Is top-down aid or bottom-up entrepreneurship a better catalyst for economic growth?
Can "inclusion" be a private sector venture or does it require public or non-profit intervention?
Will mobile money meet the financial needs of the world's "unbanked?"
While rapid development can increase the wellbeing of many, it also has a history of leaving too many people behind. CEME’s Inclusive Growth program examines ways to alleviate this trend, with research focused on commercial microfinance, savings-led financial services, regulatory policy, alternative payment systems, and social enterprise – taking into account the multiplicity of roles that exist among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
CEME's slate of activities in Inclusive Growth includes the recently launched Is Cash Costing Us Money? Currency Use and Its Effects on Consumers, Retailers, Banks and Government research study. Beginning with the United States market, the project will evaluate the costs and benefits of cash payments to various stakeholders in the economy: consumers, merchants, and institutions that offer a safe and stable supply of paper money. Substitutes for cash have been around for decades, but cash substitutes mean different things to different people: e-purses, smart cards, prepaid credit cards, smartphone apps, web-based bank transactions, precious metals, and completely virtual currencies. Each of these provides some degree of substitution for cash. They also have profound implications for financial services, financial oversight, and transaction settlement, as well as consumer privacy, convenience, and security. Although we know from survey evidence that consumers care about these issues, this study will help to understand what they are worth.
Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEME has also developed The Fletcher School Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion, which hosts a select group of emerging and frontier market-based regulators in financial inclusion policy and banking, encouraging them to think in fresh ways about the challenges they face as regulators. The three-part program includes a two-week training session at The Fletcher School, a remote period to research, write, and perfect original policy memos, and a final working session and public presentation at an international conference hosted by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion.
Funded by the MasterCard Foundation, CEME's Savings and Chance study was prompted by the very visible and widespread use of the Haitian lottery system. A CEME-led team of researchers explored several theories connecting the presence of savings groups to gambling practices; analyzed social and financial gains or losses from these connections, largely in rural Haiti; and explored young people, their perceptions of money and their opportunities for financial education.
A Fletcher graduate student-conceived and –led initiative, CEME's “M-Banking: Balancing Innovation and Regulation” conference was co-hosted by CEME and the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, with sponsorship from Visa, Western Union, Equity Bank, the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, Safaricom, Cellulant, Iris Wireless, Zain, Open Revolution, and Barclays Bank. Convening dozens of influential regulators, corporate executives, bankers, and academics, the event served as a venue to explore the rapid growth and success of mobile banking technology in the Kenyan market, its regulatory impacts, and implications for greater Africa and the emerging and frontier markets.
CEME's March 2009 "Microfinance from Below: The Power of Savings and Savings Groups in Frontier Economies" conference, funded by Oxfam America and supported by the Tufts University Feinstein International Center, explored the impact of savings groups on the lives of households living and coping in difficult, often isolated geographic areas, as well as the links between savings groups and the formal financial system ; scaling up methods; evaluation; and the integration of savings groups into other development sectors. The conference resulted in the publication of an edited volume, Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings (Kumarian/Stylus Press, 2010).
The Inclusive Growth research focus also informs CEME’s custom research and executive education programming.