In zijn openingsrede stelde Klaas Molenaar dat het doel van het lectoraat is: “Kennis inzetten voor een duurzame, eerlijke en cultureel diverse sociaal- economische ontwikkeling.” Tevens gaf hij aan dat er zeker ook lessen getrokken dienen te worden uit de huidige economische crisis en recente ontwikkelingen in de microfinancieringsector. “De economische teruggang leidt in een aantal landen tot onverwachte liquiditeitsproblemen. Is dat wellicht te wijten aan systeemfouten? Wordt het niet tijd voor een microkredietversie 2.0? Hieronder op ScienceGuide een korte weergave van Molenaar’s rede en bijbehorende boek.
Microfinance has been widely accepted as an effective tool in the development sector. There are few politicians who will deny that. A close look shows that an impressive number of poor people, often women, are being aided with microcredit. They make use of the small loans granted to them in various ways. Subsequently, professionals and practitioners claim success in poverty alleviation. With microcredit now evolved into microfinance, they even claim that it boosts enterprise development and business creation. Microcredit and microfinance have become visible and attract all kinds of attention: from those who see it as the solution to beat poverty, from researchers who question its effectiveness, from enterprising people intending to make a living with it through their own microfinance institutions (MFIs) and from investors hoping to make money in this industry.
Microfinance in the Netherlands
Microcredit and microfinance have also reached our country, and we are in the fortunate position that politicians and opinion leaders have embraced it. People in the Netherlands talk about microfinance and want to launch such programmes. It might be a hype embraced by politicians with short-termvision, but let’ hope it will become a tool for structural development.
In developing countries microfinance institutions are gradually shifting their attention to entrepreneurship development – with the enterprising self-employed and microentrepreneurs as their prime client, and we subsequently note that poor, excluded people are (again) left aside. If we wish to make use of microfinance in the Netherlands, are we then aiming at assisting the socially excluded, reacting to the needs of the new self-employed or still following traditional patterns with business start-up programmes? In a 2007 study Triodos Facet reported that there is a tendency in the Netherlands to focus mainly on the financial support of starting microenterprise development. The systems in place (both financing through the regular banks and training and coaching systems) are more appropriate for enterprise development. And the question arises whether that is sufficient.
Reversed knowledge transfer
Though in developing countries microcredit and microfinance have evolved over two decades now, lessons have been learned, principles have been formulated and accepted, in the Netherlands there still exists a theoretical knowledge-gap. We still lag behind in understanding the differences and in knowing what to do. And it is precisely this lagging behind in knowledge that we can turn to our advantage, based on a process of reversed knowledge transfer from developing countries (the South) to the North. It may shed light on the question whom to target and which channels to choose.
I strongly believe that we can learn from experience abroad if we manage to systematise such experiences and understand the conditions under which they are effective. The lessons learned need to be blended with our insight into developing systems, methods and technologies appropriate for our society. That belief is the foundation for the programmes of the Lectoraat Microfinanciering en Kleinbedrijfontwikkeing (Research group Microfinance and small enterprise development of INHolland University of Applied Sciences and our Centre for Microfinance INHolland.
We need to ask ourselves why microcredit and microfinance are promoted, what policy is pursued, what institutional and organisational set-up is needed and which services are effective and in demand. Additionally we may ask whether any consistency exists between the awareness that microfinance is needed, the policies put in place, the institutions operating in the sector and the products and services developed and introduced.
As I said earlier, academics have not yet linked on this subject sufficiently. Our knowledge about microfinance and microcredit is still practice-based. We could well do with some more underlying theoretical frameworks to avoid that we will start following trends and hypes without clearly specifying what we wish to achieve. At INHolland we wish to make that contribution by critically questioning common beliefs and how things are done in our research activities. We will plough back through the practice-based knowledge now at hand into formal education as well, offering students the opportunity to become well-trained – and critical – professionals in microfinance. The future professionals will be challenged to broaden our understanding and deepen our knowledge about microfinance.
De gehele openingsrede is hier te downloaden.