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Financial Inclusion in India: Mapping a network of the most erudite minds

What are some of the criticisms that you have heard about researchers?

Here are some that I have come across — ‘researchers don’t have any idea about the real world’; ‘their work is theoretical’ (yes, that has been used as a criticism); ‘they are loners’; ‘they are secretive about their work’; ‘they don’t talk with others working on same/similar problems’. One of the most common criticisms of researchers and academia is us being disconnected with practice. Exemplars like Jacqueline Fendt and Andrew H. Van de Ven have voiced their concerns about this disconnect.

You know that we have designed the Bharat Inclusion Initiative to bring together researchers and entrepreneurs (and those in-making) for jointly addressing the big challenges of financial inclusion in India.

On this blog, you have been reading about the studies being pursued by the 13 Bharat Inclusion Research Fellows. Their studies are focused on identification of use cases for financial inclusion. In addition, over the last few months, we have seen students at IIM Ahmedabad, working on solutions to financial inclusion, reach out to the fellows seeking guidance and insights from the field. We recently started connecting the fellows with the cohort of entrepreneurs from the Financial Inclusion Lab. We are beginning to see both fellows and entrepreneurs leverage synergies.

At Bharat Inclusion Initiative, we are deep believers in the power of communities. Our efforts at energizing communities are not limited to entrepreneurs and researchers only. Over the history of the program, we have worked to identify and bring together stakeholders from the financial inclusion ecosystem. In January 2018, we had done a workshop with leading researchers from the financial inclusion domain. Participants at this workshop jointly contoured the Indian financial inclusion landscape and laid down directions for research. We built on this to define the scope and focus of the research fellowship.

This wednesday, on 24th October 2018, the cohort of entrepreneurs from the Financial Inclusion Lab showcased their use cases and startups to our Advisory Council and a gathering of researchers, policy-makers, financial institutions, banks, multilateral agencies, and corporates.

Discussions during this gathering pointed towards the need for a more connected network of academics, researchers and subject matter experts from the broad space of financial inclusion. We heard industry veterans, technologists, multilateral agencies, policy-makers, entrepreneurs as well as researchers voice this need, in different ways with varying degrees of urgency.

We are fully convinced about creating energized communities. Hence, we want to hear from you your thoughts on creating such a network or map of academics, researchers and subject matter experts from India working in the field of financial inclusion.

I have three specific questions for you:

1. Is there a need for a map or network of this kind?

2. Are there such existing maps or networks (we don’t want to reinvent the wheel)?

3. What information should this map or network include?

a. Institutions, people or both b. Focus areas, sub-topics, projects (completed and ongoing) etc. c. What else?

In addition to these questions, we are keen to know your views on this. We will sincerely and openly acknowledge your contribution towards this exercise.

If, like us, you too believe in the potential of this map or network, I will be grateful if you can also point us towards stellar institutions and researchers with whom we can begin this mapping exercise. Knowledge creation is collaborative. You know that already!

Like all knowledge supported or developed by Bharat Inclusion Initiative, this map or network will be openly accessible. We believe that open-access is a critical component of making disproportionate impact. And that goal is deeply coded into CIIE’s DNA.

I look forward to hearing from you. Please feel free to write to me on @susharmaa.

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