Rethinking microfinance: towards a multi-stakeholder framework of responsible microfinance

Dissertation, University of Zurich (2017)
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Microfinance aims to better the livelihoods of the bottom of the pyramid by providing them with financial services. However, recent studies show that microfinance can have adverse effects, leading clients into over-indebtedness. This dissertation argues that microfinance clients are by default vulnerable and offers ways to rethink microfinance as client-centered, presuming a responsibility for client protection. Part I discusses the vulnerability of clients and the centrality of their protection. Part II analyzes the causes and consequences of overindebtedness and suggests state regulations, financial literacy programs, and soft law standards for its mitigation. Part III introduces the concept of responsible microfinance, which claims that not only microfinance institutions but also other stakeholders, such as states and transnational and international organizations, have a responsibility to protect microfinance clients. Part IV accepts that over-indebtedness has to be addressed from several angles and considers how public and private actors may enhance its alleviation and develops an encompassing multi-stakeholder framework of responsible microfinance. Developing this framework includes a thorough evaluation of the suitability of ten novel strategies, such as behaviorally informed consumer protection regulations, educational soap operas, and Smart Campaign’s Client Protection Principles, to further the mitigation of overindebtedness.



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