Financial Inclusion According to Yertle the Turtle

> Posted by Shari Berenbach, Director, Office of Microenterprise Development at USAID
This post is part of the Center for Financial Inclusion’s Expert Exchange: Building A Movement Toward Financial Inclusion by 2020, cultivating conversation around the goal of reaching full financial inclusion by 2020. For further questions about this series, write to Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion.
There is a wonderful Dr. Seuss book that I used to read to my daughter when she was little. I think the spirit of the book captures the critical place that microfinance finds itself in right now. It’s called Yertle the Turtle and other Stories.
When I was CEO of the Calvert Foundation, I began to read the book as a metaphor for my own work, and I see that even more strongly now from my vantage point as Director of the Office of Microenterprise Development at USAID.
In the book, Yertle plays an eponymous king whose kingdom is the size of a small pond.  He convinces the turtles in his pond to stack themselves underneath him so that he can see further and expand his kingdom. At each height, Yertle looks around and declares, “I’m ruler of all that I see.” His world continues to expand, and his vision for his kingdom grows to fit that world.
It is Yertle’s expanding vision that most inspires me. Each of us sets our sights on the world we seek to impact. The microfinance industry has been very effective at concentrating on developing profitable, local MFIs. This has allowed us to provide financial services to millions of the world’s poor while attracting private financing to meet capital needs. This has been no small accomplishment.
But our world is growing larger. We are coming to recognize that there are many types of institutions and partners we should engage to realize our development objectives. Mobile network operators have a role to play, as do insurance companies, international banks, large corporations, credit card companies and the like. Many of these partners are essential to realize our inclusive finance goals – and our pond needs to expand to include these new and different partners.
Further, I have been recognizing that microfinance is no longer its own corner of development. An important lesson of microfinance was to forge enterprise-based models that can deliver development assistance in a way that is both sustainable and scalable. This approach is now applicable to many facets of development – health, agriculture, energy, national resource management, etc. The world I see considers the diverse development challenges facing disadvantaged communities. I see links between microfinance and health, microfinance and energy, social enterprise and water, social enterprise and sanitation. As we look upon the broader terrain of the development field the microfinance community has considerable capacity and experience to share.
As I reflect on the Financial Inclusion Roundtable discussion sponsored by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion, I am struck by how much of our conversation resembles this lesson. I feel fortunate to expand my horizons and adopt a broader, inclusive agenda … where we all become kings of all that we see!
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Shari currently serves as Director of USAID’s Microenterprise Development (MD) office, the lead division within the U.S. government for microfinance and inclusive market development around the world overseeing a total portfolio of $265 million a year.  Ms. Berenbach advances USAID’s vision of strengthening economic opportunities for poorer households to enable families to build assets, cope with the risks and vulnerability that accompany poverty, and contribute to key sectors of local, national, and regional economies. She has also championed efforts to leverage mobile financial services to extend the reach of microfinance to rural and other poor and vulnerable populations.
Have you read?
You Are Here: Finding our Place on the Roadmap to Inclusion
Accessing the Future: Beyond the Traditional Microfinance Space
It’s Time to Expand the Circle

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