When first published in 1998, Joanna Ledgerwood’s Microfinance Handbook was an indispensible guide for donors, policy makers, and practitioners who were working to expand access of the poor to microfinance. In the intervening years, the opportunities and pressures of commercialization have driven a reassessment of what microfinance is and whom it should serve. Today, in addition to building the capacity and ensuring the sustainability of institutions, the larger microfinance community is taking a closer look at the diverse needs of clients, the broader financial ecosystem, and the transformational nature of technology. This reassessment has become a regular fixture of global conversations about poverty alleviation.
The New Microfinance Handbook, then, is timely. The microfinance sector now reflects the multidisciplinary intersection of finance, technology, and development, where new ideas are changing the art of what is possible. The actors reflect this diverse ecosystem and include everything from mobile operators to microfinance institutions to community networks. This book has brought an impressive array of the field’s experts to an area of practice in constant change.
We are pleased that this book asks the hard questions about what people living in poverty really need. This means moving the conversation beyond the walls of institutions and into the complex worlds of clients. The needs of a rural farmer are different from those of an urban microbusiness owner. A young woman embarking on a life after school has different priorities than a mother seeking to protect the assets of her family. For microfinance to deliver on its original promises, we need to put the needs of persons living in poverty at the center of this work.
It is time for us to take stock of what we have learned as we move forward. The New Microfinance Handbook will play an important role, helping us to advance our understanding about how financial services can serve the diverse needs of the poor.
Reeta Ro Tom Kessinger
President and CEO General Manager
The MasterCard Foundation Aga Khan Foundation
Download here: MF Handbook Ledgerwood 2013