“More than Micro” Milestone 6: “From Microfinance to Inclusive Market Development” Evidence Summit (December 2012)
The December 2012 Evidence Summit, “From Microfinance to Inclusive Market Development,” marked a point of departure from microenterprise development. As Shari Berenbach, former director of USAID's Office of Microenterprise and Private Enterprise Promotion, reflected, “I spent many years of my career focusing on microfinance and the importance of safe, transparent and affordable financial services. However, turning my attention to Africa’s rural smallholders, it quickly becomes apparent that financial services alone will only take you so far.” A growing contingent of the Microlinks community realized that the conversation needed to be refocused on inclusive market systems development.
Thus, the Evidence Summit convened USAID staff, researchers and academics to take stock of existing and emerging evidence on the impact of different interventions, identify gaps in what we know to contribute to a future research agenda, and discuss implications for USAID’s programming.
Ever wonder what we know about strategies to help the poor—and the poorest—participate in and benefit from markets? How do value chain development and financial services affect rural households? What’s so promising about digital finance?
This Summit pulled together evidence on microfinance and gave USAID key considerations for a broader strategy of inclusive market development. It explicitly broadened the conversation to achieve sustainable outcomes for the wide spectrum of vulnerable populations.
As Berenbach reflected, “Building upon well-documented past experience from microfinance, we were aiming to capture a new understanding of the challenge at hand, reframe the issues and call for a fresh consideration of strategies and approaches to truly address extreme poverty facing today’s rural smallholders in Africa.”
Microlinks continued the conversation by engaging the larger community to reevaluate how to break chronic cycles of poverty. In an online discussion, participants considered how to strengthen the poor’s ability to participate in and benefit from markets to improve resilience and reduce poverty.
Microlinks continues to champion these discussions on inclusive market systems development. Kristin O’Planick, Enterprise Development Specialist at USAID, stated, “As we seek to realize USAID’s Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty, the reframing around inclusive market systems as a means to reduce poverty is increasingly important. The evidence continues to support a need for robust markets to engage the poor and extreme poor, particularly as wage laborers. Microlinks helps us keep abreast of emerging practices to better achieve this inclusive engagement.”