Finding Opportunities for Financial Inclusion in Fiji

Fletcher Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion partners with Reserve Bank of Fiji for in-country training
FLPFI participants stand around a table, looking at documents.

For over 10 years, The Fletcher School Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion (FLPFI) has worked to strengthen policymakers’ abilities to design sound financial inclusion policies. Most recently, the team brought their method to Fiji for an in-country program.

FLPFI is an executive education program designed to help policymakers and regulators develop more financially inclusive policy. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since 2011, FLPFI runs both a fellowship and in-country training programs. 

Partnering with the Reserve Bank of Fiji, the FLPFI team led a five-day training oriented around their Eight Question Method for Policy Development (8QM). The 8QM has been widely adopted by program alumni; FLPFI reports that 84% of policies developed in the FLPFI Fellowship have been implemented, and 85% of alumni continue to use the 8QM in their policymaking work.

Investigating Women’s Access to Financial Services

The fellowship is designed to help participants develop meaningful policy recommendations. In some cases, the fellowship prompts research into the gendered barriers to financial services and creates a foundation for stronger policy. In others, it has led members to design national financial inclusion strategies in Morocco and a gender strategy in Pakistan. 

FLPFI’s program in Fiji split participants into teams to work on various issues and they proceeded step-by-step through the 8QM from problem to policy idea. 

“We frame it as a challenge to begin with,” said Melita Sawyer, the director of FLPFI. “We don't want them to think about solutions at first. Over the course of the training, we walk them through problem identification, problem diagnosis, setting objectives, how to achieve those objectives, identifying the stakeholders, culminating in a policy pitch that they can give to those different stakeholders.”

One team in the Fiji program investigated women’s access to and usage of financial services, building upon research they began during the FLPFI fellowship. 

“We've supported them to complete research over the last nine months to investigate what are the drivers of this challenge. That research will inform their process of policy development,” said Sawyer. “They’re taking on-the-ground research and feeding it into a policy development process, then developing an evidence-based policy at the end.”

Achieving Financial Inclusion — Through an Inclusive Process

A few key tenets guide FLPFI’s philosophy; they work to center the experience of marginalized populations, basing their problem-solving on evidence and data.

“We call our process people-centered,” said Sawyer. “We ask our policymakers–for example central bankers or people in the Ministry of Finance—to go out and talk to potential clients. That's work that they've rarely done, and that often generates a lot of important insights for them around the barriers that those more marginalized people face in accessing and using financial services.”

Program participants said the people-centered focus of 8QM was enlightening. 

“The learnings from the course caused us to critically relook at how we had been working,” said Wati Seeto, manager of financial inclusion and market conduct at the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Seeto reported that the training enabled the team to take the first step in developing their gender roadmap for Fiji. They used the diagnostic study and report, which they began to identify innovative and inclusive policies that will make a significant impact on the lives of Fijian women who are financially excluded.

“It opened my eyes to seeing that developing policies is more than just looking at precedents and drafting,” said Seeto. “A lot of preparatory work must go into identifying the problem, asking ‘why’ before even thinking about solutions. I understood a little more what being customer-centric in financial inclusion policy development meant.” 

For the FLPFI team, a key element of their program is to trust the participants to be the experts of their own context. 

“We provide them with the rails to apply that expertise and engage stakeholders in a way that produces a policy idea that speaks to all the other stakeholders’ interests, and therefore can be implemented,” said Sawyer. 

“We’re coaches, supporting the policymakers to apply their expertise as effectively as possible. I think that's distinctive from a lot of the work that people do in this space. We do not provide the answers ourselves–we provide a logical process and resources, including linking them with experts. The policymakers own the process and its outcomes themselves.”

Read more about FLPFI.