I have blogged about the power and limitations of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Overall, I am a believer. I think the question researchers impertinently ask practitioners—can we show statistically that microfinance is helping?—is worth asking. And non-randomized methods have largely failed to answer it with credibility. So in my view it was for decades essentially correct to say that we have zero solid studies of whether microfinance makes clients better off on average.
CGD Policy Blogs
On CGD's Voices from the Center blog, I just posted a review of Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day, by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven.
I spoke yesterday with Christian Pennotti, who runs this, and who was interested in my reflections on my "open book" blog experience. I realized that I don't know as much as I'd like about what readers think of the blog. Rather than guessing what you think, I realized, why not ask?
I'd heard about the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and its founder Ela Bhatt, but I'd never really understood what it and she achieved. SEWA began in the Indian state of Gujarat in 1972 as a trade union for self-employed women, whom we today call microentrepreneurs or informal workers. Yet its members neither share a common trade nor have employers to strike against, making for a peculiar sort of trade union (in my eyes). SEWA started its own bank in 1974 and an insurance program called Vimo SEWA in 1992.
In 1996--97, FINCA Uganda, a village banking microfinance institution (MFI), approached the local subsidiary of AIG (yes, that AIG) to develop a life insurance product that FINCA Uganda could sell to its borrowers. That collaboration led to what I think is considered one of the major successes in microinsurance worldwide.