatoun, based in the Netherlands and operating throughout the developing world. CFED and Aflatoun's activities resonate with me on multiple levels, not least the connection between Youth + Savings + Education investment.So as I continue to navigate my current crossroads, even more to think about -- how do we spur more action and innovation in this space, especially for future generations (and in a way that gives younger cohorts some control and meaningful responsibility in the process)?