Grameen Foundation has released a new publication by Kathleen Odell, an assistant professor of economics at Dominican University’s Brennan School of Business in River Forest, IL.
Alex Counts, President and CEO of Grameen Foundation, includes the following from the foreword:
The debate about microfinance’s effectiveness in reducing poverty and addressing other societal problems, and related discussions about how to make microfinance even more potent, has often degraded into polemics and unsubstantiated claims, and sometimes become very technical in nature. The media and other stakeholders, such as regulators and social investors, have been increasingly confused by conflicting claims about what we know and don’t know. This paper should help to inform these important discussions, which go to the heart of how we think about making microfinance the most effective tool that it can be and how can we set expectations appropriately about its potential and current limitations.
Here are a few excerpts from Professor Odell's Executive Summary:
This paper is a survey of several significant microfinance impact assessment evaluations released or published between 2005 and 2010. It is an update of a comprehensive impact assessment literature survey released in 2005, which was sponsored by Grameen Foundation and authored by Nathanael Goldberg. In the years since Goldberg’s paper was released, there have been a number of important developments in microfinance impact assessment, making this current survey a much-needed update. The release of a handful of prominent microfinance impact assessment evaluations in 2009 precipitated a good deal of media coverage. Stories published in the Economist magazine, the Boston Globe, and the Financial Times presented the new research with a negative slant, collectively suggesting that microfinance isn’t as powerful an anti-poverty tool as suggested by many of its proponents. These media stories should be read with a healthy dose of skepticism, as even the authors of the research papers cited in the articles have made public statements disputing the oversimplifications and negative interpretations appearing in the press. One aim of this paper is to summarize the results of these new studies, disentangling the media interpretation from the actual findings reported.