In April, BRAC, Access to Information (a2i), fhi360, USAID and IFMR LEAD jointly organised an event named ‘Digital financial inclusion: Innovations from Bangladesh’ to invite local stakeholders to discuss their experiences and emerging solutions (see a recent write-up by IMFR LEAD summarising the event).
The increasing effects of climate change should be reshaping the way that we think about poverty alleviation and development. For many households, the shocks from a natural disaster can lead to increased economic and social vulnerabilities.
If there were a simple recipe for social innovation, anyone could easily transform an idea into an impactful solution reaching millions. Unfortunately things are a lot messier on the ground. Many ‘amazing’ innovations that promise to save millions of lives fail to scale and quietly disappear.
For Shahina, a poor woman living in the remote rural district of Noakhali in southern Bangladesh, getting cash used to be a long ordeal. Since she didn’t have a mobile wallet, Shahina used to have to travel three kilometres to visit the local bKash agent to collect remittances sent by her husband and two sons, who were working in the city. Sometimes she was unable to make the trip without someone to watch her children. The roads are often impassable after rains and the market is far away. And often the agent charges informal ‘service fees’ before dispensing her cash.
Bangladesh is a fast-growing mobile money market. With bKash, the second-largest mobile money provider in the world, industry growth in the country has reached impressive heights. Between January 2013 and February of this year, the number of mobile money clients in Bangladesh increased five-fold to 25 million users, with the number of daily transactions increasing from 10 million to 77 million.
This blog was originally posted on 59 minutes of development and Next Billion. Since January, when six randomised control trials were published 'definitively' stating that microcredit is not a viable poverty alleviation tool, microfinance has been taking a lot of heat in the media. One recent article went so far as to compare it to "a zombie that refuses to die." What's kind of funny is that the researchers themselves weren't quite so negative, not that anyone will take the time to read a massive research document. Here's a line I liked.
Even when introducing herself, Babita’s enthusiasm is contagious. “Maybe you think that you can’t change how you manage your money. It’s too hard. Well, I used to think that I could never get up in front of a group of people and give a presentation. But here I am. BRAC taught me how. So if I can do this, then you can do anything.”
Last Thursday, the 2015 Gates letter identified mobile money as a transformative innovation for the next 15 years, driving faster improvement of the lives of people in poor countries than has ever been seen.
Nothing draws an audience faster than a good story. The best stories transport the listener to a new perspective, down a journey of twists and turns, moments of despair, and of course, triumph. What better way to start to untangle the complexities of scaling social impact in the context of South Asia than to focus on the stories of organisations that have made it there? Theories are great, but without deep grounding in experiences and practice, they often have little application.
We are excited to officially announce the winners of the innovation fund for mobile money challenge! These projects were selected from the 100 ideas that were submitted on the innovation fund challenge web site, reviewed by external advisors, and finally decided on by an internal judging panel. These projects will be implemented over the course of the next year by BRAC in Bangladesh—so stay tuned for many more updates!