This post originally appeared on the SPINNAKER Network.
In the Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations, the impoverished protagonist Pip finds himself in a constant battle between ambition and a loathing sense of dependence. As he strives toward costly goals, Pip suffers from a mental barrier to success due to a perceived reliance on Miss Havisham, a decrepit and perverse recluse, as his benefactor.
So what does Pip have to do with asset-building? He reminds us that behind the finances, the savings for the poor community is working with actual people and ambitions, not just clients and products. As funders, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, it’s our collective responsibility as a community to ensure that savings products are developed and understood in a truly human context. As Kentaro Toyamo of the University of California, Berkeley reminds us, “What really matters in microfinance -- and much of international development -- is not just the ability of impoverished clients to consume a product provided to them on a platter, but to grow from the experience so that even if the service were suddenly to vanish, they would emerge stronger people who are better able to take care of themselves".