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Rethinking Financial Inclusion: Innovation for Policy and Practice

Program Session(s):
October 8, 2017 - October 13, 2017

Application Deadline(s):
August 8, 2017

Program Fee:$8,500

Program fee includes: tuition, housing, curricular materials, and most meals.

This program qualifies for an Executive Certificate.

Faculty Chairs: Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Rohini Pande, Rema Hanna

Program Director: Anna Shanley

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Offered in collaboration with Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at the Center for International Development at Harvard University.

Leading up to the May 2015 session, EPoD asked for ideas to revolutionize financial inclusion. You can read the responses thus far or join the conversation on Twitter.

As part of the Financial Inclusion 20/20 campaign, the Center for Financial Inclusion has posted a series of articles capturing the day-to-day activities and insights gained from the perspective of participants in the 2014 session of Rethinking Financial Inclusion: Innovation for Policy and Practice.

Read the series of posts here:

Despite three decades of innovation in financial services for the poor and an unprecedented global expansion in access, the potential of finance to reduce poverty, foster entrepreneurship and improve well-being has yet to be fully realized.

The challenge is to design financial products that meet the needs of low-income populations while ensuring the sustainability of financial providers. Government loans for the poor often meet with high default rates, while insurance products encounter very low take-up. Despite the promise and popularity of microfinance, recent studies have shown that the standard microloan fails to significantly reduce poverty and the most recent numbers show a first-ever decline in the number of microfinance borrowers globally. After decades of invention and investment in the sector, half the world’s adult population – and 77% of those living on less than $2 a day – still are without a single account with a formal financial institution.

Led by Harvard professors with years of experience in evaluating financial access initiatives, Rethinking Financial Inclusion combines an evidence-based approach to understanding the market for finance and client needs with theoretical insights on how to design financial products to meet those needs. The executive program convenes leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to provide a conceptual framework for policy and product design, enabling participants to:

  • Deepen their understanding of household and small firm needs and behavioral issues related to financial decision-making
  • Apply the latest evidence to effectively design financial services to meet client needs in low-income settings
  • Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of financial products
  • Understand the opportunities and challenges posed by “big data” for both product design and regulation
  • Balance the objectives and constraints of different actors, including clients, financial institutions, regulators and donors
  • Use design principles and economic insights to devise regulatory policies that enhance the benefits of financial access for the poor

Rethinking Financial Inclusion features an evidence-based Smart Design framework to inform the design of financial products in low-income settings based on a keen understanding of both the client and the broader environment. Lectures and case studies will illuminate theory and evidence on key topics in financial access, while group sessions will enable participants to engage directly with the issues. Over the course of the week, groups will work together—in close collaboration with faculty—to develop solutions to real-world problems by applying the Smart Design framework and principles. Groups will be formed of diverse participants representing key market players—practitioners, donors, investors, and regulators. Lectures will be led by renowned Harvard faculty and established industry leaders who will provide insights from regulatory reforms and cutting edge research.



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