Chapter 3: Breaking away from normative approaches to financial practices Isabelle Guérin, Solène Morvant-Roux and Jean-Michel Servet
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Microfinance, both as a field of action and research, has been through major changes over the past decade. This field of action is now part of the broader financial inclusion agenda, and digital finance is taking on an increasingly important position. New technologies are continuing to expand the current and potential frontiers of ‘financial inclusion’. In terms of research, some innovative (though disputable) methods have emerged, with varying scopes and objectives. Both are quantitative: financial diaries and randomized control trials (RCTs). These methods have resulted in some progress (financial diaries in particular). But they tend to considerably narrow down the unit of analysis (especially RCTs, which are closely linked to behaviourism) while crowding out other methods and approaches (Bedecarrats et al. 2017). The main purpose of this chapter is to argue that to design suitable, fair financial services, we must take social interdependencies into account. By this, we mean that humans are first and foremost social beings constantly looking to forge relations with others. We also mean that social and economic changes are not the aggregate of individual actions but of multiple interactions and systemic effects.

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