Research & Analysis

Getting Smart about Financial Inclusion

For many funders, developing or updating a financial inclusion strategy is often the natural starting point to improve effectiveness. Operationalizing a new strategy requires action at many different levels and represents a large coordination effort. Since SmartAid was launched, funders have made significant investments toward becoming learning organizations, where lessons from projects are effectively captured, made accessible to staff, and help refine future strategic directions. However, only a few institutions fully integrated a learning agenda into their accountability systems. Most often, accountability systems are designed from a controller’s perspective and tailored to prove that taxpayers’ money isn’t wasted, rather than feed learning into new project design or updating of strategies.

If we analyze broader trends across all participants, we see significant improvements in total scores over time. This is very evident for the agencies that have conducted SmartAid on multiple occasions. Scores on individual indicators mostly also increased over time. However, some agencies scored lower on individual indicators, usually in cases where an agency’s systems did not keep up with the evolution of the portfolio or external trends. While it is impossible to know whether SmartAid was the cause of progress over time, feedback from SmartAid participants and the fact that agencies participate more than once, suggest that the Index did indeed stimulate or accelerate change.

In a nutshell, organizational change is not always easy for funders to address, but neither is it impossible. Funding agencies have the means to make the changes that matter—years of assessment through SmartAid have shown this. The need to continue on this path of renewal is the only thing that remains constant.

SmartAid remains available as a tool for funders that want to improve their effectiveness in financial inclusion. The SmartAid Index Technical Guide provides a detailed description of the methodology and process.

Related Case Studies:
SmartAid and IFC: Leveraging M&E Beyond Accountability to Institutional Learning
MIF's Project Status Monitoring Tool
Operationalizing IFAD Rural Finance Policy
SmartAid and UNCDF: Performance-Based Agreements as a Management Tool
Knowledge Sharing: The Microfinance Center of Expertise



This Technical Guide is aimed at funders interested in analyzing their effectiveness in financial inclusion. It describes the methodology of the SmartAid Index and explains how to use SmartAid.