Thesis off the ground, work on the ground

18/06/2007

Two things have kept me busy lately: Handling in my thesis, finally. And – just a few days after – taking on my first assignment in Northern Thailand as a Summer Fellow with Common Interest, a small microfinance institution. That’s exciting. Common Interest gives loan only, and is aimed at making their practices as virtual as possible, which makes the work interesting and challenging at the same time.

The primary constraint for bringing financial services to the world’s poor is not capital, best practices or knowledge, I was once told by a World Bank staff in the Bank’s shiny air-conditioned lobby far away from dirt roads and monsoon rain. It is institutional capacity on the ground. Even though that might not as much be the case in well-educated and well-functioning Thailand, I now understand why. Institutions are difficult to build up. Competencies are hard to come by. And there are so many nitty-gritty details about banking in rural areas, so many regulatory issues and so many procedures that need to work before the money gets out there and back again that I’m amazed when it works. Even in Thailand. I am working on the Management Information System, which involves suggesting performance measures and strategic targets. Fun, for sure and a pleasure to put some of the thesis knowledge to work.

It’s likely that I’ll not get much procrastination time in the future to blog along, so thank you for listening until now. Feel free to write me, still, and take care.

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