At the Intersection of Design and Financial Inclusion

July 9, 2014

The MasterCard Center is very interested in the intersection of design and financial inclusion.  So much so that we recently sponsored an event in India (hosted by the Grameen Foundation and Citi Foundation) and convened our own meeting in Silicon Valley bringing together innovation and design experts and financial inclusion practitioners. Think of organizations like, Mercy Corps, and InVenture. Our aim was to provide a platform to identify design challenges and opportunities in the field of financial inclusion.

Rather than focus on a specific design problem and seek the answer, we sought to explore the process and capture lessons learned. What are the gaps? Where are the overlaps? How can we, as Economist Yuwa Hedrick-Wong recently argued, leverage the power of the knowledge economy for inclusive growth?

Programs to increase financial inclusion can be more effective by employing human- or user-centered design (UCD) approaches, throughout the development and implementation process. Put simply, the customer must come first. Their preferences and needs should inform the products designed to serve them. This approach can help close the usage gap in financial inclusion. Mapping the Invisible Market reveals that globally among low-income countries, only 11.5% of adults have formal savings accounts, yet 5.4% of accounts are inactive.

Establishing empathy is a must to overcome bias in product development. What a Silicon Valley designer or a banker in New York intuit as useful or preferred may not make sense, for example, to an illiterate Pakistani woman from a rural village. The information packet that prints her PIN number in standard formatting can be misleading if the woman is used to scanning a page from right to left – she may interpret the sequence in reverse!

Effective market insights come from an iterative ideation process that engages customers, service providers, and participants all along the value chain or industry. Frog and Dalberg recently worked with CGAP and Bank BTPN in Indonesia to develop and test a range of new products using UCD approaches. The actionable data generated then informed Bank BTPN’s business decisions. Juntos Finanzas worked with Bancolombia to design and deliver an SMS campaign to educate consumers about their new mobile savings product. UCD-driven data thus helps practitioners understand their market and design truly inclusive financial solutions.

Our visit to Silicon Valley also afforded us the opportunity to meet with some top innovation engines like the Institute for the Future, Singularity University, and Stanford to see first hand the power of human centered design and discuss where the future is heading.  While still early days at the Center, we see the application of UCD to advance financial inclusion and know we are on the right path forward.


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