MoneyLab: Questioning the monetization of everything

March 22nd 2014

The 2007-2008 financial crisis revealed serious fissures in the global financial system. Between housing foreclosures and the failure of large banks, few people seemed to escape its effects. Some people approached this crisis as an opportunity, hoping that it would trigger a serious public conversation about the shape of finance and its effects on human beings in the world today.

Indeed, the wave of occupy movements that followed the crisis appeared to herald this conversation. But despite the fact that even Alan Greenspan admitted that he got it wrong, a truly widespread public discourse never appeared.

Mobile money and the social good of financial globalization

March 21st 2014

Since Grameen Bank launched the microcredit movement in 1982, the quest for financial inclusion of the world's poorest people has gained currency. Despite a few scandals, such as the oversupply of credit in places such as Andrah Pradesh, capital has continued to be funneled into microfinance by coalitions of development agencies, philanthropic organizations, and companies. They are banking upon microfinance to act as as a tool for socioeconomic development, as well as a means for companies to make a profit.

What can ethnography contribute to microfinance research?

March 9th 2014

Recently I've been hearing a lot about the difficulties involved in understanding microfinance customers and tailoring products to their needs. Microfinance experts across the industry have identified the need to understand microfinance customers better in order to meet the "double bottom line"; that is, provide a financial return as well as creating a positive social impact.

Making a profit and fulfilling social needs simultaneously is challenging. In fact, some argue that the "products for the poor" model is fatally flawed because the goal of profit is incompatible with the goal of generating social benefits. Unable to turn a profit, organizations suffer from "mission drift."

Cash in crisis: Mobilizing agents in post-earthquake Haiti

January 14th 2014

Crisis is often linked to reductions in circulation of one sort or another. Economic crisis, such as the GFC, involves the slowing down of circulation of monetary value. Political crises, such as the recent shutdown of the US congress, see procedures of governance and statehood come to a halt. And human crises often prompt changes in circulation, such as displacement due to a natural disaster, or long stays in refugee camps.