Week of October 25, 2013

This week’s New and Noteworthy takes a big picture approach to microfinance regulation, behavioral economics the social enterprise sector, and academic research – asking what are the big challenges and how might we go about addressing them.

  • FAI co-founder Sendhil Mullainathan and co-authors have a new short paper sub-titled “What Behavioral Economics is Not” , which is a good a description of this very useful attempt to clarify an often mis-used or misunderstood term. Highly recommended.
  • On a related note, illustrating the need for Sendhil’s piece are these two posts (firstsecond) from Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution about the layaway system. Be sure to read the comments as they illustrate the ongoing arguments over the policy implications of behavioral economics and it’s interaction with traditional economic analysis.
  • Hannah Schiff of Value for Women writes a compelling post on why there is no such thing as gender-neutral financial services. She makes the point that banks should not bias services toward women but start removing the current bias toward men.
  • Are we all on the same page when it comes to defining financial inclusion and microfinance? Grzegorz Galusek of the Microfinance Centre reviews some of the prominent definitions of these terms and the trend to conflate the two.
  • The world of social entrepreneurs and social investing are full of small scale “development darlings” that get a lot of media attention but are they able to ever be profitable? Is that even a realistic expectation? Devex takes a deep dive on profitability in the social enterprise space.
  • The Kenya Commercial Bank announced a new product that allows users to open a KCB account directly from their mobile phones.
  • Like every major movement, Ignacio Mas contends that the mobile banking push has foundation myths. He takes a look back at these (agent banking in Brazil and Smart Communications’ mobile money service in the Philippines) to separate fact from fiction.
  • Eleven microfinance experts recently weighed in on whether smarter regulation can restore faith in microfinance for a Guardian live chat session.
  • From problems with the peer-review process, to the impacts of “publish or perish” on research,  this Economist piece exposes flaws in the academic research system and suggests ways to bring science back to its core principles.

  • A recent Chicago Tribune article explores various models and approaches to bringing needed services to underserved communities, including financial services. In addition to Kiva, the piece highlights the Magic Johnson prepaid debit card. (n.b. To avoid logging into or creating a Chicago Tribune account to read the article, click here and select the first time in the Google search results titled "Serving the Underserved: Marketing to Make a Difference.")


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