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.
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."
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.
What do murder, microfinance, and black markets in reptiles have in common? They all featured as part of a panel called "Circulation in Times of Crisis" at the Australian Anthropology Society conference in Canberra from the 5th to 8th November. Convened by Heather Horst and Marta Rosales, this panel explored the relationships between flows and blockages of people, things, information, and media.